This Guide is for newcomers to Ethelo and is aimed at giving a quick overview of how Ethelo works and the process for setting up an Ethelo “Project.”
The Ethelo platform helps organizations solve a wide variety of problems by harnessing collective intelligence. The Ethelo website shows 40 distinct use cases in the following 5 categories;
- Budgeting Processes
- Community Planning
- Program and Project Design
- Employee Engagement
- Project Evaluation
All of the different applications use the standard platform, configured to each specific purpose.
The Structure of an Ethelo Engagement
Most Ethelo Projects follow a similar structure:
- Introduction: objective and background
- Survey questions to gather demographic information
- Topic pages which display options for voting and commenting
- Prioritization of Topics
- Results: preliminary outcome of consultation (option ratings and ordered list of outcomes)
The types of input that Ethelo captures to aid decision-makers are;
- Votes: Participants can evaluate a specific action or idea (an option, in Ethelo terms) using a Likert scale (button indicating different levels of support). This enables decision-makers to see how popular and unifying a potential solution may or may not be.
- Weights: Participants can weigh the relative importance of different ideas (in particular, topics and criteria). They do this with sliders, and the Ethelo algorithm will show a pie-chart in which the total weight adds up to 100%:
- Comments: The social dialogue between participants about the options and proposals. These often provide very clear and telling evidence about what people think of options shown on the platform. This often leads to interaction between participants including “likes” and “replies”
- Surveys: Ethelo can use traditional survey tools to gather answers to questions, both open text fields as well as radio button and check-box tools. Ethelo also supports open comment threads as a survey tool.
- Proposals: Participant’s ideas that the decision makers may not have considered. These proposals are normally entered on the bottom of a page for other participants to comment on. Decision makers may eventually adopt proposals into the results.
Votes and surveys provide quantitative information. Proposals and comments provide qualitative information. Both are essential for objective decision making.
Ethelo’s Building Blocks
There are six basic “elements” which go into creating a “Decision” using Ethelo
- Options are items which the participants are asked to evaluate. In a participatory budgeting process, options might include potential spending items such as a community gardens or a fire truck.
- Criteria are how participants vote on options. In a typical project, people are asked to evaluate options using a likert scale, with buttons corresponding to the level of support (from “total oppose” to “total support”). In some projects, an option might be evaluated using multiple criteria (eg. affordability, sustainability).
- Topics are groups of options which share similar characteristics. In a participatory budgeting process, a topic might be “Police and Fire Services” which could include options such as a fire truck, more police officers, a legal clinic.
- Characteristics are numeric qualities that can be associated with options. Often, these are costs. For example, a “fire truck” may have a cost characteristic of $200,000. We can have multiple identical options with different characteristics - for example, a low-cost fire truck of $150,000, or an expensive fire truck costing $300,000. Other Characteristics used include risk, staff time, or difficulty.
- Rules are used to determine whether options can appear together in a final decisions. For example, if there is a spending budget of $500,000, then a constraint would be the total cost of options should not exceed $500,000. We can also use constraints to specify if certain options cannot appear together. For example, we might have a rule that we will not build both a soccer field and a baseball field.
- Influence is used to determine how much weight each participants contribution will have on the final outcome. In most situations, influence will be equal across participants. However, in some cases - for example when some groups are under or over-represented, Ethelo is able to adjust influence to ensure a fair outcome.
The Ethelo algorithm takes these 6 parameters and, together with participant inputs, identifies the best decision outcomes.
Ethelo identifies the best decision outcome by examining all the possible combinations of different options. There can be many possible combinations - sometimes millions! Ethelo evaluates these combinations and uses the Rules to eliminate any combinations that are not workable. The resulting combinations are called Scenarios.
- Scenarios are combinations of options that follow the Rules.
- Scenario Characteristics are numeric qualities associated with scenarios. For example, the “total cost” of a scenario will be the sum of the costs of all the options in that Scenario
As each participant goes through the Ethelo process, the right hand column will show their favourite scenario, often called “My Top Choice”, based on how they have evaluated the Options and weighted the Topics.
- “My Top Choice” or “My Results” will show each person’s favourite scenario, and will update in real-time as the participant adjusts the votes and weights.
The Ethelo algorithm tracks how all the participants have voted on the options and weighted the topics, and analyzes each of the scenarios according to four Metrics:
- Ethelo Score is a measure of the overall strength of the decision, considering how popular it is and how fairly the benefits of the decision will be distributed across the group.
- Support is the average score that everyone has given an option or scenario based on the likert buttons, where “totally oppose” = 0 and “totally support” = 100.
- Approval is the percentage of people who have given an option or scenario a positive likert score rather than a negative or neutral score.
- Conflict is the measure of disagreement or polarization in a group over an option or scenario. Higher conflict scores represent internal resistance and risk of failure.
On the Group Results page, Ethelo can product a list showing all the options (“List Results”), or it can show the top Scenario which is a subset of the options (“Scenario Results”).
If Scenario Results are chosen, then the Group Results page will show the highest scoring Scenario, based on the Metric that is chosen. Ethelo Score is the default Metric. Participants can click the Scenario Results panel to see the second, third highest ranking Scenarios, as well as the “worst” Scenario.
- Scenario Result Panel shows the best scenario based on the preferences of all the participants in the group, and will update every 10 minutes.
Along with the specific list of options belonging to the Scenario and the Scenario Characteristics, Ethelo will also display a pie-chart showing the average weight given to each of the topics and/or criteria.
Ethelo can display the results of some or all of the survey questions for participants to review;