Deliberative Democracy

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Why Your Input Matters:

In a democratic society it is important for policymakers to have informed input from those who will be affected by any policy. Over the past 20 years proponents of “delibera­tive democracy” have developed a number of procedures designed to help people develop an informed opinion about complex issues. These procedures often involve:

  • Balanced information about the issues (e.g., these briefing materials)
  • Discussion in small groups
  • The opportunity to ask experts questions.

Goal of Deliberation: Informed Opinion not Consensus

Engaging difference as a source of wisdom

People’s particular background and life experience gives them a special insight and specific perspective on issues. Public deliberation that seeks to promote informed citizen engagement should provide people with the opportunity to share their particular experience and perspective. This will help everyone involved develop a rich understanding of how issues and policies meant to address issues can affect people differently. Deliberation seeks to reveal a diversity of views. During deliberation the goal is a more comprehensive collective wisdom about issues; the goal is not consensus or agreement about issues or policies.

Sharing Reasons

To help people develop a more comprehensive collective wisdom about issues, deliberation should involve more than people making statements. When deliberating, people should be encouraged to share the reasons why they make the statements that they do. Often reasons are grounded in a person’s experience, and people should have the opportunity to share their experience in ways that they find meaningful and comfortable. For some this might mean reasoned arguments; for others this might mean telling stories. Participants should know that they are welcome to contribute to the deliberation in ways that they find comfortable, as long as they remain respectful and remain focused on explaining their perspective to the others involved in the deliberation. 

What to Expect:

Guidelines for Participating:

  • Please explain your own perspective.
  • Please listen to other people’s views; don’t interrupt.
  • Please focus on reasoned arguments, challenging experiences, and relevant facts.
  • Please treat your group members with respect at all times.

Carnegie Mellon Program for Deliberative Democracy