Citizen Deliberative Councils

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Tom Atlee:

"Citizen Deliberative Councils (CDCs) are temporary, face-to-face councils of a dozen or more citizens whose diversity reflects the diversity of their community, state or country. Usually council members are selected at random, often with additional criteria to ensure gender, racial, socioeconomic and other diversity.

These diverse ordinary citizens convene for two to ten days (and occasionally longer) to consider some public concern -- to learn about it (often by hearing and cross-examining diverse experts), to reflect on it together (usually with the help of a professional facilitator or moderator), and to craft a collective statement which they then announce to the public and/or relevant officials and agencies, often through a press conference.

After that they disband. In current democratic visions featuring CDCs, they have no permanent or official power except the power of legitimacy and widely-publicized common sense solutions to compelling public problems.

Hundreds of CDCs have been held worldwide. It is now well demonstrated that with this method ordinary citizens have a remarkable capacity to grapple with complex problems and come up with useful recommendations that serve the common good, thus realizing the elusive dream of democracy.

Yet most citizen deliberative councils have been convened as isolated events or sophisticated focus groups by organizations or agencies seeking input from the public. Only in British Columbia, Canada, has one CDC, the Citizens Assembly on electoral reform, been given the power to put a proposal directly to a vote by the people in a regular election. And only in Denmark are a form of CDCs, the consensus conference, officially convened as a periodic function of government to advise both the legislature and the citizenry on major public issues." (