Technique 1.98 Deliberate Engagement Principles


Deliberation = a long and careful consideration or discussion

It is a way of increasing the ownership by impacted stakeholders as they are actively involved in meaningful, authentic discussions around their challenge(s) and solution(s). It is

"...considering relevant facts from multiple points of view, talking with others to think critically about options before them and enlarging their perspectives, opinions and understandings..."

Mosaic Lab, 2016

It emphasises

- information processing (meaning/sense making)

- information exchange (communicating information)

- critical thinking (encourages people to critically test, weigh up and grapple with a range of perspectives, inputs and evidence)

- less adversarial (can remove 'the politics' and self-interest aspects)

It is different from representative and participatory democracy as

- it puts conversations, diverse perspectives and understanding at the centre of the decision rather than relying on polling and voting

- involves lots of people in a wide variety of ways that are represented by a smaller group of people who consider things in depth.

Some examples include citizen juries, participatory budgeting (where deliberation is integrated into the process), deliberative panels and forums, citizens' assemblies, etc


1. Clear Remit (as clearly and as simply as possible, the challenge or question is placed before a group; it explains the core of the issues and provides a strong and open platform for discussion about trade-offs)

2. Information (for in-depth conversation, the information needs to be neutral, balanced and from a range of different sources; use expert opinion to provide relevant information so that movesThis beyond opinion to an informed view)

3. Representative (participants are selected randomly via a stratified selection process so that they represent the broader demographics)

4. Deliberation (use processes to ensure maximum involvement of all participants, ie encourage thinking to move from individuals to smaller groups to the whole group

"...participants are given the time they need to deliberate, which allows them to consider complex information, grapple with trade-offs and impacts and to weigh up options and ideas..."

Mosaic Lab, 2016

5. Influential (have a high level of influence over outcomes or decisions)

6. Report (participants prepare their own thinking and report 'from scratch', ie they do not provide a draft for review or ask for comments on a pre-prepared document, etc. This allows participants

" review the evidence, discuss and dialogue around the options, actively negotiate with each other, finalise a shared solution in their report..."

Mosaic Lab, 2016

NB For this technique to work you need to have the following

- clarity around the question of problem (s)/challenge(s), etc you are addressing

- a random and representative sample of participants is selected rather than a group comprising those with the biggest stake

- decision-makers and senior staff who agree to implement what comes out (irrespective of their own views) and realise that they could feel uncomfortable, especially around loss of control

- any questions that arise are answered completely and truthfully

- exposure to a diverse range of views, perspectives and alternate ideas

- adequate time and sufficient information is provided (not a reactionary/'knee-jerk'/immediate response)

- professional facilitators involved who understand the process

- appoint a coordinator and have an influential sponsor, ie high level support required from the outset.

Some other issues

expensive (can be more expensive than other engagement approaches as it involves selecting participants through a random sampling process, providing them with detailed, in-depth in formation from multiple sources and allowing them ample time to consider weigh up various ideas and options)

- time-consuming (face-to-face deliberations during the meetings (usually around 5 meetings required) are not time-consuming but other activities are, such as

    i) recruitment process for participants (at least 45 days)

    ii) background work usually required for each meeting and can take weeks

    iii) reflection on  and analysis of information tabled, etc

- sourcing of experts (outside expert selection is important so as to offer independent scrutiny and credibility; best to outsource specialist tasks like facilitation and recruitment)

- internal resources (need to prepare and train organisation's staff for the deliberative process, including principles; providers of background information required for the process)

- capturing and tracking all inputs and outputs (use facilitators to help

" through a series of activities that encourage participants to discuss options and ideas, and test and prioritise these ideas in response to the remit before they themselves begin to write the report in a shared online document..."

IPAA, 2017

Participants reflect on and edit their report before on sending it to the decision-makers. The report is the ultimate data output.

- ensure diversity of participants (use professional recruiters to recruit a diverse range of participants from different backgrounds, perspectives, disciplines, thinking, cultures, age groups, socio-economic levels, gender, etc; ideally compensate participants for their time)

- degree of polarisation (key question

"...Would you potentially change your mind if you were given more information?..."

IPAA, 2017

If the answer is no, it means there is a moral value or judgement dominating and polarising people. If this is the case, it is highly unlikely that deliberation will be effective.

This again brings into focus the importance of a  diversity of views in the group to help balance and mediate.

- decision-makers ignore community output (it is pivotal to have high-level support from leaders and decision-makers at the start; clarity and transparency are important, especially around the purpose/task and degree of influence any outcome will have on decision-makers; decision-makers do not implement the findings, but they have to explain why...)

- educating the community about the deliberative process (the community has to be aware and understand the process; ways to achieve it include using social media plus

"... i) filming and photographing the process and sharing these visual stories widely,

     ii) using a range of communication platforms to raise awareness about the process,

    iii) engaging the media and inviting media representatives to attend and observe sessions,

    iv) open up deliberations to observers - anyone can register to attend the session,

    v) have your jurors or panelists talk to journalists directly or interview them and share the interviews..."

IPAA, 2017)

- understanding the difference between an advisory group and a jury (the former tends to work in the background while the latter is a very public-facing consultation process; selection of participants is different, ie members of an advisory group usually appointed, while the jury is randomly selected)

- understanding when is it appropriate to use deliberation, eg when

    i) polarised opinions prevail

    ii) highly emotional reactions prevail, eg outrage

    iii) challenges are very complex and/or difficult to resolve, ie there is no one right answer

    iv) the best option is not easily identifiable

    v) there will be strong opposition to any option available

    vi) large amount of data available like budgets, reports, etc

    vii) need to build public trust

    viii) decision-makers are receptive to new solutions)

- balancing polarised opinions, strong emotions, cognitive bias (need to be aware of your own biases and others'; use critical thinking skills, etc to challenge and test inputs and evidence; don't rush into answers and opinions; use random selection of participants to encourage diverse perspectives; rotate participants in groups to keep them fresh, ie reduce the chance of 'factionalisation', groupthink, etc)

This process can result in finding new solutions to some of the most challenging problems plus improve policy outcomes and improve trust levels among citizens and authorities. It can

"...on collective intelligence resulted decisions that are not only better, but a better supported by the wider public. The community is more likely to trust a decision influenced by 'people like them' than one made solely by an organisation the government. They build shared responsibility, meaning that the outcomes of these processes more likely to 'stick'..."

Mosaic Lab, 2016

An example from the IPAA public sector week 2017 conference. The topic was

What are the biggest challenges facing the public sector when it comes to gaining trust in the community?

A summary of the discussion, ie discussion theme: challenges in gaining community trust.

The infographic below summarises what participants felt are the biggest challenges the public sector is facing when it comes to gaining trust in the community, and highlights some ideas for improving community trust into the future.

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