Make voting at your meetings more meaningful and fun!
Voting in your 4-H club is an effective, educational way to make to decisions. As a result, youth will learn at an early age how much of an impact voting can have.
There are many ways to not only make voting at 4-H meetings more effective, but also fun! According to Michigan State University Extension, when a club or committee is trying to decide on something that doesn’t necessarily involve a motion, it can be beneficial to use a voting process called, Gradients of Agreement (or a variation called, Voting with your Feet).
This process has the advantage of allowing participants to move forward on an issue before there is 100 percent agreement on all the details. It also allows everyone to see how individuals feel about an issue before an actual motion takes place. There are many different ways to utilize this tool and different ways to take the vote.
Here’s an example by MSU Extension. A club wants to make a decision on a community service project that they will be committing to for the year. The leader or facilitator has narrowed it down to the top three choices. The leader will now name the first option and ask the youth to get up and vote on how they feel about that option (voting with their feet). The Leader needs to make it clear to the youth where they should stand in relation to how they feel about the project. They may say that the east side of the room means you are really excited about this project, whereas the west side of the room signifies that they hate the idea and do not want to go forward with it. The line across the room from one extreme to the other represents the level that participants do or do not support the idea. It can be very helpful for this process if the leader puts newsprint on the wall to signify the two extremes. This will cut down on the confusion and make sure the leader is getting an accurate answer. The participants will then stand on the line representing their level of agreement with option one (Gradients of Agreement).
This process will show everyone in the room how many of the group agrees or disagrees with option one and at what level. The leader may choose to ask for clarification from the youth who voted to the extreme as to why they feel that way. Keep in mind that not every situation warrants such sharing. Asking for clarification will often help shed light on some of the issues and may change the opinions of others. It also allows members to be heard which reinforces that their opinions are valid and valuable, even if that option is/isn’t chosen in the end.
This voting process should then be done with the other two options. In the end the leader and participants will be able to visually see which option the majority of the group is in favor with.
If moving around is not an option, a leader could have the youth stay in their seats to vote. In this case they would have the youth raise fingers from one to five clarifying which number is in agreement versus which is not. For example, if it was determined that five fingers meant the youth were in absolute agreement, then a member who holds up three fingers would be indifferent to the project. This process may be difficult for all the participants to see everyone’s hands and visualize the level of agreement. The leader could choose to count the votes and put them up on large newsprint if they wanted to make sure everyone understands the level of agreement present within the group.
Another variation may be to use Turning Point to vote on each option. Turning Point is a computer voting system where each participant has a hand held voting device and they place their vote using that tool. This method will keep the votes more private and may get a more accurate response which is helpful with contentious situations. Many MSU Extension offices have turning point devices and a leader may be able to borrow them by contacting the 4-H Staff.
This tool can also be used with a simple Yes/No vote. Having all the members go to the side of the room that represents yes or to the side that represents no. Although the same can be accomplished with a simple raise of hands, this approach is very beneficial to a meeting as it allows the participants to move around. This helps them to focus on the issues when discussion has been extensive and time consuming. It also allows the entire group to see the responses better if the group is large, because it may be difficult for all participants to clearly see a raise of hands.
For other facilitation tools that will help to spice up a 4-H meeting or to make the meeting more effective, read additional articles by MSU Extension such as, How to perfect the facilitation tool, “sticky dot voting” or How to perfect the sticky wall facilitation tool.