How to perfect the facilitation tool, “sticky dot voting”

Sticky dot voting is a very useful facilitation tool that can impact final plans. Incorporate it in your 4-H club!

Sticky dot voting is a very useful facilitation tool that can help a group narrow down ideas from many into to a few favorites or into one final plan. Michigan State University Extension suggests that in order to make it successful, a group must take the first step of brainstorming ideas around a topic. For example, maybe the newly formed group needs to decide upon a name.

A simple way to start the brainstorming is to have a facilitator ask for ideas from a group and place them up on the newsprint or board. However, in order to be sure that everyone’s ideas are heard it is suggested that the group considers using a Sticky Wall or Rotating Flip Charts for the brainstorming process.

Once all the ideas are on the board, or while they are being placed, the facilitator should combine like items if at all possible. The next step would be to give each participant one or more sticky dots to use as a voting tool in selecting the idea(s) they like best. The participants would come up to the board and place their dot next to the item(s) they choose as their favorite(s).

The facilitator may first give the participants three dots and allow them to place them on their favorites. (The facilitator may or may not decide to allow a participant to place all three of their dots on one item.) Then after the list is narrowed down by selecting the top five with the most votes/sticky dots, the participants would be allowed to vote again but this time they would only be given one dot.

This is a quick method to narrow the choices down to the most popular. Narrowing the choices down in more than one step, helps to assure you are getting the one most of the participants will be happy with and gives them ownership over the final decision.

There are variations to using sticky dot voting. The facilitator may choose to use an electronic voting system such as Turning Point. This is very effective for large groups so that they do not have to get out of their chairs and work through the crowds to get to the board. However, for a smaller group getting up and moving around is strongly encouraged.

Another variation would be to use markers instead of sticky dots. In some cases you may not have sticky dots available, but have found that a sticky dot vote would be useful. In these cases just have the participants use a marker to make a dot next to their choice. However, using a marker could allow for a participant to mark more than once if you are not watching closely.

In other cases sticky dots can be used to find out who is willing to work on a project. For example, if the group has narrowed a list down to the top four projects to work on for the year and now are in need of deciding who will work on the projects. The facilitator could give out different color sticky dots or have the participants place their initials on the dots and then place them on the board. This will allow the person recording the information to see who is going to work on each project and if there are enough people assigned to each.

Using sticky dots can be very effective and fun. It allows members to get up and moving while still getting to the end goal. It also allows them to see the process in action and understand how the final choice was made. Clubs should practice sticky dot voting on something fun so that they will be prepared to use it when they really need it. 

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