Dotmocracy, also known as dot-voting or idea rating, is a selection technique used by those who take part in participatory processes to make decisions about implementation or action.

Problems and Purpose

Dotmocracy, also known as dot-voting or idea rating, is a technique used to select among options or alternatives, or make other kinds of decisions about implementation or action within a participatory process. 

Origins and Development

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How it Works

In dotmocracy, the facilitator gives all participants an equal number of stickers – usually dots, but any stickers will do. Markers can also be used in place of stickers. The options are written legibly and largely, usually on individual flipchart sheets that are posted on a wall. Participants are then invited to “vote” for their favorite options by placing their stickers on the flipchart sheets. Participants may spread their votes among a number of options, or consolidate their votes on a single option. The option(s) with the most dots at the end of voting “win.” One variation of dotmocracy uses different color stickers to signify different values, for example, a green dot means something is liked and a red dot means it is disliked.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

When using dotmocracy, facilitators should be conscious of at least two important issues. First, they must attend to the number of options being put up for a vote. There is a balance between having too few options (where there is not much from which to choose) and too many options (where participants cannot effectively review, consider, and compare ideas). Expanding the number of options is probably best left to the participants, though if necessary, facilitators could unpack different ideas that have been consolidated into a single option. Reducing the number of options can be done by consolidating similar ideas or generalizing unique ideas into broader concepts. Second, facilitators should be aware of posting options that are very similar, as this can cause vote-splitting and ultimately lead to the penalization or dismissal of ideas.

See Also

METHOD: Feedback Frames for Prioritizing Options (Idea Rating / Score-voting)


The original submission of this case entry was adapted from the Public Agenda blog post, "Helping Participants Make Group Decisions", by Participedia co-investigators Matt Leighninger and Tina Nabatchi. It has since been edited and expanded by the Participedia community and does not necessarily reflect the views of Public Agenda or its original authors.

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