review of deliberative democracy

Deliberative Processes Result in moderate, practical, and balanced recommendations.

Clients often raise concerns or questions they have about the potential of deliberative groups making radical recommendations. We know from our experience that they don’t – we know that deliberative groups develop sensible, practical, and moderate but innovative ideas.

However, it is understandable, given the commitment that governments give to these processes, that this concern would be heightened.

The reason these groups don’t come up with radical ideas – is because a randomly selected group that is truly diverse have to work together and reach agreement with each other and they do this with the support of experts. The process requires compromise and compromise results in extreme views on both the left and the right being left behind aa it pushes people towards the centre.

Whilst this is interesting theory, we thought we would provide some examples of significant deliberative processes from around the world that demonstrate this.

In 2019, Stanford University bought together more than 500 people from across the USA who were statistically representative of the community in respects of gender, age, culture and political allegiance (amongst other measures). This work demonstrated that deliberative processes will result in more moderate views as both people on the far left and far right of politics moderated their views when they had time and information to help them consider the issues.

Some of the key findings of this process are summarised in this video:

UK Climate Change Citizens Assembly

Climate Assembly UK brought together 100 people from all walks of life and of all shades of opinion to discuss how the UK should reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

They heard balanced evidence on the choices the UK faces, discussed them, and made recommendations about what the UK should do to become net zero by 2050.

Chris Stark, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change the governments independent advisory body on climate change and one of the assembly’s Expert Leads made the following reflections about the recommendations from this Assembly

“This was a tremendously valuable process which could, and I think really should, be repeated. […] my own organisation, the ccc, is going to use more of these deliberative approaches in the future I hope in our research. I hope others do too. For me and my organisation of course this is new data. […] I hope that ministers listen and act on that [the recommendations]. This is for me is a really balanced and proportionate set of recommendations. If I was a minister I would be really pleased to see this. So, there’s a realistic package here and I know we at the committee on climate change are going to make full use of this in our recommendations to government after this.”​
Chris Stark​
Citizens assemblies in France and Ireland experienced similar results – with practical, moderate recommendations which have been largely supported by Governments. Ireland initially held a Citizens Assembly to consider five issues over two years. The model was seen to be so successful that they have recently established two Citizens Assembly to look at issues of biodiversity loss and local government structures.
“Citizen Assemblies have become an important part of the Irish democratic system…”​
Jack Chambers, MP
Jack Chambers, MP, Government Chief Whip and Minister of State​