Define Questions

An effective project should help you find what works. A good question asks the community to consider what changes are needed today to achieve the desired outcomes of tomorrow:

Present

Current reality we face

Decisions

Change in our work

Future

Outcomes to achieve

Defining Your Question

A good question asks community members to consider feasible changes that can lead to a desired future. For example, how should we train our workforce to increase revenues per employee? The feasibility scope is defined as how we train our workforce. The outcome is defined as increased revenues per employee.

Tips

Here are some tips for writing good questions:

The question should communicate what a successful outcome looks like. 

Good questions are about the future, NOT the past. Avoid the blame game.

Participants should understand what budgets or fields are open for consideration.

Don’t ask yes/no questions. Begin your question with questions words like "what" and "how."

Test your question with 3 people before launching your project. Did they understand it?

Examples

Here are some examples of well-defined questions that we've seen:

We want to make sure that every citizen can profit from the digital world. How can we achieve this goal?

The volume of recyclables has dropped significantly in the previous year. How should the municipality increase the number of residents recycling the appropriate recyclables?

We want to satisfy customers. How can we change our procedures in order to both improve our services and retain and grow our customer base?

How can we modify our community meeting activities in order to grow the number of young members?

We want more people to participate in our events and activities. What changes will enable us to increase the number of applicants?

Adding questions to your site

Launch a new project: After you've created a site, you can launch a new project by clicking on the plus icon on the top bar. After defining your project outcome, you will be asked to write your own question, or select an existing  question based on your project field.

Close

Assign admins & decision-makers: Enter a project on your site, and go to the admin interface. From there, you can assign roles and edit privileges on the right-hand side. You may assign up to 3 decision-makers to each project, giving them full admin privileges.

Close

Adding Background Information

You may need community members to understand the issue in a broader context. Share background information so that community members can reconstruct your knowledge, challenge your thinking, and help you create change. Here is some content to consider including in your project background:

Framework

What motivated you to launch the project? How do you define success? When will you make decisions? How and why can this project help?

Knowledge

What data, research, or experience currently exists? What was considered effective, and what failed? What best practices exist locally and globally?

Resources

What documents, websites, graphs, and databases can help us understand the field? Feel free to share Excel files and prior research.

Examples From Existing Projects

Here's some background that proved to be valuable for the project and inspiring to the participants:

Austin, TX: How can we increase recycling?

1776, DC: How can we better utilize our space?

Cities Summit, TLV: How can we better engage people?

Adding Background to Your Website

You have the option to write a short project description on your site homepage, and a more detailed project background on your project homepage. The short project description will also be included in invitation emails to participants. If you leave this field blank, we will show the first few sentences of your detailed project background on your site homepage.

Admins can always change the texts by clicking on the pencil (bottom left of the text field). When the editing mode is enabled, you can also add images, videos and link, or change some of the text formatting.

Theory Behind Consulting Projects

The theory behind defining a question requires us to go through 3 steps:

1. SET THE OUTCOME

Consider the future you want to achieve. This is your outcome. Different actions, activities, or outputs can get you there.

2. DEFINE DECISION SCOPE

What kinds of decisions are you able to make? Which resources, methods, regulations or structures are open for discussion?

3. WRITE A QUESTION

Link your decision scope to the outcome (“What can we change in [scope] in order to achieve [outcome]?”)

Start With an Outcome

Defining your desired outcome is a critical first step. Knowing where you aspire to go is necessary for understanding what actions, activities, or outputs should change to achieve your future ideal.

An outcome is the future we want to create, but cannot fully control. Changing our actions cannot guarantee a particular outcome. We may change our spending priorities, operations guidelines, or procurement rules, but we can't force clients to buy products or citizens to recycle.

An outcome is ultimately measured by the impact on stakeholders, not by the success of our actions. Outcomes are shaped by many outside societal forces, and take time to achieve. We can only measure outcomes after 3-5 years.

An outcome is measured by the impact on stakeholders.

Outcomes are influenced by factors outside our control.

Outcomes take time to achieve, and to measure.

New tenants embrace affordable housing

Outcome Indicator

Newly published RFPs for building housing

Output Indicator

For example, the U.S. Department of Education defines the following outcome: a higher number of underprivileged pupils succeeding in school. The DOE plans to achieve this outcome by hiring teachers with higher degrees. If the action of hiring teachers is wrongly defined as an outcome, then the recruitment will become the goal, instead of the performance of the pupils.

Define Your Decision Scope

A decision reflects a present change to deliver future results. It is vital to define in advance what changes are open for discussion in order to generate actionable insights from your community.

Decisions can be defined in terms of resources, methods, regulations or structures. We should ask ourselves: What budgets can be repurposed? What contracts can be modified? What rules can be changed? What can we change about our organizational structure?

Decisions should be clearly defined for the best chance of achieving our intended outcome. Unclear decisions are less actionable.

Decisions impact resources, methods, regulations, or structures.

Decisions are made within the boundaries of your authority.

Clear decisions are more actionable decisions.

At least 70% of the affordable houses will be assigned to young couples

Clear Decision

We prioritize young couples in the assignment of affordable houses

Unclear Decision

For example, the Head of Customer Success at Business X would like to reduce churn rate of users. She has defined the budgets and guidelines that are under her authority as potential areas of change. When asked for input, stakeholders contributed actionable insights on budget allocation, and refrained from mentioning other issues such as pricing structure.

Writing the Question

A good question asks community members to consider changes within the decision scope that can lead to a desired future. For example, how should we train our workforce to increase revenues per employee? The decision scope is defined as how we train our workforce. The outcome is defined as increased revenues per employee. As another example, what changes to our marketing strategy will attract younger citizens to our events? The decision scope is defined as changes to marketing strategy. The outcome is defined as more young people at our events. 

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