Connected: Essential tools for crowdsourcing ideas

At some point in recent history, consultation became a dirty word. It’s unfortunate because consultation is a key component of a well-functioning society and a tool for good democracy and decision making.

Connected picBy Matthew O'Driscoll

But how do unions and other social movements make sure that our consultation processes are inclusive, safe, sound and secure?

Simply put: social movements need tools.

Social movements like Occupy used social media to organise and showed us the power of people coming together for a common cause. WikiLeaks showed us the potential for collaboration in the dissemination of information.

Here in New Zealand we have Loomio, a web based tool for group decision-making. It allows dispersed groups to reach decisions quickly and take constructive action. Users simply login, create a group around a particular topic or issue and start having a conversation on a Facebook-like wall set up. When a decision needs to be made questions are posed to the group with the option for them to agree, abstain, disagree or block. As the conversation and decisions stack up a consensus starts to emerge.

To use the jargon of the field it’s a simple way of crowd-sourcing ideas and building submissions. Wellington City Council used Loomio as part of their consultation process on The Right Mix, a programme of work looking at the way it manages alcohol in Wellington City.

Over the ditch is Bang the Table, which has a similar online model as Loomio but comes armed with even more tools for engagement. Using a mix of moderated forums, surveys, story gathering and Q&A tools. Bang the Table takes traditional town-hall style meetings and replicates them online in a safe environment. There’s even module for stakeholders and community members to help organisations prioritise where their funds are going.

Bang the Table tools have been used widely across Australia with national and state government agencies, private sector clients, and community organisations.

Back here, Statistics New Zealand has an online consultation programme called Consider this… which gives users a chance to come together and interrogate data and information projects. Users can leave comments anonymously on screen for others to consider, or they can choose to post comments that can only be seen by the people conducting the consultation. 

At the heart of all of these technology solutions is consultation best practice. The Ministry for the Environment has a great resource guide on their website called Striking a Balance: A practice guide on consultation and communication for project advocates. It covers everything from the necessity of consultation in the first place to working with tangata whenua.

The next time your workplace considers consultation ask if you are following best practice and whether you have the right tools in place to get a worthwhile result so you’re not adding to the negative perceptions around this valuable work.



Bang the Table – a company that offers tools for engaging in collaborative learning, discussion, and debate.

Loomio – a web based tool for group decision-making.

Ministry for the Environment – advises the government on environmental laws, policies, standards and guidelines. Currently has 119 PSA members.

Occupy – an international protest movement against social and economic inequality.

Statistics New Zealand – our national statistical office. Currently has 463 PSA members.

WikiLeaks – an international, online, non-profit organisation which publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources.


This article is from the December 2013 issue of the PSA Journal. You can read back issues of the Journal by clicking here.