Citizen Assemblies

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"the citizen assembly model is what deliberative democracy theorist Archon Fung calls a "Minipublic", that is " educative forum that aims to create nearly ideal conditions for citizens to form, articulate, and refine opinions about particular public issues through conversations with one another." It is one of few processes where the shared values of the public are directly applied to policy recommendations, rather than guessed or assumed by privileged individuals—sometimes with their own agenda. That said, the citizens' assembly model it is not a perfect system. It is susceptible to manipulation or corruption by incompetent staff, or can be directed by a biased chair, possibly appointed for political reasons.

Internationally, many governments and non-government organizations have conducted similar processes under many different names: Consensus Conferences, Study Circles, Planning Cells, National Issues Forums, 21st Century Town Halls, Citizen Juries, and Citizen Panels (among others). Each model varies in the number of members, the amount of time given to education and deliberation, and the facilitation process, but as Matt Leighninger of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium suggested at the BC When Citizens Decide conference, "We should avoid 'modelitis' that focuses on the difference between models rather than the similarities. The larger context is more important then the specifics of the model." That larger context most importantly includes the political will of the government to listen to recommendations from its citizens."
( 2008-09-06)


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