2014-04-16

An Occupy-Inspired App That Helps Groups Make Actual Group Decisions

There are no great tools for making decisions collaboratively online. Inspired by the hand gestures used at Occupy protests, Loomio aims to fill that gap.

If you've ever tried to make a tough decision with a group of people online, then you've most likely done one of two things. You may have had a discussion over email, in which case the conversation has gotten very messy and it becomes difficult to suss out exactly where everyone stands. Or, you could have tried a poll, which doesn't give the opportunity for re-working proposals based on feedback.

Neither of these options really unleashes the creative power of individuals working collaboratively to solve a problem. And there are no existing online tools that really fit the bill. Now a group of New Zealand Occupy Wall Street activists-turned-software developers is trying to remedy the situation with an app called Loomio.

Loomio is an open-source app that allows people to propose their own solutions to questions raised by their community. It can be used by neighborhoods, friends, workplaces, or any other social group where people need to make decisions collectively.

via Wikipedia

If you participated in or paid any attention to the Occupy movement(s), you no doubt came across the hand signals used in the General Assemblies, those silly-looking but surprisingly effective gestures that quickly denoted how people are feeling about a topic of discussion. The most ubiquitous of these was no doubt the twinkle fingers, signaling that one agrees with a proposal.

The problem with those hand gestures is that they only really work in person. Loomio's goal is to bring that General Assembly dynamic into the online world. Media theorist and advisor to Loomio Douglas Rushkoff described the app as “not much more than a pie graph with four buttons.” But the beauty of Loomio is in its simplicity. It does exactly what it needs to do and no more. Considering how straightforward the idea is, it's a bit surprising no one has really come up with it until now.

The Loomio team is currently on the last stretch of a crowdfunding campaign so that they can create a 1.0 version of their design.

[Image: Abstract via Shutterstock]

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  • The first version of Loomio is already live, with over 15,000 people signed up and the app available in 20 languages. You can use it free right now! The crowdfunding campaign is to build Loomio 1.0, a major redesign based on the user testing from the alpha and beta stages, which will be mobile, accessible, safe, and easy to use.

    Handup looks like a really great tool to take a quick vote. But Loomio is another kind of tool, for open, generative discussion where the options aren't pre-defined, deeper conversation where people are incentivized to understand alternative perspectives and change their mind, and moving beyond a majority-rules paradigm to thinking together to create solutions that work for everyone.