Collective Decision Making in Action

Jan. 27, 2023
A white board with ideas written on it including topics like "Self care day", "catered lunch", and more.

From attempting to agree on dinner as a family, to leading an unproductive team meeting, trying to make group decisions is a scenario every one of us is challenged with. Collaborating in a way where all parties can actively participate while feeling seen and heard supports a healthy work environment, promotes interdisciplinary solutions, and encourages adaptability.

As future environmental leaders, Earth Grant students are faced with a future of collaborative decision making. Anyone passionate about the environment in their work needs to have the skills to collaborate effectively across interdisciplinary professional networks to create effective sustainable impact. To best prepare Earth Grant students for effective collaborations, one of our weekly leadership development modules focuses on training and practice for making group decisions.

What important decision did we need to make? Students were tasked with planning agendas for three specific student cohort sessions that are set aside specifically for community building activities, otherwise known as “fun days”! After reviewing resources on collective decision making and group dynamics the week prior, Earth Grant students spent this class session following the basic steps of collective decision-making: 1) Identify the decision to be made, 2) Establish shared criteria for the decision, and 3) Generate ideas in silent individual brainstorming followed by group brainstorming. Once the brainstorm list of activity ideas was created (see photo), students evaluated their ideas in small groups and chose activities via the decision-making strategy they felt was most appropriate, such as consensus, democratic voting, or rank choice voting.

Collective decision making is not a one-size-fits-all process, and the best process for a specific group depends on size, level of trust, scope of the decision, and who is affected. Want to learn how to facilitate equitable collaborative decision making? Earth Grant students recommend this quick video primer to get started practicing this important leadership skill: Collective Decision Making - Leadership & Organizing in Action (LOA)

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