I had a little look for some images online to try and show what i was looking for:
Here its telling users there are different phases:
A visual representation of which phase the project or proposal is currently in, which would ideally include a timeline:
Two proposed options which would go through a discussion those phases from discussion to voting:
The example i found is a little limited in that i was looking for something that would have more options which could be chosen as phases and different tools available to users during them.
For example these phases: Idea generation > voting on proposals > discussing proposals > voting on proposals > building a project plan for the winning proposal.
Other phases might include: Video conference, workshops, user surveys, kanban for building, and things of the sort.
I agree with @mattdm that Discourse already has the tools to accomplish this which is why i thought it might already exist. While using categories in the way suggested would work, it wouldn’t have a smooth flow to it as users would have to read which phase is active and navigate to it themselves. Admins/moderators would have to update the text and categories to show clearly which is currently active (not huge barriers but still a UX barrier).
I wasn’t able to find the best example of this i’ve seen, but it was a single thread format. So the thread itself moves between the phases (which could be achieved by changing tags, or autoloading the next thread below original one), and as it did so it locked and shrunk comments/votes from earlier phases so users could still access them by clicking expand, but the thread they were active in was focused on its current phase.
If for example that phase was a video conference it would automatically comment the time, date and link, as the only visible (unminified comment) and lock comments until a mod clicked to take the thread to the following phase.
If it was a build phase it would lock the thread with a description and post a link to the kanban board.
All the same functionality as with Matt’s setup, but users stay engaged as they are already following that thread, and there’s less of a step between each phase where users drop off.