Seattle Works

A blog that documents all things Seattle Works…and much much more!

CommonWealth–we have a decision! Now how’d we get there? April 4, 2013

Filed under: CommonWealth,Innovation Hub,Invest — seattleworks @ 5:32 pm

We’re so excited to announce that our pilot CommonWealth group made a decision last night! They’re sending 1,350 of their pooled dollars to Childhaven! Childhaven is a Seattle-based nonprofit that provides therapeutic childcare to abused and neglected children aged 0-5. Their nationally recognized approach helps young children learn to develop positive relationships, breaking cycles of abuse and trauma. Congratulations to our CommonWealth group and Childhaven!

As excited as we are about the group’s decision, we’re maybe equally excited that we managed to get a roomful of strangers to come to a decision about their money–that they were all thrilled with–over the course of four weeks! How’d we do it? We’ll let you in on a few secrets–some that you might be able to use if you’re ever tasked with helping a big group make a big 1

Outline your values and develop a mission. On our first night of CommonWealth, everyone took 15 minutes to pick, from a deck of cards, the top 5-7 words they thought best described their values. We threw everyone’s top values up onto the wall and had an instant visual of the things that mattered most to everyone in the room. From there, we had a conversation about where there was overlap and began to group values together. At the end of the exercise, we had a list of values to guide the group’s mission–to evaluate and fund an organization that is effectively working to alleviate inequality in youth development and education.

Turn your values into a practical tool. With values and a mission statement in place, our CommonWealth group developed a Rating Tool. The tool allowed them to take their values, weight their importance, and create a universal tool with which each of them could use to rate organizations. Gradients

Group decision-making takes a little structure. With six finalist organizations and five very different people in the room, we knew we needed a structured discussion to get ourselves close to a decision. So we pulled out our favorite group decision-making trick–because we’re nerds and we have those–the Gradients of Agreement. This tool uses a giant chart to help groups visualize where each member stands on an issue–from being completely in agreement, to totally opposed, it’s a great way to see immediately where the room stands. Plus, it makes for a pretty cool picture.

Lucky for us–as one CommonWealth-er put it–“We can’t make a wrong decision. All of these organizations are doing amazing work.”

So there you have it–with a little structure, some values and a lot of leg work, our pilot CommonWealth round made their big decision?

Want to learn more about CommonWealth? Check out the Seattle Works website–or email our Program Manager, Katie Tiehen at


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