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Citizen Panels

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Brief description of technique

Citizens' juries have been trialed extensively in the US and Germany (where they are called planning cells), and more recently in the UK and Australia. The name 'jury' gives an idea of the process - expert witnesses are called and representative groups of citizens (usually 12-15 people) deliberate on the soundness of the arguments presented by a commissioning authority.

To what kinds of consultation situations is this approach best suited?

Citizens' juries have been used to deliberate on a range of policy and planning issues, including health, environment and social justice issues.

Brief outline of how the process usually works?

This consultation method allows for the inclusion of expanded levels of expertise, knowledge and skills in the deliberative process, whereby participants can engage in face-to-face exchange, questioning of experts, facilitated discussion and opportunities for experiential learning and social interaction (eg: the process could involve field trips).

Experts could be from universities or non-government organisations or amongst the key stakeholders. Because it is held over a few days, the discussion can be quite in-depth, dealing with complex material.

How much time is generally needed?

Two to three days

How are target populations identified and approached?

Participants are randomly selected and contacted by mail but a level of self-selection is involved.

What are the skills required?

Requires a skilled moderator.

What kind of information do participants require prior to their involvement?

Access to summarised, printed information up front and then more detailed, printed information during the course of the citizen jury. This may include a range of visual information, such as videos or slides.

How is the process successfully concluded?
A report of the recommendation is provided to the commissioning authority.
How is this approach usually evaluated?

Qualitative output - recommendations in the form of a report prepared by the jury.

  • Great opportunity to develop a deep understanding of an issue.
  • Provides informed feedback.
  • Public can identify with representative citizens.
  • Limited number involved but can generate media interest and thus stimulate community learning and awareness.
  • Because of the small pool of participants it can be dismissed as being insufficiently representative though highly deliberative. German 'planning cells' partially solve this problem by holding a number of juries simultaneously in different locations.
  • Not suitable for all issues.
  • Extensive preparatory work.
  • Highly resource-intensive.
Resources Required
  • Approximately $10,000 - $15,000 for 16 people.
Further information
A similar method is a Consensus Conference which can be used when the broader public input is required, or when the issue is so complex or new that a commissioning authority does not yet know what questions it wants to ask. Consensus Conferences can take a number of years to complete and are therefore more expensive to run then Citizen Juries. Additional resources on the Citizen Jury and Consensus Conference can be accessed at the Active Democracy website

Adapted from Carson, L & Gelber, K (2001) "Ideas for Community Consultation: A discussion on principles and procedures for making consultation work", NSW Department of Urban Affairs and Planning.


Link to Active Democracy website - Wollondilly - Citizens' Jury

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