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Citizens’ Jury

The citizens’ jury method is a means for obtaining informed citizen input into the political decision-making process and technological debate. The jury is composed of 12-24 persons who are either randomly selected or otherwise representative of a given public or set of stakeholders. The jurors then go through a process of deliberation. Subgroups are often formed to focus on different aspects of the issue. Finally, the jurors produce a decision or provide recommendations in the form of a citizens’ report. The sponsoring body (e.g. government department, local authority) is required to respond to the report either by acting on it or by explaining why it disagrees with it. Usually a 4-5 day process, the citizens’ jury offers politicians a chance to gain an insight into citizens’ attitudes towards and considerations about new technology; attitudes which – in contrast to opinion polls – are based on factual information.

The idea behind the citizens’ jury is to let a group of citizens, who as far as possible are representative of the population, participate in a process in which they are comprehensively informed about a technological issue, allowed to question leading experts in the field and finally answer certain preset questions. The jury is not required to achieve a consensus regarding the answers it gives and in closing, the jury can vote on different possible answers, which can be formulated by the jury itself.

The preparation of a Citizens Jury is extensive. First, it entails recruiting a project director, staff, an advisory committee and a working group. Second, criteria for selecting the jurors must be developed, a questionnaire created for this purpose and the jurors recruited. Third, the charge of the jury must be established and an agenda developed. Next, criteria for expert witnesses must be engendered and the experts recruited; moderators must also be recruited. Finally, binders of information must be compiled, logistical matters arranged and media contacted.

For the Citizens Jury event an introductory day is followed by several hearing days, in which the expert witnesses give presentations and are questioned by the jury and the jury deliberates to come to a consensus on the charge, if possible. Two moderators facilitate the entire process.

The most direct result of a citizens’ jury is the final document which includes answers to the preset questions. The final document contains the final result of the jury’s work on the issue, including all arguments, conditions and recommendations which the jury has formulated, as well as the vote result. The final document appears in a report which also contains the expert presentations the jury has heard together with a printed record of the debate that took place between the citizens’ jury, politicians and interested parties at the concluding conference. The report is sent to the relevant decision-makers, interested parties, experts and other relevant players in the subject area. Another follow-up might be a final news conference to announce the result of the jury’s deliberations. The evaluations are conducted with participants and sponsors and a final report is produced and disseminated.

As indirect result the citizens’ jury can help to focus attention and knowledge on important political issues about which politicians and the general public lack sufficient understanding. It can also give politicians and interested parties an important indication about citizens’ attitudes towards a given technology.

In addition, e.g. the Danish Board of Technology also publishes a newsletter, in which the most important debates and answers are described.

The method is particularly well suited to current subjects of relevance to society, from which politicians and interested parties require an indication about the direction the population wishes a particular technological development to take.

The costs for a citizens’ jury, run by the Danish Board of Technology, is about DKK 400.000 (about 55.000 Euro). This price is excl. the salaries of the Danish Board of Technology project management team.

      • Download an informing poster on Citizens Jury here.

Further reading:

A detailed description of the process based on the way as it has been conducted in the United States can be read in the Participatory Methods Toolkit - A practitioner's methodological manual.

A detailed description of the process based on the way as it has been conducted by the Danish Board of Technology can be read here.

The Jefferson Center (www.jefferson-center.org) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advocates the use of Citizens Juries. From their website a 112 pages handbook can be downloaded here. The site also lists FAQ’s and an overview about current and recent projects.




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