What is Public Deliberation?

Public deliberation is a process that allows for citizens to voice and discuss different view-points, while working together to problem-solve and come up with a solution that honors the ‘public good.’ The following are fifteen aspects of public deliberation that distinguish this form of community problem-solving from others:

 

I. CORE PRINCIPLES

TOUGH CHOICES
Within a democracy, there are several good points and solutions for each issue that arises. A deliberative process acknowledges this fact and seeks to help citizens work through all of the possible courses of action and to engage with one another through the difficult task of choosing one course. Throughout this process, whether or not a decision is reached, all values and their oppositions will be discussed, improving public knowledge and helping engaged citizens to realize new perspectives.

PUBLIC JUDGMENT
The act of deliberation, considering all facts and points of view as well as their possible trade-offs and consequences, allows the public to be more informed, which, in turn, helps the public judgement to be more representative of the citizens.

DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE
Public deliberation places the burden of community decision on the people governed, not the government. “Broad collaborative efforts that move away from a focus on government as sole problem-solver can work to transcend political partisanship, empower local communities, and lead to more systemic changes that go beyond an ongoing focus on addressing symptoms.”

INCLUSIVENESS AND EQUALITY
Public deliberation strives to be representative of the whole community by attractive and including all voices, especially those that have been historically quiet.

II. DEFINING ROLES

THE ROLE OF CITIZENS
Citizens are to serve as engaged problem solvers working with one another, rather than serving individually as a mere taxpayer, consumer, or voter. The citizen has the biggest burden to bear in public deliberation because the diversity of the citizen’s community democracy cannot function without that high expectation.

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
Government serves as a tool within public deliberation to help its citizens enact their public judgement, but it is not the only tool or sole decision maker.

THE ROLE OF EXPERTS
Experts help citizens by offering in-depth information on issues or subjects, by this does not mean their voice is heard above the rest. A goal of public deliberation is to have a wise and knowledgeable community, not a wise few that lead the community.

THE ROLE OF MEDIA
A deliberative media would focus more on engaging broad audiences, uncovering the underlying value dilemmas and tough choices inherent to public issues, and providing the public with a clearer understanding of both the relevant facts and the relevant trade-offs tied to key issues.” The goal is to improve and enhance the public discussion.  

III. PROCESSES

FAITH IN HUMAN NATURE
Public deliberation acknowledges the flaws and quirks humans bring to the table, but trusts in the ability to deliberate and work with one another. Trusting people helps “to develop civic capacity and democratic habits in the citizenry. The value of this ‘side effect’ of deliberation may, in the long run, be more important that the work on any one specific issue.”

THE WISDOM OF CROWDS AND THE CO-PRODUCTION OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE
Deliberation is based on the premise that many people may have pieces of the answer, and together they can forge new approaches and solutions that could not be developed without engaging broad audiences.”

INTERACTIVE COMMUNICATION
Contrary to pubic disputes or normal methods of conducting community decisions, the public deliberation process details citizens talking to other citizens and listening intently to learn from one another.

PASSIONATE IMPARTIALITY
Deliberative practitioners passionately support democracy and the values it entails, such as freedom, equality, inclusion, transparency, trust, and mutual respect…{while striving} toward impartiality about the topics under discussion lest participants dismiss the processes themselves are biased and partisan.”

IV. IMPACTS

BALANCING INDIVIDUAL INTERESTS AND THE PUBLIC GOOD
As a participant of public deliberation, citizens are expected to come to the table open and ready to hear new ideas including those that may oppose their individual positions. The goal is to work towards the public good, despite every individual having a different set of values on every issue.

LEGITIMACY
The inclusive nature of public deliberation allows for every decision to be more representative and achieved by means of a democratic process, offering a legitimate solution and process to each issue.

STRIVING FOR AN UNREACHABLE IDEAL
All of this is extremely idealistic. But acknowledging the flaws of individuals and of human constructed governments and communities, and still striving to make this sort of collaborative action work is what will slowly change the community and society, by “building critical civic capacity to solve subsequent problems.” 

V. IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATORS AND MANAGERS

IMPLICATIONS FOR PUBLIC ADMINISTRATORS AND MANAGERS
Public administrators and managers can serve as essential catalysts, conveners, and nurtures of efforts to increase the problem-solving capacity of their communities and improve the quality of their democracies.” 

 

From the article, “Key Aspects of the Deliberative Democracy Movement” by Martin Carcasson & Leah Sprain, July 2010, Public Sector Digest.

 

For more information, please visit these links:

Everyday Democracy

Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado Statue University

Kettering Foundation

National Issues Forum

and take a look at these PDF documents:

 The Civic Spectrum – How Students Become Engaged Citizens

Key Aspects of Deliberative Democracy Movement

carcasson-beginning with the end in mind