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Prioritization Matrix

A Prioritization Matrix is a technique used to achieve consensus within a specific group of participants about an issue. The Matrix helps rank problems or issues (usually generated through brainstorming or other techniques) by a particular criteria that is important to the project, as defined by the participants.

This allows participants to clearly see which issues are the most important to work on solving first. Prioritization matrices are used to determine what participants consider to be the most pressing issues. (Adapted from The Guide to Managing for Quality)

A prioritization matrix can use whatever resources are available to create a table of issues and boxes for participants to cast their 'votes.' Tools can include whiteboards, computer databases, or twigs and stones in a field trip setting. The important thing is to list all the issues, to determine the frequency with which problems arise in relation to an issue, the importance the people give to this, and to count the votes to determine what is seen by the majority of people as a priority.

Objectives:

  • A prioritization matrix produces a community view of the priorities in relation to a community issue or proposal.

Outcomes:

  • A prioritization matrix provides a measurable basis for determining the important issues for a community, for example, what priority they give to foreshore revegetation and/or continuing beachfront development.

Uses/strengths:

  • Can assist in defining the most important issues in participation projects with many issues.
  • Provides a democratic and transparent device for determining priorities.
  • Can provide a focus for action.

Special considerations/weaknesses:

  • Setting up criteria can be problematic, if the brainstorming process raises a large number of issues.
  • Some issues may not be considered because they are not raised by participants.

Resources required:

  • Publicity
  • Venue rental
  • Catering
  • Staffing
  • Engagement of moderator/facilitator
  • Engagement of experts
  • Recorders
  • Gophers
  • Artists/photographer
  • Audiovisual recording equipment and amplification
  • Overhead projectors
  • Data projectors
  • Video
  • Slide projector/screen
  • Printed public information sheets
  • Response sheets
  • Props for working in groups (pens, paper, pins, etc.)
  • Furniture
  • Children's requirements

Can be used for:

  • Engage community
  • Discover community issues
  • Develop community capacity
  • Develop action plan
  • Build alliances, consensus

Number of people required to help organize:

  • Medium (2-12 people)
  • Individual

Audience size:

  • Large (> 30)
  • Medium (11-30)

Time required:

  • Short (< 6 weeks)

Skill level/support required:

  • Low (No special skills)

Cost:

  • Low (< AUD$1,000)

Participation level:

  • Low (Information only)

Innovation level:

  • High (Innovative)

Method:

(Sourced from The Guide to Managing for Quality Copyright 1998 MSH and UNICEF)

  • Conduct a brainstorming session on issues that participants wish to explore in relation to a proposal, plan or community service. Go to the Brainstorming tool to learn how to conduct group brainstorming.
  • Fill out the Prioritization Matrix chart with the group: Issue/Frequency/Importance/Feasibility/Total Points
  • In the first column, write down the issues that were mentioned in the brainstorming session.
  • In the second to fourth columns, define your criteria. Examples of some typical criteria are:
  • Frequency: How frequently does/will this issue affect the participants? Does it occur often or only on rare occasions?
  • Importance: From the point of view of the users, what are the most important issue? Add the issues that the organising agency or group wants to address?
  • Feasibility: How realistic is it that you can find a way to address this issue? Will it be easy or difficult?
  • You can choose other criteria if they better fit the situation you are discussing. For example cost, environmental impact (high to low), number of affected persons can act as criteria; for a more quantitative comparison, you could use cost, amount of time, or other numerical indicators. It is also possible to use number values for each criteria and provide a rank out of 10 for each criteria. Collating total numbers for all criteria against issue can indicate the issues of highest priority.
  • Rank/Vote: Each participant now votes once in each of the boxes.Total all the votes together. The totals help you see clearly how to identify the priorities. (The Guide to Managing for Quality Copyright 1998 MSH and UNICEF).

References:

  • The manager's Electronic Resource Centre. Quality Guide – Prioritization Matrix. (2002)
    US Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (1995) Incorporating Risk Information to the Environmental Restoration Prioritization Matrix. (accessed 9/12/02) http://www.em.doe.gov/tie/fall25.html  

Many of the resources in the “Participatory Practices” category originated in Coastal CRC's Citizen Science Toolbox (www.coastal.crc.org.au/toolbox/). With permission, NCDD included the resource on our wiki so practitioners could expand upon the listing.

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