Using Assembly Fields for facilitation and gatherings

Assembly Fields is an experimental format for virtual gatherings, discussion, collaboration and decision-making.

Past experiments

#community-assemblies

Setup

This format works with Big Blue Button, available from Meet.coop.

Once in your meeting, click the blue plus button at bottom left of the screen. Click upload a presentation and upload assemblyfields_version5.pdf (3.9 MB)

Back on the meeting page, find the mini-menu at the far right. The fourth button turns on multi-user whiteboard. Users’ cursors and names will now appear on screen. Turn on Multi-user whiteboard on every page of the assembly fields.

Proposals

A proposal can be any idea you have for how to improve Resonate. To make a proposal, start by posting it here in the forum. Ideally, a proposal will have been discussed and refined a bit in the forum before being brought to an assembly. The best proposals also consider how they would be implemented. Who’s going to do the work of making this idea real?

Assembly fields

During an assembly, you can move a cursor (with your name on it) around these fields on screen. This is how we coordinate to explore proposals and run the assembly together.

Proposal Field v1.0

The Proposal Field is used when discussing and voting on a proposal. It is the main field used during assemblies. Detailed information on using it can be found in the rest of this guide.

Action Field v1.0

The Action Field is used when discussing and voting on a suggested action. When voting is over, the facilitator switches back to the proposal field. Note that this screen itself has no Action button; we can’t decide on more than one action at a time!

Round Field v1.0

If a round is begun as an action, the facilitator will switch to the Round Field. All will be invited to place their cursor along the purple circle. Those who don’t wish to speak can place their cursors outside the circle in the listening area.

Each person along the circle will take turns speaking. After each person speaks, they’ll move their cursor to the spoken area inside the circle.

After everyone in the first round has moved to the spoken area, those in the listening area will be invited to line up along the circle to speak. Those who don’t wish to speak can remain in the listening area.

When the second round is done, the facilitator will return the group to the Proposal Field.

In practice, the Round Field can be used more informally – especially with smaller groups. Since participants can see who has spoken, is listening, or is waiting to speak, participants tend to make space for each other.

The facilitator should watch for this and not overenforce structure if folks are self-managing. However, if an informal round goes long or drifts off topic, the facilitator should return the group to the Proposal Field.

Estimate Field v.1.0

The Estimate Field is used to build a collective sense about how much effort a proposal or task would take to implement or complete. Each person moves their cursor into one of the three semi circles to express how large they think the task is.

Participants can place their cursors at either the far left of far right of the semicircles to express that their estimate is based on either a hunch or data.

The facilitator is encouraged to call on those with hunches, data, or with minority opinions to see if the information they have can help the group understand the issue being discussed.

Exploring a proposal

Our goals when exploring a proposal at an assembly are:

  • Clarification: to make sure we all understand the proposal
  • Improvement: to offer improvements for the proposal to the proposer
  • Focus: to stay focused on the proposal as written
  • Respect: to defer to the opinion of the proposer when accepting or rejecting improvements
  • Objection: To identify potential harm in following through with the proposal
  • Voting: to express our opinion by cursor and by vote rather than general commentary

Helping others participate

If you are speaking and see someone with their cursor on Action, Objection, Clarification or Improvement, wrap up what you’re saying so that the facilitator can call on the other person to speak. It is each of our responsibility to watch the cursors on screen and make time for each other to participate. It is up to the facilitator’s best judgment who they call on first.

Sharing opinions

All of us will have opinions regarding a proposal and regarding what others are saying during discussion. However, our goal is to vote on proposals – that is how we show our support for them and move them forward.

General commentary such as “My favorite part of the proposal is…” can be redundant. So is repeating what others have said. If someone says something you agree with, you can say so: “I agree with Delilah”, but leave it at that.

If you notice that everyone is trying to speak at once, move your cursor to Action and suggest a prompt for discussion on the Round Field.

Offering improvements

If you move your cursor to Improvement, the facilitator will call on you to offer an improvement to the proposal. It is up to the person who is presenting the proposal whether they wish to change the proposal. If they like the change, it is their responsibility to rewrite the proposal in the Shared Notes area where everyone can see it.

Finding clarifications

If you move your cursor to Clarification, the facilitator will call on you to speak. When making a clarification you can either ask for information or present information. Perhaps you don’t understand part of the proposal – ask about it. Or maybe it seems that others are misinterpreting it – offer some info you think will help the group better understand.

Identifying objections

If you move your cursor to Objection, the facilitator will call on you to explain harm you anticipate would occur if we followed through with the proposal. The most helpful objections have evidence and experience to back them up.

Note that an objection is not general disagreement. You may not be a big fan of a particular proposal; perhaps there is something you think would be better, or maybe it isn’t something you personally need or want.

