What is "deliberation"?
Deliberation is an approach to decision-making in which citizens consider relevant facts from multiple points of view, converse with one another to think critically about options before them and enlarge their perspectives, opinions, and understandings.
What is "deliberative democracy"?
Deliberative democracy strengthens citizen voices in governance by including people of all races, classes, ages and geographies in deliberations that directly affect public decisions. As a result, citizens influence--and can see the result of their influence on--the policy and resource decisions that impact their daily lives and their future.
Why is this approach becoming more common?
At the beginning of the 21st Century, democracy is in the midst of a particularly major shift in its development. All kinds of leaders are realizing that the traditionally distant relationship between citizens and government is inadequate for solving public problems. They are recognizing that the usual formats for decision-making often waste public resources, create unproductive conflict, and fail to tap citizen potential. They are attempting many different civic experiments -- some successful, some not -- to help citizens and governments work together more democratically and more effectively.
Who is involved in this work?
A burgeoning field of practitioners and researchers has formed to encourage, examine, and support this shift. They include public engagement consultants, dialogue specialists, conflict resolution practitioners, and academics from a wide range of disciplines. Though they come from many different vantage points, they all advocate deliberative democracy as an approach to public policy-making and problem-solving. The leaders who are launching these civic experiments are extremely diverse and largely disconnected from one another: they include mayors and city managers, school administrators, neighborhood activists, state and federal officials, and community organizers. They are focused mainly on involving citizens in a particular issue or decision; they may not even think of their work as civic or democratic. And until recently, the civic researchers and practitioners were segregated by their professional backgrounds and their attachments to particular models for deliberation. Overall, the people who are pioneering deliberative democracy are isolated from one another geographically and professionally, making it difficult for them to learn from each other or feel like they are part of a larger change.
Where is deliberation being used?
Deliberation projects -- including both temporary organizing efforts and permanent citizen structures -- are proliferating rapidly in North America, Western Europe, and many other parts of the world. The largest projects are now remarkable in scope, involving tens of thousands of citizens. Some efforts are exploring the enormous capacity of the Internet to distribute information, sustain far-flung networks, and make all kinds of expertise accessible to ordinary people. And while almost all of the projects a decade ago focused on local issues, there are a growing number of examples which have connected citizen voices to regional, state, and federal policy decisions.
Why is deliberation important?
Public deliberation can have many benefits within society. Among the most common claims are that public deliberation results in better policies, superior public education, increased public trust, and reduced conflict when policy moves to implementation.
How does deliberation happen?
There is a growing inventory of methods to bring the public into decision-making processes at all levels around the world--from local goverment to multinational institutions like the World Bank. Working in groups as small as ten or twelve to larger groups of 3,000 or more, deliberative democracy simply requires that representative groups of ordinary citizens have access to balanced and accurate information, sufficient time to explore the intricacies of issues through discussion, and their conculsions are connected to the governing process.