The Consensus Wiki will be a tool for generating consensus documents. Consensus documents could be policies, position papers, etc. They can also be well-stated lists of alternatives that will feed a subsequent decision process that will choose among them. In fact, it is usually the prospect of a subsequent vote of some kind that inspires the individual authors to adjust their competing submissions for clarity and for alignment with group opinion.
This tool (as distinct from a standard wiki) is only appropriate where there is a desire to provide a voice to a defined group. In some cases, a clear consensus may already exist in the relevant group and all that is needed is a polishing phase applied to a preliminary draft. But in the usual (and more important) situation, a consensus needs to be built, not just found. This means that mechanisms to capture and clarify both individual concerns and general opinion are of central importance, and must extend well beyond the most vocal partisans even though such partisans will often be the people most willing to do the work of crafting proposed language for the document. The strategy is to harness that energy to mature and express the group’s opinion, not just that of the authors.
Last May, I participated in a six week ALA Library 2.0 project to look at how libraries could take advantage and become part of the social networking taking place online. I was in a team that included Nancy Kranich, Pennsylvania Forums and past-president of ALA, and Mary Ghikas, Senior Associate Executive Director of ALA and member of the NIF network via Sadie Flucas at College of DuPage. We developed a research agenda to determine ways that 2.0 technologies could be used to frame issues within ALA and in communities. I’ve embellished on those ideas and posted them as a case study on the League of Technical Voters Code-a-thon wiki.
But heres the really amazing thing!!!
The flip chart paper above that says, “Wiki position paper as means [to communicate forum findings to] leg. [legislature] was an idea that came out of a brainstorming session with a group of UIUC Graduate Library and Information Sciences students in May 2005 when they were developing our web site’s content management system in my bedroom – only because it’s the only room with a blank wall that will support five feet of butcher block paper! Here are some other ideas we considered!
Thanks to some creative coding, it may actually be an experiment we can implement! Holler if you want to join in!!!