Outcomes & Next Steps

Confirming the outcome can be critical to feel like the goals of a collaborative discussion have been achieved. A facilitator can pull together what’s been decided and reflect it back, to help the group walk away with the answers to some key questions:

  • What did we do?
  • What does it mean?
  • What will happen now?
  • What is my responsibility?
  • What will be different because we went through this experience?

Sometimes the answers to these questions are very concrete, such as action points, while other times they are more abstract, such as deepening shared understanding.

On Loomio

  • Outcomes are a very important tool. A proposal ending is not quite the end: there’s a need to sum up conclusively. That's what the outcome feature is for.
  • Many Loomio discussions come to a natural end without even using proposals or publishing outcomes. These discussions still provide a lot of value, and it can be helpful to update the context box with an outcome summary for later reference.
  • If specific people have action points, you can @mention their names and they will be notified.

Reporting & Harvesting

To understand the meaning of an experience, you have to inquire into how it fits into the bigger context. What was this moment, in the bigger rhythm of our progress? What form will our understanding from this experience take — a story, a report, a change, a call to action?

The experience happens in the moment, but its impact often comes from putting handles on it, giving it a name, and being able to use it and refer to it. Otherwise you risk forgetting, leaving people out who weren't there, or having to repeat it later. Productive collaboration is often helped by tangible documentation or reporting.

On Loomio

  • Loomio is self-documenting — notes write themselves as an integrated part of the process. This creates a gold-mine of archival content for groups, without any extra effort.
  • We have some features to support harvesting and archiving: the search function, the “previous decisions” list, and the print discussion option.
  • Premium plans offer the option to export all your group's Loomio data.
  • Many groups use Loomio to integrate content from various channels. For example, posting a meeting announcement and building the agenda on Loomio, having the meeting in person, posting the notes back on Loomio, and making related decisions in the same thread. This expands the “self-harvesting” ability of Loomio beyond the online space.

Turning Discussion into Action

There comes a moment when you have to re-engage with the reality outside the room. Occasionally, the need is simply to work with ideas and feelings, without worrying about implementation. But usually a group will not reach its goals without applying its conclusions to real-world action. This transition is part of the total facilitated experience.

It’s at this point that a collaborative process intersects with other organizational systems, and the facilitator has to help figure out how it will work. These other systems might include:

  • Power — Who actually makes decisions? What has to happen for ideas to turn into reality here?
  • Management — How does this fit into other priorities? What dependencies might exist?
  • Delegation — Who will take responsibility for next steps? Will they be held accountable?
  • Communication — How will this process or discussion be relayed to others? What do they need to know?
  • Administration — How will information from one system be input into another, such as a task tracking or communications tool? Where will information be stored?

If there are any blocks around these issues, it can be damaging to leave this realisation until the moment of conclusion. For example, if the participants don’t actually have the power to make a change they have decided, they will feel defeated.Think ahead toward confronting reality when setting up the process, and scope the collaboration accordingly.

On Loomio

  • You can @mention the names of people who will take actions out of a decision.
  • Many users accomplish integrating Loomio content into other organizational systems through other channels like reviewing Loomio decisions in regular offline meetings, or transferring outcomes to their task tracking process.
  • Making an explicit decision naturally leads people to ask, “OK, but how are we going to take this forward?”
  • Forming a Loomio group often surfaces important questions like, “Who needs to participate here to turn these decisions into action?” If you're missing key stakeholders, leaders, or administrators, you'll get stuck.

It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

Ending well is important. There’s a ritual to closing a process, and if it’s missed people will feel unsettled. Sometimes the end is determined by running out of time, and sometimes it’s when certain goals are achieved. Recognize implicit and explicit cues indicating if the individuals, and the group as a whole, can feel completion of a process or phase.

Participants often look to the leader or facilitator for confirmation of when it’s actually over, and it usually pays to be explicit. Sometimes the signal is a clear statement that the session is wrapping up, a recap of decisions or next steps, and bidding everyone goodbye. Other times groups have established practices like a check-out. Letting a session vaguely trail off will leave a bad taste.

On Loomio

  • The clearest indication of conclusion on Loomio is publishing a decision outcome.
  • Some groups use the close thread feature to archive discussions and reduce clutter.
  • Deactivating a group is the strongest possible “closure” move. No one can say anything else after that.
  • Since Loomio groups can remain while group activity goes up and down, it can be useful to recognize milestones like the conclusion of a particular phase, even if the group will reactivate in the future.