By Jeroen Robbe
Blended decision making allows for a collaborative, nuanced and power-informed approach to decision making in groups which can strengthen the capacity for leaderful organizing.
This tool consists of a simple graphic, mapping different ways to make decisions, and linked to this a 1.5 hour session, designed to support groups to think about this range of decision making processes that can be used in different contexts.
It explores the following methods of decision making: consensus, majority control, minority control, by authority after discussion, average of members’ opinion, expert member, by authority without discussion.
In the corresponding session, participants first work in small groups and then there is time to debrief and unpack decision making theory. The session is designed to focus on supporting groups to explore different ways to make decisions. It is not a session on how to carry out a specific type of decision making process (e.g. consensus). Separate sessions might be needed for that.
How this tool supports leaderful movements
Groups often get stuck, and conflict arises in the realm of decision making. Sometimes difficulties show up at the time of making the decisions. Sometimes the challenges arise later when we realize we have forgotten to include someone or no one actually puts energy behind what was decided.
Leaderful organizations need to find the right balance (which will depend on the context!) of autonomy and cooperation. We need to have a shared understanding of who decides what and why.
This tool will support groups to move away from binary views of decision making – as being either based on consensus or power over others. Blended decision making helps groups develop a nuanced practice that integrates different decision making methods in different situations.
By increasing the capacity for appropriate decision making, blended decision making support the development of leaderful organizing competences related to power and transformative collaboration.
Methods of Decision Making
The Blended Decision Making tool explores the following methods of decision making:
- Consensus (no-one objects)
- Majority control (classical voting, half of the group + 1)
- Minority control (two or more members, but less than 50% of the membership, make decisions, e.g. working groups with decision making power)
- By authority after discussion (one person makes the decision after discussion with others)
- Average of members’ opinion (most popular opinion wins, cf. doodle poll)
- Expert member
- By authority without discussion (one person decides with no need to discuss this with others)
These methods are mapped in the graphic on the axis of “level of participation and shared commitment to implementation” and the axis “time required”. It won’t surprise you that an increased level of participation corresponds to an increased amount of time required.
Rather than seeing specific methods of decision making as inherently right or wrong, this method encourages developing a more nuanced approach by allowing participants to discuss in small groups how to make decisions in different situations, using a variety of the above options.
Situations that are offered for discussion include:
- The final wording of a campaign banner
- A request to exclude a member for repeated abusive behaviour
- The date of a next team meeting
- Whether funding offered by an international donor should be accepted
Afterwards you can invite participants to reflect on how decisions are made within their group(s).
- What are the main types of decision making currently used?
- Which ways to decided are never used and why?
- How explicit are decision making procedures discussed and agreed upon by the whole group?
- What does the overall balance in ways of making decisions tell you about power distribution within the group?
- What changes in terms of decision making process, if any, could support the group to become more effective and leaderful?
Understanding Blended Decision Making Activity
Psychosocial Resilience and Regenerative Activism Training Manual – See pages 221 to 226. You can find a detailed session plan for “blended decision making”. This session plan is intended to support you to facilitate the activity for a group.