When a participant accesses a Gala URL, Weave searches through the list of active forums associated with the gala and automatically adds the participant to the first forum that has an open seat. If there are no open seats, Weave will either create a new, unfacilitated forum for the participant or ask the participant to try again when a forum with an open seat becomes available. In a sense, galas act like a “dispatching mechanism” for participants, guiding them into a forum.
Both forums and galas have a guest list, which is a list of email addresses and/or domain names eligible to participate in the forum, and a black list, which, as you’ve probably guessed, is a list of email addresses and/or domain names that are ineligible to participate. Guest lists can be further configured to require participants to authenticate their identity via their Weave account or their email address, giving you a very high degree of confidence that the participants are exactly who you approve – and no one else.
As you might imagine, there is a substantial amount of machinery that works "under the covers" to make all of this work in a seamless manner. The Conteneo dev team has made it pretty easy to use forums and galas, so let’s explore some circumstances in which you might use one over the other.
Single Team? Use a Forum
The easiest design choice is when you have a single team. In these cases, just use a single forum. Most of the time, your “single team” will be three to eight people. However, there are times when a “team” might be larger than just eight people. For example, a customer asked us if they could use a single Prune the Product Tree with 18 members of a Customer Advisory Board who really wanted to work together on one very large, custom-designed canvas. Normally, we’d recommend that they use three separate forums of 6 participants and then merge/analyze the results. In this case, having one very large group of participants made good sense, and the event was quite successful.
Multiple Forums for Moderate Group Sizes
Let’s assume you have a larger number of participants, for example, 40 to 60 stakeholders who should be involved in a portfolio prioritization process. Now we get the heart of the question that motivated this design tip: should you use multiple forums or one gala?
The key to answering this question concerns the structure of the groups: if group structure or group identity is important – meaning – you care about which participants are in which forums – you should use multiple forums, one for each group, because a gala does not preserve group structure.
However, if the group structure is not important – meaning – you don’t really care about the individual members in a forum – then you can and should use a gala, because galas make scheduling these kinds of forums a breeze.
Let's explore a few examples of when group membership does and does not matter.
Where Group Membership Matters: Participatory Budgeting in Schools
To illustrate when group membership matters, this case study is base on Every Voice Engaged Foundation’s work in implementing Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Sunnyvale Middle School in Sunnyvale, CA. PB projects generally proceed in four distinct phases:
- Proposal Ideation: Participants generate ideas for proposals.
- Proposal Development: A steering committee reviews the ideas and selects a subset of ideas for proposal development.
- Proposal Selection: A set of proposals is presented for voting.
- Proposal Implementation: The most broadly supported proposals are selected for implementation.
For the Sunnyvale Middle School project’s ideation phase, we needed to determine how to best organize the students for idea submission. There are approximately 1200 students at the school organized into about 50 homerooms. The teachers managing the process felt that students in the same homeroom should be in the same forum, as it would give students a chance to discuss ideas with each other and their teachers at a known time. Accordingly, we created 50 forums, one for each forum, and gave each homeroom their unique 9-digit join id.
If you choose this option make certain that your facilitators start their forums on time! We had a few teachers who forgot to start their forum, delaying some of the interaction. For large numbers of forums, I often skip the lobby and start the forum immediately.
Where Group Membership Matters: Enterprise Retrospectives
An enterprise retrospective is a process in which each team in an organization conducts are online retrospective in Weave to generate data that is analyzed across the teams to identify patterns of behavior and opportunities for improvement at the enterprise, department, squad and team level. Because group membership matters in a retrospective you’re going to schedule multiple forums, one for each team.
When Group Membership Does Not Matter: Portfolio Prioritization
Traditional portfolio management practices often limit the number of leaders involved in selecting which projects to fund because it is simply too hard to get a lot of people involved. The root cause of why it is hard varies. Sometimes it takes too long to schedule the necessary meetings, especially when leaders are distributed across multiple time zones. Many times it is too costly to fly everyone into the same location. At other times the portfolio managers don’t have a means to manage and analyze the data from different voices – so they just don’t ask.