This past week in class we participated in a ‘Dotmocracy’ exercise. For those of you unfamiliar with Dotmocracy it is a group consensus building tool that is most effective when used with large groups (Diceman, 2010). Invented by a Canadian, Jason Diceman, in 2004 to promote participatory democracy the tool is similar to a cumulative voting system, where Diceman acknowledges he drew his inspiration (Diceman, 2010). I highly recommend that anyone looking to understand the process more clearly to consult the Dotmocracy handbook, as well as all the complimentary information available at the dotmocracy.org website.
To those people familiar with the process, or those of you that participated this week, it is part of the role of the facilitator to not only promise a report but also make all the results public. As promised here are the results of our Dotmocracy:
Our question: What actions can be taken to improve the experience of Graduate Students in your faculty?
Number of Participants: 10
Answers generated: 10
Top five ideas (ranked by level of agreement):
(1) Grouped idea: More opportunities for faculty-student social events (this was posted on two sheets)
(2) Zumba classes for students
(3) Mentorship groups set up for students learn about and apply for funding
(4) Maximum class sizes reduced
(5) More bright study spaces
Based on the number of ideas generated with such a small group of students, it is clear that students have ideas and strong commitments to making suggestions about ways to improve the Graduate experience. Due to the limited number of students involved in the exercise I would recommend that this process be set up for students to engage in outside the classroom. Setting up a Dotmocracy wall for a two-week period in Blusson Hall could generate many ideas, as well as help prioritize what action the students would most often agree too. Therefore the conclusion of this exercise is to expand the session and make it open to all Grad students in an out-of meeting session.
As suggested by Diceman (2010) a Dotmocracy session can extend for days or weeks or even without a planned end. The process can take place in a common space, and although may need some experienced facilitators, the process can continue basically self-managed. As for students in the faculty of health sciences this would be best done in the graduate student lounge. As pointed out by Diceman (2010) we could have people take part without having to worry about competing schedules, gather large comments from the student body, it would need only a few minutes for people take part, and it wouldn’t require a meeting time. The disadvantages would be that people might not take the activity very seriously or benefit from the interactions of fellow participants (Diceman, 2010).
To follow-up on the session that we had, there were few questions that could not respond to. One of the questions was around voting irregularities. When participants mark (vote) on a particular sheet they are required to sign their name, however at stated in the handbook “It is not uncommon for participants to forget to sign, especially if this is their first time using Dotmocracy. It is your judgement call whether there are more dots than signatures because of fraudulent dotting, or forgetful participants.” (Diceman, 38). I wanted to note that in our exercise there were no voting irregularities.
In closing I would also like to reflect on some of the aspects of facilitation which would have improved this process. First of all I think that some preamble about the purpose of collecting the information may have helped contextualize the question for participants, and people may have answered more specifically if they knew who the results were going to be directed towards. There was also a two ideas that were very similar, participants were unsure how to manage these duplicates, and so more instruction on the process would have helped to address this issue as well. This would have been a good pilot session, with the next steps leading to a full on Dotmocracy with the student body.