Frequently Asked Questions

What are values?

A value is simply a preference for some thing or some process: ‘I like this’, ‘This makes me feel sick’, ‘I am afraid of this’, ‘I find this beautiful’. Values (positive or negative) are expressed through behaviours and words.

Why don't you set different questions for each issue?

The Values Exchange uses only a small number of question frameworks. The different frameworks are indicated at the side of each Case: eg. H-122 (a health case); ED-164 (an e-democracy case); SIMP-238 (a general case); CRI-293 (a corporate responsibility case). We use the same framework for similar cases so that we can detect and plot values trends and comparisons for individuals and groups over multiple responses.

Occasionally I can't seem to use the wedges and tiles to express exactly what I want - what should I do?

One consequence of using the same framework many times is that some questions and choices may sometimes seem irrelevant. Happily, it also means we do not have to design a new questionnaire for each case (making setting up cases a breeze). If a question or a choice does not help you express your values just remember: ‘don’t use all the wedges!’, ‘don’t use all the tiles!’ – ‘just use those that work for you’.

For those cases where you feel a need for different or additional wedges or tiles we recommend:
  • Use free text more liberally than usual: state clearly that you were unable to find exactly the right categories in your Rings and Grid analyses.
  • Use only those wedges and tiles that DO work for you - there will always be at least one wedge and one tile per case. An analysis that uses just one wedge and one tile with free text comments is just as good - and sometimes better - than more complex postings
  • Do NOT try to make your views fit with the wedges and tiles - the system is meant to make YOUR values transparent
  • If all else fails, just have an instant vote (if one is available). However, we are confident that even a slightly imperfect considered response will be much more helpful both to you and others than a poll 'quickie'.

After using the Values Exchange for just a handful of cases you will find it becomes increasingly easy to use the system to say exactly what you want.

What about the evidence?

Sensible value-judgements always include evidence – good evaluators take account of as much relevant evidence as they can.

Who decides what cases and proposals to debate?

Cases debated on the free-to-public Values Exchange are selected by Values Exchange staff. We try to choose topical cases with far-reaching implications. We also encourage Values Exchange members to suggest cases for debate.

Does the Values Exchange encourage majority rule?

It is sometimes suggested (usually as a criticism) that the Values Exchange tends to encourage majority rule.

The Values Exchange believes there is a place for majority rule, but true democracy is many-faceted and the majority decision is not always the wisest. Above all else we encourage decision-making transparency since openly sharing feelings and thoughts greatly improves communication, understanding and tolerance. Using the Values Exchange helps people become more open to new ideas, more willing to compromise and less likely to want to impose their own biases on other people.

The ultimate purpose of the Values Exchange is to promote deliberative democracy.

What is deliberative democracy?

Deliberative democracy is quite different from the simple polling sometimes undertaken by news-media. Simple polling typically asks for a Yes/No response to a single question set by the pollster. Deliberative democracy is a process in which participants review evidence, learn more about the issues, learn from each other, debate with each other and eventually create new questions for debate. It is a continuing process of communication, learning, insight and growth - and the purpose of the Values Exchange.

To find out more about deliberative democracy click here or here

What happens as a result of using the Values Exchange?

The most common objection to attempts at local democracy is that even if people are consulted (by telephone, mail, or public meetings) their views are not included in the final decision. So what's the point?

By contrast, the Values Exchange:
  • Provides transparent web-based access to all citizens' views - enabling and encouraging decision-makers to take account of the public's views
  • Everyone who has submitted a view can see everyone else's views - there is no editorial control
  • Creates a searchable public record
  • Actively seeks consensus: once a case is closed citizens can review it and learn from it - the same or a revised proposal can then be posted to see how consensus is developing
  • Is a continuing process of personal learning and group debate - members benefit in proportion to the effort they invest

Different commercial Values Exchanges use their results in different ways. Professional groups change policy as a result of their members’ Values Exchange deliberations; Health Services respond to in-depth staff and patient feedback, seeking to reach and apply consensus; Schools and Universities learn much about what their students really think and value, sometimes significantly changing what they do.

How is the Values Exchange different from other ways of finding out what people think?

There are already many ways to render people’s values transparent.

Technical approaches to values transparency include:
  • Opinion polls
  • Market surveys
  • Economic surveys (such as 'willingness-to-pay' studies)
  • Deliberative mapping
  • Psychological tests
  • Psychotherapy
  • Polygraphs (lie detectors)
  • Political elections
Commonplace approaches to values transparency include:
  • Observing what people do
  • Observing how people spend their money
  • Getting people drunk (in vino veritas)
  • Taking people to court and asking them to tell the truth on oath
  • Employing a private investigator to find out what people say and do when they think no-one is watching
  • Simply asking people to tell you what they believe
The Values Exchange does not replace these methods, rather we offer unique ways of complementing them:
  • By using a common values framework capable of dealing with any specific case
  • By using an ever growing database of values-trends
  • By offering instant reports available to everyone
  • By enabling citizens to accomplish their own surveys using VX systems
  • By explicitly balancing values and evidence
  • By involving service providers and service users on an equal basis

Why does the Values Exchange ask for names?

We advocate values transparency. If people offer opinions anonymously, transparency is compromised. Members who submit their views openly feel a sense of community with other members who have attached their name to their views.

It is possible to post your views anonymously. Simply check the anonymous login box as you register. You can change your status either way, at any time, by clicking 'My Details'.

We require an e-mail address to send you your password and to notify you of updates and other Values Exchange news. We will not share your information with anyone.

If I choose to be anonymous, how do I find out what my number is?

Do a considered response, then request a report for 'Your Views'. Your number is on that report.

What is the source of the Values Exchange?

The Values Exchange is derived from the work of David Seedhouse, a well-known writer on health, ethics and decision-making. Professor Seedhouse invented several decision-making support tools which have been adapted by the Values Exchange. The philosophical background for these tools is explained in David's many books – in particular in Health: the Foundations for Achievement (2nd edition), Ethics: the Heart of Health Care (3rd edition) and Health Promotion: Philosophy, Prejudice and Practice (2nd edition), all published by, and available from, Wiley.

His 2005 book, Values-Based Decision-Making for the Caring Professions, provides the perfect backcloth to the Values Exchange. The extensively revised third edition of Ethics: the Heart of Health Care contains a complete chapter on the Values Exchange.

You can order books directly from or through Amazon, which stocks the full range of David Seedhouse's books.

Who owns the Values Exchange?

The Values Exchange is owned by VIDe Ltd., a for profit e-democracy company based in New Zealand. VIDe Ltd. licences its software in the UK to vid.E (UK) Ltd.

VIDe Ltd. also owns and develops social networking sites called ‘Our ..... network’ – see for example: