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The Bean Poll Sprouts and Grows

November 19, 2010

But I tell you look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘one sows and another reaps,’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored and you have entered into their labor. John 4:35-38 NRSV

There has been great response to the bean poll idea. Many have sent in pictures and stories about their bean poll. Newcomers Peter and Bernice Rynders from a Presbyterian church in Grand Rapids, MI sent in a report from their church fair.

“We had a really exciting church fair. We conduct the fair in our large dining room and there is a lot of room for people to move around and visit all the stations. We estimate that as many as 80 to 90 people visited our station and got involved in the vote. ”

They made a stand of plastic tubes anchored in a wooden board to represent different budget categories.

“We explained to people what FCNL was doing and how you showed graphically what the actual distribution is. We gave out copies of your graph. ” They adapted the bean poll to suit their needs. ” . . . they took little colored round cereal pieces, like Kix cereal, and distributed them in the tubes to reflect their own values.We gave each participant 20 cereal pieces because we felt 10 pieces would be too few to help in making their decisions. We gave up the base-10 system, but the relative value still is shown. “

Their results were clear:

Our church members’ distribution was almost the opposite of how the government distributes our tax dollars.

The picture above will be in the December Chimes, their monthly church newsletter. This is part of a general report on the Mission Fair. They also intend to reserve space in an upcoming issue when they will report on and promote  their Peace and Justice Committee efforts. Their senior pastor commented that there was sermon material in the display.

So, the issue will remain alive and that is good.

FCNL has also had success with the bean poll this past weekend. In a variation of the bean poll, playing on the theme “Building on a Firm Foundation,” we “built” different budget areas with LEGOs.  Thirty LEGOS were given to participants; each LEGO represented roughly 100 million dollars of the budget. We chose LEGOs because they are portable and reusable and if we ever wanted to dispose of them, we could decontaminate them and give them to children. In this way, we were inspired, but not limited by  bean poll models.

The LEGO Poll was colorful, fun, interactive and drew attention. I was pleased and surprised to notice that in the Annual meeting pictures, there were photos of two hotel staff stopping and taking notice of the LEGO poll and a blown-up 2010 Coin Chart. I think that is what makes this tool so useful–it pulls people in, makes them stop and compare their perceptions and values with reality.
Again, we invite you to send in pictures from your area to  What do you think of the Bean Poll? Were you at Annual Meeting? What did you think of the LEGO Poll? What other ways can we adapt this tool? We welcome your comments and suggestions.

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