Monday, October 01, 2007
Citizen Juries: Where are They?
Citizens' juries are like focus groups, but with the key difference that they are controlled by a facilitator who introduces particular ideas and directs the conversations around the table. The juries - panels of 20 or more people who can meet for one day or over several days - can call witnesses to hear evidence before deciding how they feel about policies.
According to Gould, he also sat in the group and acted as a virtual facilitator and it would seem natural that someone would have to run the discussion. The key thing would be whether it was controlled. But, one wonders, who would wish to do so? Could the government plant supportive 'facilitators' all over the country? I'd doubt it. Opinion Leader Research, run by Deborah Mattinson, a friend of Brown, runs many such events and presumably feeds results back into the nerve centre of policy making.
What rather concerns me is that I have never heard of any such consultative events taking place in my area or in the north-west in general. It's natural that bloggers, being fecund of opinion, would like to have some input on certain topics yet this avenue seems not so much closed as kept secret. The key test, of course, is whether the government would listen whatever was fed back. Bower's biography of Brown suggested he only listened to advice upon which he had already decided and ignored everything else. And Tony Blair, recall, took no notice at all of the 1-2 million citizens who marched against the Iraq War in March 2003.
A bad hangover from Blair's Spin machine.
"a community dialogue of the sort described here is neither cheap, fast, nor easy. Its application is limited to instances where the issue is critical,
the political process is deadlocked, and there remains sufficient time to complete a yearlong public process. Where these conditions prevail, a well-implemented community dialogue is a powerful instrument for creating a public will to act."
There is also the presumption that the recommendations of citizen juries are translated (directly) into policy.
Both process and outcomes are very important in these sorts of civic engagement policies.
Thing is - how on earth do you get the ‘views’ of 40+ million voters all of whom are equally entitled to their opinions? And what's wrong with testing policy against public opinion? Seems a worthy aim and an eminently sensible political strategy to me...
I shall treasure the memory of a Very Angry Lady on the telly at one election who wanted to have the five minute conversation with Tony Blair that she felt she was 'entitled' to. If all registered voters took up such an allocation it would take a PM almost 2,000 years if he did nothing else for eight hours a day, five days a week (with, of course, the statutory minimum holidays).
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