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Inclusive Decision Making

What is Inclusive Decision Making and Why is it Important? 

  • Inclusive decision-making is a concept based on the fundamental principle that those most impacted by a decision possess experiential knowledge that makes them uniquely qualified to take part in the decision making process.
  • Because of this knowledge, individuals should not only be involved in decision making, but  should also be regarded as partners in the implementation of decisions. 
  • For many LEAs, this style of decision making might be a shift from listening to families and caretakers to sharing in decision making with them.
  • While it is important for parents and caregivers to be heard, truly inclusive family engagement is not just soliciting feedback from families, but it is partnering with them to show that they are uniquely qualified to make decisions for their child(ren) because of their experiential knowledge. 

What decisions are made with parents in your school/district?

What is the Decision that Needs to be Made? 

So how do you include parents and caregivers in the decision making process? There are a variety of tools that can be used to do this. While we can recommend specific tools, consider the types of questions that must be answered to make sure all partners are able to fully understand and participate in the decision making process.

  • Question 1: What is the decision that needs to be made? 
    • Getting clear on the decision–what it is and what it isn’t–is the best way to ensure that you are starting this conversation from a place of honesty and transparency.
  • Question 2: What levels of empowerment will you use? 
    • Levels of empowerment
      • Elena Aguilar’s work The Art of Coaching Teams offers a framework for thinking about empowerment and how that relates to decision making.



Tells Coerces Consults Shares Delegates Includes Role Models
Administrator decides and then tells the staff
Administrator Sells ideas behind the already made decision
Administrator gains input before deciding
Staff decide and recommend
Administrator hands over decision making to other staff
Staff and leadership decide and act together
Staff and students Participate in decision-making together

Using the Darci Grid to Clarify Roles and Responsibilities

The Darci Accountability Grid is a tool for enabling clear accountability on teams. It enables groups to get clear on who is a part of the work and what their responsibilities are. 

Who has final power to approve or delegate? This can be an individual or a short list of people.

Only one person! Will be held accountable for fulfillment of the task.

Will be doing work to implement the task. Can be either an individual or a team of individuals.

Who will we reach out to in order to request input or feedback

Whom will we keep in the loop and inform about progress, without having any say in the process.

  • As a core team, decide which individuals belong in which column. 
  • Understand the timeline! A key part of inclusive decision making is effective communication and having a clear team with clear roles and a clear timeline is a part of that process. 
  • Consider the following questions: By when does the decision need to be made? Therefore, when does the decision process need to start?

 The Decision Making Process 

Consider using decision making tools so that groups can make decisions faster but in a way that includes more people and empowers each member to give input. 

Consensus (i.e fist to five)

Use this carefully...we don’t ask for consensus until we think we will get it.  It’s usually a longer process...we don’t ask for consensus in the same meeting we propose the decision. Everyone is involved in understanding the problem, researching and analysis, generating choices, building criteria for ranking/making a choice.

Quantitative Voting/ Multi-voting (i.e dot-ocracy, points)

Good to use this when there is a long list of options as it still feels inclusive and democratic. It can be helpful to rank and whittle down choices….i.e. in choosing norms. It can also be useful to decide between 3 different options. 

Compromise (i.e create a meet in the middle option) **this needs to be coupled with a decision making process to approve the compromise

This comes in handy when there are camps forming between 2 or 3 choices. This is where your skills as a listener are really important.  We want to be listening to what’s the interest behind the proposal or opposition. It’s also helpful to have one group describe their proposal and what they like about it and have the other team summarize it back.  You want to engage the whole team in identifying strengths and weaknesses of both proposals to surface strengths of both sides...and then have each side identify what they may be willing to give up about the proposal.  Like in consensus, facilitation matters!  And...then you would need to couple the compromise option with another decision making process.

Majority Voting (i.e. secret ballot)

The strength is that it is convenient and speedy. We usually use it in low stakes decisions. There are winners and losers in majority voting.  It’s the most convenient, but can also yield the most resentment. Private votes can also be beneficial as to not pressure others, like in paper ballots.

Unilateral Decision Considering Input

Also a fast way to make decisions–sometimes out of necessity.  Can also be used for smaller decisions or when there is a clear expert.  The higher the stakes, the more input you will want to gather beforehand.  It should be said up front when gathering input, that the final decision will be made by ___. 

How will you communicate your decision making process?
How will you communicate your final decision?

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