The participants (approximately 200-500 people) are first polled by questionnaire on the targeted issue(s). After this baseline poll, briefing materials are sent to these participants and made public.
The participants are then gathered for a few days to discuss the issues in more depth. The participants engage in dialogue with an expert panel, using questions that the participants develop with trained moderators. After the deliberation the participants are asked the original polling questions again. The differences from the two questionnaires are identified and the resulting changes in opinion are thought to represent the conclusions of the public.
This process will take at least 6 months. It is especially useful where the public have little knowledge or information on alternative outcomes applying to public policy.
- Better demographical representation of population than similar methods such as Citizens’ Juries and Consensus Conferences;
- Increases public understanding of the complexity of issues;
- Includes people that would normally not choose to get involved;
- Demonstrates the difference between people’s uninformed and informed views;
- Good means of measuring the diversity of public opinion.
- May not provide qualitative information;
- Less scope for participants to identify witnesses and determine the scope of the questions than exists for some other approaches (eg Citizens’ Juries and Consensus Conferences);
- Requires a facilitator.
- A statistically representative view of what the public’s considered/deliberated opinion might look like;
- Increased public understanding of an issue through broadcasting of event.
- Improved relationships between groups of participants;
- Shared views/consensus.
Level of Involvement: Engaging