If the purpose of the long list was to get the group’s ideas flowing and to make sure that everyone had an opportunity to have their ideas in front of the group, the purpose of creating a short list is to come up with a more manageable set of potential topics that can be evaluated with the criteria before making a final decision. When working with a large number of options, a majority-wins-all vote is not a good strategy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is entirely possible that a straight vote will result in a “plurality” rather than a “majority”. A plurality of votes is when one option has more votes than any other, but less than half the total number of votes. Also, remember that our goal here is to have everyone (or as close as possible) ultimately agree on what direction to move together in order to maximize each individual’s buy-in to the project. By creating a short list and spending some time exploring a small number of potential topics in more detail, participants develop a shared understanding of the range of options available to them.


  • Select a small number of topics based on the interests of the participants that can be explored in some detail.


1-2 workshops


  1. Post the long list of topics where everyone can see them.
  2. Check again for any clarifying questions about what each topic refers to.
  3. Explain that it’s now time to cut this list down to the top 2-4 options.
  4. To make the short list we’ll be using a multi-vote system, designed to allow each participant to not only vote for one topic, but to spread their vote around and indicate their degree of interest in a number of topics. Each participant is given 5 stickers (dots, stars, whatever…). They will indicate their interest in a topic by placing one or more stickers next to their topic of choice. Each decides for themselves how they want to spread their vote. For example they could put all 5 of their stickers on one topic OR one sticker on each of 5 different topics OR any other combination of stickers on topics.
  5. The vote should be conducted fairly quickly, and in silence. This helps to promote individual thought and to minimise “lobbying” by advocates of an idea trying to exert pressure on the other voters.
  6. When voting is complete, tally up the number of stickers that each topic got, and identify the ones that had the most overall support. This can be done by either saying “Any topic that got over X votes is on the short list” or “The topics with the top X number of votes are on the short list”.
  7. Acknowledge the validity of the topics that are being discarded, and congratulate the group on taking a significant step towards topic selection.


This model was developed by Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, benefits from his collaboration with a number of educators at Global Action Project in New York City, and builds on practices common in many youth media organisations. The model was first recorded and refined as a part of the Youth Media Learning Network Fellowship , 2007-2008.

Storytelling Prompts | Finding Topics to Explore

Morgan Sully, 2010.  Coming up with a worthy topic for a story can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here’s a few prompts to get you started. Participants Can work for small or large groups.  Not much technology is needed for this activity. Skills/Technique This...