e-Deliberation™ is a web-based platform used by teams and communities to collaboratively deliberate to resolve a focus, which can be a complex problems or a goal. The teams include a rich variety of stakeholder perspectives (between 15 and 80 participants) who all contribute to define a consent-based, strategy to address the said focus. The strategy develops as several complementary vectors which are integrated and harmonized as part of the process. e-Deliberation™ can be used for face to face summits as well as entirely web-based collaborations. e-Deliberation is based on Stafford Beer’s Team Syntegrity process.
e-Deliberation events or summits have defined start and finish dates/times, and follow the e-Deliberation process. All this is facilitated by a full-featured web-based user interface that supports each phase of the process. This interface can be used to support a conference where people are present in person, or it can be the virtual town hall meeting place for an entirely online event.
The e-Deliberation process starts with a named focus such as “What would it take to….” (resolve a difficult issue, achieve a goal, or manifest a vision). The proponent provides an initial Focus and description and lists stakeholder groups who ought to be concerned with or affected by the focus. The event can be private (participants are invited) or public (participants can also sign-up). A project manager/facilitator ensures all stakeholder groups are represented and sets a schedule for the phases of the e-Deliberation process based on how many hours per day participants can commit to the process (ranges from full-time to 1 hours/day). Signed up participants can offer suggestions to improve the wording of the Focus and the event description, as well as upload briefing documents and presentations.
The first phase of the e-Deliberation process is called Perspectives. In this phase, the participants do an unrestricted brainstorm of ideas that have to do with the e‑Deliberation Focus question or issue as seen through the lens of each participant. These ideas will reflect the various perspectives of the participating stakeholders, creating a universe of ideas from which the next step will draw inspiration.
The next phase is called Topic Jostle. Here, participants are asked to submit topic proposals for further deliberation. These topics are proposals that would inform or resolve the e-Deliberation Focus question or issue. Here we encourage “outside the box” thinking and provocative, creative thinking, so new avenues of thought and possibility are explored.
Once a topic is endorsed by at least 5 participants, it is included in the potential agenda of the e-Deliberation. Topics that are ill-conceived tend not to get endorsed or be replaced by better idea; this is a normal part of the creative process. Similar topics may get consolidated. The Perspectives brainstorm (previous step) is used to inspire these topics, as well as to validate that we have topics that talk to or advance the essential parts of that universe of ideas.
Participants are then individually polled to rate each of the topics that got 5+ endorsements based on how important they see that topic is with regard to resolving the event Focus. The topics that aggregate the highest importance score are conserved – how many depends on the number of participants (12 topics for 30 participants, 8 for 20, etc.) The participants are then polled to indicate on which of the conserved topics they would like to personally work on. This drives the assignment of the participants to teams formed around each topic. Each participant is a deliberative member of 2 of these teams, and a facilitator/guardian of up to 2 others. The formation of the team membership ensures that each team has direct access to all the other teams via the co-memberships of it’s team members.
The next phase are the Waves of Deliberation. Each Topic Team is tasked to deliver a document, called an Outcome Resolve, which puts forward proposals to the rest of the event participants on how the Team’s Topic can be put forward in support of Focus statement.
The mandate of each Topic Team is to ensure that their Outcome Resolve is consistent with the Outcome Resolves of the other Topic Teams, and that it has the support of all the participants of the e-Deliberation event. This means that while each participant is accountable to him/herself to speak their mind and be true to their values, they are also accountable to the deliberative community as a whole to help it deliver a wholesome and fully consented resolution to the Focus issue.
To achieve this integrated result, the process includes up to three Waves. In each wave, each team deliberates and drafts an Outcome Resolve document for their Topic. The deliberation is supported by a number of tools such as interactive team mind maps, threaded discussion forums, conference calls, Skype, even meeting face to face is an option if all the members of the Topic Team are collocated. The Outcome Resolve is edited online and is version controlled.
At the end of the first wave, each participant reviews the Outcome Resolves drafted by the various Topic Teams. The participant is asked to consent to the Outcome Resolve, or to object to it by providing an argued objection. Each Topic Team therefore gets feedback from all the Participants to understand gaps, blind spots and where others are coming from, as input to the next wave of deliberation.
This feedback also gives the Team guidance on how well their Outcome Resolve “fits” in the big picture and they also understand where the other teams are going with regard to their own respective Outcome Resolves.
This feedback, quantitative and qualitative, becomes an input to each Topic Team as it enters the second wave, which then proceeds the same way as the first wave, with a second draft of the Outcome Resolve and a feedback poll. A third wave follows the second, especially is during the second wave, several participants still had objections.
The goal ultimately is that the Outcome Resolve will win the consent of the whole e-Deliberation team and that it also dovetails with the Outcome Resolves of the other teams.
The last Outcome Resolve from each team is again polled to validate that it meets the approval of the whole team, and to allow a final round of adjustments to obtain the consent of everyone on the final version. An Executive Summary report is compiled which included all the deliverables from each of the process phases.
Not all the phases of the process are needed for every situation. Sub-sets of the process, called Variants, can be used for simpler situations.
The entire process is facilitated by a dynamic user interface that self-adjusts given the then current phase of the process. The website includes a number of automated workflows that simplify the job of facilitating the process: process phase changes execute according to the event schedule, and participants get emails to wrap up their work on the current phase as the next one is introduced. Summary as well as detailed “how to” instructions are provided for each phase so each participant always knows what is expected of him or her.
The e-Deliberation platform is entirely encrypted and hosted in a high security Canadian data center.
Resource Link: www.e-deliberation.com
This resource was submitted by Jean-Daniel Cusin, Managing Director of e-Deliberation Inc., via the Add-a-Resource form.