Citizens’ jury or Participedia

A Citizens’ Jury is a method of deliberation developed by the Jefferson Center where a small group of people (between 12 and 24), representative of the demographics of a given area, come together to deliberate on an issue (generally one clearly framed question), over the period of 2 to 7 days. Citizens’ Juries are a tool for engaging citizens on a range of issues. Such as examining cuts in public service funding, balancing work and family life or healthcare provision. They are relatively inexpensive compared to larger deliberative exercises, such as Citizens’ Summits and Planning Cells. Their small size allows for effective deliberation, but they are sufficiently diverse and citizens are exposed to a wide range of perspectives.

Description

A Citizens’ Jury is generally composed of around 12-24 randomly selected citizens (through stratified random sampling) representative of the demographics of the area, who come together to deliberate on a given issue. According to the Jefferson Center, which designed the method, a citizens’ jury should take place over 4-7 days. However, most juries are held over 2 days. The description below is based on the time frame recommended by the Jefferson Center. The first day the jury meets is dedicated to understanding the process that they are about to embark upon. Jurors receive a brief overview of the issue and get comfortable with each other. The next 3 or 4 days are dedicated to hear from the ‘expert witnesses. These should include ‘neutral’ experts, stakeholders and advocates representing all sides, so that the jury can receive a balanced and complete picture of the issue.There is time allotted for the jurors to ask question of the witnesses and also time for them to deliberate. After all the hearings have been completed the rest of the time is set aside for the jurors to have final deliberations on the issue and answer the crucial charge question(s). The final decision is reached by either consensus or voting. Normally the deliberation phase is not open to the public to ensure jurors feel comfortable in expressing their opinions without outside pressure. All phases are facilitated by a trained facilitator(s) who ensures a level playing field. On the final day a public forum is held where the jurors present their findings and recommendations and explain how they reached their decision. About two to three weeks later a final report is issued and made available to the public.

Used for

A Citizens’ Jury can be used on different policy issues and it’s particularly effective on value-laden and controversial questions, where knowledge is contested and there might be important ethical and social repercussions. Normally citizens deliberate over a clearly framed question(s).  They will reach a decision following deliberation on the issue, either by consensus or voting. To date Citizens’ Juries have been used for different issues such as: cuts in public service spending; balancing work and family life; care provision; the wellbeing of young people; mental health service provision policy making; emergent technologies etc.

Participants

12 to 24 citizens are selected through stratified random sampling, according to a number of criteria, including gender, age, socio-economic background, and ethnicity. Given the small sample, using too many criteria can prove methodologically problematic. Participants can be divided into four main groups depending on their role. 1 The randomly selected jurors
  • Critically engage with witnesses
  • Question witnesses directly/ can request other witnesses
  • Scrutinise evidence
  • Deliberate with each other
  • Work in small groups
  • Contribute to the decision/ recommendations
2  The Experts/ Witnesses
  • Explain issues
  • Summarise existing evidence
  • Can provide their viewpoint/experience and advocate a position
  • Respond to questions
3 The facilitator(s)
  • Support the citizens and lead them through the process
  • Moderate discussions and participation
  • Ensure fairness
  • Guide group deliberations
  • Support  the questioning of the experts
  • Help frame decisions/recommendations
4 The Citizens Friends
  • Can provide a source of evidence and objective expertise to aid understanding of complex issues presented by experts

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