  • Disagreement: “For Nesrin’s birthday, I’d rather we had ice cream than cake.”
  • Objection: “We shouldn’t make cake for Nesrin’s birthday cause she has celiac disease.”

Suggesting actions

Move your cursor to Action to suggest an action to the assembly. It can be anything! When you suggest an action to the assembly, the facilitator will move the group to the Action Field, where they may suggest clarifications, improvements, and vote on whether or not to take the action. Unlike proposals, actions don’t deal with any matter outside the assembly itself.

Example actions

  • “Let’s go ahead and vote on this proposal.”
  • “Let’s take a five minute break.”
  • “Let’s do a round so everyone gets a moment to speak”
  • “I’d like to give a five minute explanation of the context surrounding this proposal”
  • “I’d like to be facilitator for this assembly.”
  • “I’d like everyone to turn their camera off; my connection is bad.”
  • “Let’s turn off recording for this discussion.”
  • “Let’s mute our microphones when not speaking.”
  • “Let’s wait to vote on this proposal and continue discussion in the forum thread.”
  • “Let’s put a five minute limit on all proposal discussions this assembly. We only got to discuss three last time.”
  • “Let’s end the assembly early.”

Style

  • Assemblies tend to run more smoothly when everyone’s cameras are off. This helps the group relax and encourages participants to be attentive to what’s happening on the assembly fields.
  • We address each other by our chosen username during assemblies. If you’re unsure how to pronounce someone’s username, then ask!
  • We record assemblies to share with the forum. If you wish to pause the recording, suggest that action.

Influences

This is an experimental meeting and decision-making format initiated by @Hakanto. It remixes ideas from many sources including:

Meeting hand signals by NASCO

  • clarifications are prioritized over general comments
  • folks use limited set of signals to show what they want and to influence the meeting
  • don’t design too many signals as this can alienate folks who don’t know them
  • in assembly, the Action button allows for custom and spontaneous signals, but ensures the group has a say in whether or not to try them

Rusty’s Rules of Order by Industrial Workers of the World

  • distinguish between “main motions” and “procedural motions”
    • in assembly, these two types of motions are renamed Proposals and Actions to minimize parliamentary jargon
  • Actions are voted on by the whole group to ensure the collective has control over the assembly
  • voting, efficiency and collective action
  • check in on progress of previous proposals at each assembly
  • only one Proposal or Action at a time

Integrative Consent by Loomio & Round Sky

  • seeking and processing objections
  • speaking in rounds to give everyone a turn to speak and reign in dominant voices
  • distinguishing between disagreement and objection
  • proposer can accept or refuse improvements
5 Likes

@zetto.plus maybe peep this for stack.app

2 Likes

I’ve added a downloadable pdf of the assembly fields for anyone who wants to use these techniques for meetings or gatherings.

1 Like

Assembly fields pdf updated to version 5

Just a reminder that we have an offer of help (and potential academic match funding) for a project in this area:

Michael Munton is specialising in the ‘systemic’ design* of democratic governance.
and has suggested he could do a “case study” for Resonate as ‘capstone’ project in his research. He has done some workshops at his university as well, practicing community governance and collaboration. He seems pretty confident he could deliver something useful… like a way of organising an ‘unconference’ meeting space that involves multiple peer to peer interactions rather than big intimidating sessions which can too easily become the ‘land of the loud’.

2 Likes

Just want to add that Michael’s suggestions could help overcome the coordination across time zone problems… for example, with the roadmap meetings.

  1. Have the unavoidable ‘big’ meeting to agree the overall vision and big picture… and how it will be broken down into chunks… the big issue or roadmap areas.

  2. Set up ‘rounds’ of small virtual discussion teams / tables for folks who can find convenient times to discuss them. Ask folks to start by selecting areas they have a particular passion for. Write down the discussion in a doc (or forum wiki post / thread) that can be edited or passed on…

  3. Cycle the issues/discussion areas through the tables, each ‘table’ seeing all the issues and all the issues having been reviewed at all the tables.

There’s a special responsibility for groups at the start to shape up the key questions and at the end to sum up the conclusion of the rounds of discussion of previous tables.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds and gives time for everybody to be involved and to consider things properly. Citizens’ Assemblies sometimes work this way.

2 Likes

@Hakanto Have you ever visited the Meet.coop forum? Meet.coop are the folks developing and stewarding this video meeting resource.

It occurs to me that they would probably be very excited to receive a demonstration of the Assembly Fields.

I was reminded of that reading this thread in their forum today where (despite the issue referenced in the title) someone seemed to be down-playing the significance of the live whiteboard.

2 Likes

Yes I have!

In January, I shared info there about the assembly fields. Some folks showed a lot of interest, but I don’t know if they’ve experimented with it yet. :slight_smile:

3 Likes

Yes they have :wink: and well done … you have credit and bragging rights there!

4 Likes