‘Citizens Panels’, ‘Citizens Assemblies’, and ‘Citizen Juries’ are forms of ‘mini-publics’, in which a small, diverse sample of a target population – be it a town, a city or a country – convene to discuss an issue of common concern. Sometimes the terms ‘citizens assembly’ and ‘citizens jury’ are interchangeable but as a rough rule of thumb, Citizens Assemblies refer to numbers of 40 to 400 people. Citizens Juries are smaller, usually between 12 to 25 people.
Citizens Assemblies and Juries are about evidenced based deliberation rather like a court jury. However, the term ‘Citizens Panel’ is used in order to avoid connotations of blame and judgement. The aim here is to understand an issue in depth from all angles, not to judge or blame others.
The process of a Citizens Panel or Assembly is composed of roughly three overlapping stages:
- Learning phase.Participants are supported to learn about the topic from diverse perspectives. This may include an introductory information pack that gives basic factual information about a topic and sets the scene for what follows. They are then exposed to a range of evidence, views and testimonies covering the topic from various angles. This may include experts, officials, politicians, activists, and stakeholder representatives of various sorts (e.g. business, third sector, communities). Participants are empowered to ask questions of these ‘witnesses’.
- Deliberative phase.Aided by impartial facilitators participants then engage in small group face-to-face discussion where they reconsider their initial ideas on the topic in the light of what they have heard in learning phase, but also with respect to the arguments and experiences of their fellow deliberators.
- Decision-making phase.The learning and deliberative work from previous stages enables participants to engage in considered judgement and arrive at particular decision or set of recommendations. These form part of a report which is submitted to a decision-making body: a local council, a public agency or a regional or national government.
We welcome your comments….
Usually, citizen panels are accompanied by a media campaign in order to trigger a wider public debate. We encourage you to comment and contribute to the discussion, especially the findings of the citizens panel. While we have a Facebook page it will be comments on this website that we will pay most attention to.
This website will act as a public record of the citizens panel findings along with the responses and comments by local people.
We especially welcome online comments and observations based personal experience of issues of homelessness, low wages and high rents. Every comment and observation will be read and weighed even if we cannot respond to each one.
….But please be responsible
Because this website will be a public record viewed by everyone, please be responsible. We cannot accept comments that attack or abuse others. Robust criticism is welcome but please use measured language, and respect the opinions of others.
For more information on citizens panels, juries and assemblies take a look at ‘An Introduction to deliberative democracy’ by Dr Oliver Escobar