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Protocol Toolkit Item: 1d


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This decision-making protocol is used when participants need to see immediate responses and make a collective decision. When consensus is difficult or too time-consuming, voting is an option for decision-making.


A polling application Presentation slides with QR code or link to polling application Chart paper or whiteboard for discussion, as needed


15-35 Minutes


Facilitators should prepare an online poll using a polling application. Some examples include Poll Everywhere, Doodle, Zoom Poll, Mentimeter, and Google Meet Workspace Editions. Facilitators should build the poll in the application, clearly outlining the decision to be made and the options available.  Create a QR code that will link participants to the poll. QR codes make it quicker for participants to access the poll as they can scan the code with their smartphones and take it. If the group is large, facilitators may consider printing the QR codes on several cards and placing them on the meeting room tables.  Sharing a shortened URL link to the poll will assist those who may not be familiar with QR codes or those using computers to access the poll. Sharing both a QR code and a link to the poll is recommended. Facilitators must decide in advance whether to use a plurality method or a majority rule method to make the decision. In plurality voting, the option with the most votes becomes the decision. When using a majority rule method, an option must get 50% or more of the votes to become a decision.  Virtual Implementation
  • The link to the poll can be shared with participants in a virtual meeting chat. Participants will not need to use their smartphones to access the poll unless they are sharing devices to access the virtual meeting.


Step 1:

 Introduce Protocol (3 minutes) Share the following information with participants:
  • The group will be deciding on options for addressing a topic today. Share the decision-making topic.
    • Example Topic:
      • How should the group conduct a brainstorming session to improve our organization’s community engagement?
        • Option 1: Team open discussion
        • Option 2: Group-facilitated discussion
        • Option 3: Interactive brainstorming with collaboration tools
        • Option 4: Reflection activity and pair-sharing
  • Participants will have the opportunity to talk in small teams about the topic, identifying each option’s pros and cons and potential outcomes. 
  • Let participants know that although discussing this matter as a team, they will decide by casting an individual vote on an electronic voting platform. Teams do not need to reach an agreement. They need only to discuss and analyze the options before the group.
  • After teams have analyzed the pros/cons of each option, individuals will vote on the option they believe to be the best.
  • If needed, the group will continue to discuss options and re-vote until the group decides. 
  • Share whether the decision-making will use the majority rule, the plurality method, or some other level of agreement.
    • Majority Rule: An option is decided upon if it gets 50% or more votes.
    • Plurality Method: The option with the most votes is the one selected.

Step 2:

Team Analysis of Options (5 minutes)
  • Organize the group into small teams and ensure that each has paper and pens/pencils to take notes on their pros/cons analysis of the options. 
  • Tell the teams they will have five minutes to discuss each option and note the pros and cons.
  • After 5 minutes, ask participants to end their discussion and prepare to vote.

Step 3:

Electronic Voting (5 minutes)
  • Display the presentation slide that shares the decision-making topic and possible options.
  • Share the QR code (and URL) and ask participants to use their smartphones to scan the QR code or go to a browser and enter the URL. 
Note: Some participants may need guidance on participating in electronic voting. We recommend that a facilitator walk participants through the question, how to select their response, and how to submit their response within the electronic poll.
  • Invite participants to take a few minutes to review the question on their phones or devices, select their option choice, and submit through the electronic polling application. Provide approximately 3 minutes.
  • When all responses have been submitted, display and review the results of the electronic vote with the group.
  • If the results lead to a clear decision, there is no need to continue with this protocol. 
  • If there is no clear decision (the group did not meet the predetermined criteria such as majority rule or plurality), facilitators will move into Step 4, a facilitated group discussion.
Note: The protocol will take longer if a facilitated discussion is needed. A facilitator should anticipate the possibility and schedule the meeting time to account for this.

Step 4:

 Facilitated Group Discussion of Topic and Options (5-20 Minutes)
  • If a facilitated discussion is needed, participants will share their perspectives about the decision topic and options. 
  • Participants can reference the pros and cons they determined during their team’s discussion earlier. 
  • The facilitator should ask each team to share the pros and cons they developed during their discussion. 
  • Use chart paper, a whiteboard, or a presentation slide to write down the pros and cons presented by each team. 
  • After teams have shared, review the pros and cons list for the decision being made, and note where teams found similar or the same pros and cons. 
  • Encourage the group to discuss and build on the list of pros and cons. 
  • Participants will vote again through the electronic polling application; as in the first vote, each individual will get to select the option they believe is best.
Note: If two votes are needed, the facilitator must clear out the previous votes in the electronic application before administering the second vote or have another electronic poll set up and ready for the second vote.
  • Relaunch the electronic poll and allow participants 2-3 minutes to select their responses and submit.
  • When all responses have been submitted, review the results of the electronic vote with the group and identify the decision made through this process.
  • If a clear decision is still not reached, continue with a facilitated conversation by asking the following discussion questions and using yes/no or thumbs to reach a consensus on supporting the leading option:
  • Can you agree to commit to __(Option with the strongest support/most votes at this time)____?
    • Will you support this decision within the group?
    • Will you support this decision outside of the group?
  • If any participant is unable to answer yes to any of the questions above, then ask them the following question:
    • What changes need to be made for you to support this decision?

Step 5:

Next Steps and Debrief (5 Minutes)
  • When a decision to address the topic is made, let the group know that the collective will now move forward with that decision. 
  • If not asked previously, ask the following questions and use yes/no or thumbs to reach a consensus on supporting the option.
    • Will you support this decision within the group?
    • Will you support this decision outside of the group?
  • If any participant is unable to answer yes to the questions above, then ask them the following question:
    • What changes need to be made for you to support this decision?
  • Continue with a facilitated discussion until all participants respond yes to the debrief questions. 
  • Thank all participants for their contributions and participation.

Resources & Further Reading

Examples of Use

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