Crowd Wise


Crowd Wise is a community participation method for making shared decisions such as setting priorities, allocating budgets or responding to a consultation. It produces outcomes which the participants are more likely to support or accept as consensus emerges through a combination of discussion and voting on a set of previously formed options.


There are several elements to making good decisions. Crowd Wise provides different ways to tackle each one.

  1. A range of options is developed.
  2. Consensus emerges through a combination of discussion and voting:
  • Discussion leads to options being adapted to widen their appeal, and sometimes to mergers between options.
  • Crowd Wise uses a form of voting called ‘consensus voting’. All participants are invited to rank the options in order of preference; the higher the preference, the greater the number of points.
  • The votes are counted. The higher the number of points earned by the top option, the greater the degree of consensus.

How Crowd Wise reaches decisions:

  1. There is a range of options. This is important because decisions are rarely a matter of black and white.
  2. The options reflect the views of the participants. The options are either developed by the participants, or, if they were prepared before the discussion, they are adapted to reflect the values and interests of the participants.
  3. The option that is chosen also reflects the views of the participants. This is because:
  • The voting reflects people’s preferences on all the options. This contrasts with majority voting where people vote only for one option.
  • The chosen option is often a composite of some or all of the original options.
  • The voting shows how much consensus exists. If there is not enough, that is a sign to continue the process.

4    People can find common ground. This means that people are less likely to be polarised. No-one votes against any option: they vote for all the options, to different degrees. In addition, people have an incentive to engage with the other participants, to understand how they can make their preferred option more appealing to others.


  • Lots of people can take part, both in developing and discussing the options and in voting. It can be carried out with a group of 15 people or 1500 people.



  • Costs can vary depending on the size of the group.
  • A larger group may require venue hire.

Approximate time expense


  • It can work for a single event of 2-3 hours or over a long period of time through a number of sessions.


  • Avoids polarisation of views
  • Allows you to take decisions that work for everyone
  • Helps people to better understand other peoples’ positions
  • Involves service users
  • Develops policies and strategies


  • Some may be uncomfortable with the 'compromises'
  • Can take longer if consensus is not reached


New Economics Foundation

This method has been adapted from the publication 'Crowd Wise: Turning Differences into Effective Decisions' by NEF, available online here


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