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Consensus conference

Consists of a panel of people (10-20 service users/carers taking part in their capacity as local people, not as professionals or specialists) who question expert witnesses on a particular topic. A distinctive feature is that the initiative lies with the people – they decide the key aspects of the debate, including choice of questions, selection of witnesses and formulate their own conclusions. Panels members receive a comprehensive information pack, developed by HSC staff, in advance (up to 2 weeks prior). A panel is given time to prepare before the actual conference in order to fulfil their role as informed citizens.

The media and the public are able to attend the main hearing. After which, the panel develop a report, outlining conclusions and recommendations, which is discussed with HSC decision makers.

This approach is useful for dealing with controversial issues at a regional level.

The difference between a consensus conference and a citizens jury is that conferences take place in view of the public.

PositivesNegativesWill deliverWill not deliverCase studies
  • Good public outreach;
  • Open and transparent process which encourages increased trust between stakeholders;
  • More control over subject matter and witnesses compared to Citizens’ Juries and Deliberative Polling.
  • Expensive;
  • The small sample of people might exclude minorities.
  • Captures the views of informed people and their key issues of concern on a policy area;
  • Useful and understandable written material suitable for public use;
  • Wider and better informed public debate on an issue through the media.
  • Decisions;
  • Detailed technical recommendations;
  • Results that are representative of society as a whole.

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