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March 12, 2014

New format for Big Vote

The Big Vote was launched in a bid to reclaim some of the referendum debate from politicians and to take it away from the TV studios. A series of community based events were planned to offer local people the chance to explore some of the big questions without interference from politicians. Finding a workable format for these events has proved harder than we anticipated but now we’ve hit on an idea inspired by the efforts of So Say Scotland and which we think is a winner. The roll out begins next week. 


Format for Big Vote events

Each event to be facilitated by a member of the Big Vote team.

Each Big Vote event begins with the facilitator outlining the purpose and structure for the event. The principle purpose of each event is to provide those who have yet to decide which way they will vote in the referendum with an opportunity to engage in the debate and to seek answers to questions and concerns that they have in order to help them to make up their minds.  It is not the intention of the Big Vote initiative to provide an opportunity for the supporters of Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns to debate with each other the relative merits of their respective positions. Representatives of both campaigns will be invited to the event to support the discussions and, at the end of the event, to offer some reflections on what they have heard.

The Big Vote event is based around a referendum card game which has been inspired by So Say Scotland’s Wee Play Game. Players get dealt hands of cards and take it in turn to play them. But instead of playing to win, they are playing to learn and become involved in a conversation about the forthcoming independence referendum.

Guidelines for the game (to be reiterated by the facilitator) :

•             Everyone should be treated with equal respect

•             Everyone’s opinion has value – there is no right or wrong

•             Everyone has a right to be heard

•             Listening is as important as speaking – so work at understanding as well as being understood

•             Try to find common ground – look for where you agree rather than disagree

•             Don’t worry if you are surprised or confused – it might mean that you are learning something new.

Sitting at tables of 6-8 people, the game commences.

The rules of the referendum card game

On each table there will be three packs of cards – each a different colour. The facilitator will ask each table to appoint a ‘dealer’. Representatives of both the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns are introduced to the event’s participants and it is explained that during the course of the evening they will be circulating around the tables and will be available to be consulted on any questions players might have.  They may also contribute to the table-based discussions.

Round one  

The dealer deals all the cards in the green pack. Each card in this pack contains a key area of policy or an issue that will be affected in some way by the outcome of the referendum. Every ‘player’ should have at least 5-6 cards in their hand from which they are asked to choose the two which resonate most loudly with them – this may be the issue that the player feels most passionately about or it may be the issue which he/she thinks will be very significant in the run up to the referendum (this may be one in the same thing). Players must choose at least one card from their hand – even if it is not the issue they feel most strongly about. Taking it in turn, the players read out the card they have selected, and, if they wish, say why they chose it. They then place their chosen card on the table face up. Other players can comment or express a view as cards are laid down.  Comments should be brief at this stage. More detailed conversation will take place during Round Four. Go round the players twice so that by the end of this round each player should have placed two cards on the table. Each player should keep both cards in front of them. Remove the cards that weren’t chosen, to avoid mixing them up.

Rounds two and three explore specific statements that might be expected to come from either side of the debate. The dealer should toss a coin as to which pack of cards is dealt first so as to avoid any suspicion of bias.

Round two 

The dealer deals all the cards from the selected (blue or yellow) pack which contains a series of statements which might be made by someone from one or other side of the referendum debate. Repeat the process as above for round one. Players do not necessarily have to agree strongly with the statement – it could just be that he/she feels it is a statement that is going to be important in some way in the debate.

Round three 

The dealer deals all the cards of the remaining pack which contain statements from the other side of the debate. The same process is followed as in the previous two rounds.

Round four 

The players in each group are invited to collectively prioritise which of the ‘issue cards’ played in round 1 would be their top two or three. As part of this discussion, players are also invited to identify other issues/policy areas that have not appeared on the table but which they feel should be considered.

 The players are then asked to create clusters of the remaining cards (from rounds 2 and 3), with the cards in each cluster having a common theme that links them together. The group will usually end up with between three and six clusters. Sometimes, as the discussion proceeds, further themes are identified, and the cards are rearranged into new clusters. There are no right or wrong answers. There may be cards from both sides of the debate in the same cluster.

Use a blank ‘cluster card’ for each cluster. Write on each cluster card a name that describes this cluster’s shared theme. Try to reach agreement among the players which of the themes/clusters that they have been able to identify will be the most significant in the referendum debate.

Round five 

Each table reports to the rest of participants what their key issues and policy areas are (from round one) and what they consider to be most significant cluster/theme from their discussion.

Both sets of campaign representatives (Yes Scotland and Better Together) are then invited to comment/ respond – both to what they have heard at the tables during the course of the evening and during this final reporting back.

After some final comments and thanks from facilitator….. The Event Ends