Public Lab Wiki documentation


This is a revision from February 16, 2018 23:57. View all revisions
5 | 39 | | #11486

This page includes resources for facilitation for meetings, and decision making processes. Please edit and add!

There is a conversation in the room that only these people in this moment can have. Find it.*

Before your meeting:

  • Find a meeting time that works for people you want to attend. A doodle poll can be a good tool for setting a meeting time.
  • Find a meeting space that can accommodate your group and make everyone comfortable. Some important things to consider are the size of your group, how you want the room setup and if the space will be accessible for everyone (handicap accessible, non-binary bathrooms)
  • Set and send an intention, goal, or agenda in advance. This helps people know what to expect and what you're hoping to accomplish in person.

Meeting ground rules

Ground rules are really helpful for meetings. It's important that people buy into the ground rules before meetings start and that everyone has the chance to weigh in and add others they see as being important. Below is a list of some ground rules that can be helpful:

  • Be a steward of the time and space - when everyone is a steward of the time and space, it takes the pressure off the person or group who might be facilitating. When everyone takes ownership of the space, participants can help with things like note taking, time keeping, and keeping the meeting space clean.
  • Be fully present - When you go to an event or a meeting, you dedicate time to that issue. It's important to recognize for yourself that you've done that and to recognize that others in the room have done it as well. To be fully present means that participants are listening, interacting, and not allowing themselves to be distracted by things like email or cell phones.
  • Consider best intentions - By setting up a mental frame that everyone is coming to the meeting space with the best intentions, and that comments said there were said with good intentions, helps participants to contemplate what is said, consider positive frames and ensures that no one is jumping to negative conclusions.
  • Consider impact - Closely related to the above point "consider best intentions" which applies while you listen to others, when talking consider the impact of your statement to others who are listening to you.
  • Ask for clarification - Anyone can ask for clarification at the meeting. This helps to make sure everyone stays on the same page, that no one is misunderstood, and that no one is left out by simple things such as acronyms that could be clarified.
  • Be constructive with comments not destructive - ensure that people are building on conversations and ideas instead of taking them down. It's okay to disagree, but disagree in a constructive way.
  • Use stack - Keeping stack in a meeting can be a useful tool for helping to make sure that everyone is heard and we're not losing people in the conversation. Stack is a list of people who wish to speak on the topic. One strategy in stack is to bump people to the top of the list who haven't spoken before. This method needs someone to volunteer to "keep Stack." Note: do not get in Stack simply to indicate agreement, instead....
  • Snap or wave fingers to show agreement instead of adding voice - Often times in meetings when we want to show that we are in agreement, we have a tendency to get back in the speaker queue to repeat things others have already said. One strategy you can use to show support is to snap or wave your fingers instead of using your voice.
  • Limit turns to one minute, and one (new) topic at a time - Limit speaker time to give everyone a chance to speak who wants to. Within that minute, ensure that only one point is made by the speaker, to make sure the discussion doesn't lose coherence.
  • Call for a minute break At any time, anyone can call for a minute break. Good for when the discussion is heating up too much.
  • Keep track of the topics to circle back to - Meeting agendas can derail when we realize we have things to talk about other than what we've set out to do. It's important to keep track of things you want to circle back to, but recognize when it's off topic. It's important to allow the group to keep a list of these and offer time to circle back to these issues. Sometimes this strategy is called the "Parking Lot" or the "Bike Lot" as in "let's write down that idea and put it in the bike lot."
  • Use structured conversation techniques - Complex topics involve facts, feelings, and ideas, and actions. Facilitating a discussion by asking questions in a sequence can help to both phase and pace the discussion. Start with Objective questions about facts, continue to Reflective questions about feelings, Interpretative questions about suitable ideas, and eventually Decision questions that lead to collective action. (ORID)



Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Examples of group processes

Collaborative decision making methods:

  • Open Space Technology Precursor to the contemporary (and less interesting) "unconference", this structure has been around since the '80s and allows a group to set its own agenda for its time together in order to make progress on difficult issues. Used in Public Lab Barnraisings.
  • Spokes Council Model
      Good pic at Used by the Occupy movement--good pic here. Representatives from Working Groups (or Affinity Groups) meet in a Spokes Council. Does not presume a particular decision making method for the Spokes Council -- it could be consensus, voting, whatever.
  • Sociocracy
      Consensus processes like Quakers. However, if the group can't reach a decision, a smaller group (say, 5 or 6 out a a group of 40) would be delegated to reach a decision, similar to Athenian direct democracy.
  • How to run a feminist lab meeting, by @maxliboiron of CLEAR:

Collaborating with supportive (or at least somewhat interested) governments of nation-states:


  • Consensus Decision-Making via Voting
      Other resources here
    • Summary of Statement-Based Process (current method)
        * Members may present public statements, motions, or open letters and encourage others to sign them, as is sometimes done by university faculties
      • Members may then say "x % of organizers signed a statement that ..." or "the undersigned ..."
      • Very difficult to reach 100%; most statements will presumably be signed by a [possibly small] subset of organizers Pros:* nobody may speak for anyone else without their signed affirmation
        • anyone may write a statement and circulate it for support at any time; minimal "process"
        • no veto; dissenting members cannot stop others from writing or signing statements Cons:* essentially nonbinding: a statement does not speak for the Organizers group as a body unless it has 100% of its membership signed
    • Summary of Voting Process (a proposed method)*
        Would require us to pick a threshold for binding agreement. 75% has been suggested. There is also strong support for 90% from organizers experienced with consensus.
      • If X% of organizers vote for a motion, it is adopted by the Organizers group
      • Equivalent to >(100-X)% must vote against or simply not vote to block
      • Members asked to respect the outcome of the vote -- but may of course voice dissent personally, i.e. "I voted against it, but agree to abide by it."
    • The Union system, as established by the International Worker's Association
        If you wanted to push a change to the overall organization, you'd first put it first through your "Local," Local Union, or possibly even chapter--Mondragon in Spain is a famous example.
    • Liquid Democracy -- [to be filled in]

    Some facilitation resources

    Online Discussion/Decision Making Platforms:


    Please treat our mailing lists as a place of respectful conversation. Our lists have moderators to ensure civility. Moderators review the posts of all new members before approving them to post automatically. Some existing members may be placed into moderation if their posting pattern changes such that it violates our list guidelines (see below):

    When posting to Public Lab lists:

      1. Stay on topic
      • stay on topic to make long threads easier to follow
      • if you diverge from the main thread/topic/subject, consider breaking off into a new thread/topic/subject to help others follow along
      • avoid sending one-line spurious responses that effectively "spam" hundreds of people and lowers the overall content quality of a conversation
      2. Mind your tone
      • since we are in a conversation in email form, maintaining a tone of respect is essential. Any of the following can result in a member having their posts moderated before going out to the whole list: aggressive tone, disrespectful tone, mocking tone, off-color tone
      • a note on humor: expressing ourselves online in text is different from expressing ourselves in person by talking

      Before you are placed into moderation, you will be notified on the pertinent list.


      • * lead quote on this page --> idea articulated by Taj James in the cofacilitation of environmental justice resource redistribution initiative Building Equity and Alignment's inaugural meeting in 2013. Surfaced by adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategies
      • OSM Etiquette
      • OSM Community Code of Conduct
      • Humanitarian OSM Code