Decision Making

In heterogeneous, non-hierarchical groups.

Based on:

Decision making processes that make most sense for CSAW
  • consent: for big-picture, critical path decisions (urgent and important) that concern everyone.
  • delegation: for elaboration, implementation or execution of activities, including time critical decisions, in smaller groups.
  • consult: for decisions where additional information is needed from other individuals or small groups (working groups, staff, FoAM, other stakeholders…) you can pause the decision making to consult with people with domain-specific information that you lack. after gathering the information, you go back to either consent or delegation.

For decisions that need to consider (take in) ideas/concerns from the whole group (vision, purpose, principles, design, charter…)

Use polling (e.g. on loomio or slack) for simple yes/no decisions. For more involved decisions, separate the brainstorming and discussion from decision making.

BEFORE the decision process starts:

  • formulate a question
  • have a discussion about your question
  • synthesize a clear and succinct proposal based on the answers.
  • participants can ask clarifying questions, comment and edit the proposal (online) or related material.

AT the meeting:

  • the proposal is presented (briefly!)
  • the clarifying round can be very short (as it should already have happened online) so you can focus on objections.
  • instead of trying to find a compromise, agree on boundary conditions of the proposal: what conditions must this proposal satisfy? what is the minimum goal and what “would be nice to have but not absolutely necessary?”

If you can't agree:

  • why do people disagree? do their disagreements provide interesting alternatives?
  • do you have to make this decision? what would happen if you do nothing?
  • if you have to make the decision that is time sensitive, act or don't act, but don't delay
  • see your decision as a hypothesis. what experiment could you use to test/prototype the decision with minimum resources in a short amount of time?
  • if the decision isn't time critical, ask yourself - is this a generic or a unique situation? if it's generic (i.e. it happens in other event design processes) look for answers from other people who have been in this situation before, don't re-invent the wheel…


For decisions that can be made by individuals or working groups, allow members and collaborators to take the lead and give space to lead.

They take on risk and responsibility, which is accompanied by a commensurate decision making capacity. The decision makers can involve others where they need to be involved.

  • “the doer decides” - the person or group who has committed to implementing the decision has a mandate.
  • “better to ask for forgiveness than permission”, as long as you stay true what was co-created with the whole group (requires trust)

Mistakes will be made, which is ok considering that CSAW is a pilot project (in itself an experiment). It's important to be able to look back at what was challenging and what succeeded, for accountability and learning benefits.

  • csaw/decision_making.txt
  • Last modified: 2021-01-28 18:51
  • by maja