tools directory

Crowd Wise

Crowd Wise

What situations is this tool used in?

Crowd Wise is a tool developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) as a participative method for taking shared decisions – working towards an agreed conclusion rather than divergent opinions. The process can be used for a wide range of issues or decisions, including setting policy priorities, allocating budgets, or developing a consultation response. The structured nature of the process encourages constructive conversation rather than polarisation.

Who is this tool aimed at?

Any group or organisation wanting to reach a decision on a specific issue taking into account a range of views could use Crowd Wise. It is particularly useful for enabling decisions that work (or can be ‘lived with’) for a wider range of people, for involving service users, and to enable people to understand the views of others.

How Is the Tool Used?

The format of Crowd Wise is flexible. It can be used for small groups of 15, or large groups of more than 1,000; timescales can range from a couple of hours to a longer process spread across days. The process tends to follow a common structure:

  • A range of options is developed
  • A combination of discussion and ‘consensus voting’ is used to reach a conclusion
  • Discussion may lead to options being adapted or combined.
  • Consensus voting (online or offline) involves participants ranking the options in order of preference – the higher the preference, the greater the number of points.
  • Votes are counted, and the higher the number of points earned by the top option, the greater the degree of consensus.

There may be several rounds of voting and discussion as options are revised, with the ultimate aim of agreeing a common position.

Who has used the tool?

In 2009, 50 chairs and clerks of parish and town councils met in Gloucestershire for a two hour event to discuss “how much power should local councils (parish and town councils) have in the 21st century?” The group used the Crowd Wise methodology to consider six options presented by six different speakers. Two sessions of voting and discussion, with a process of revising the options in between, led to a final outcome that reflected the broad range of participant views: “local councils should have powers and duties to deliver all appropriate services in the locality – this should be accompanied by increased resources; quality control; and accountability”.


A forerunner of Crowd Wise was used in Belfast in 1986 to discuss the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Over 200 people, including politicians - both unionists and nationalists – chose this outcome from a list of ten options: “Northern Ireland to have devolution and power-sharing with a Belfast-Dublin-London tripartite agreement.” It was a mini-Good Friday Agreement, 12 years ahead of its time!


NEF Crowd Wise booklet, including Gloucestershire case study: 

Where to find out more

Overview of Crowd Wise 

New Economics Foundation summary of Crowd Wise