Citizens' Juries

Citizens’ juries have developed as a form of participatory research that seeks to legitimise non-expert knowledge. As with a legal trial, a citizens’ jury assumes that if a group of people are presented with evidence, they can evaluate this and draw conclusions that are representative of the wider public.

The uniqueness of Citizens’ Juries lies in involving citizens in developing their knowledge of a specific policy area, asking questions of expert witnesses, collective group discussions and deliberation and reaching a final decision. Citizens’ Juries are often used alongside other research and public consultation tools such as surveys, interviews and focus groups and are intended to complement other forms of consultation rather than replace them.

Citizens’ Juries can be used to broker a conflict, or to provide a transparent and non-aligned viewpoint. Citizen jurors bring with them an intrinsic worth in the good sense and wisdom born of their own knowledge and personal experience.

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How to do it

  1. Select a broadly representative group of approximately 12-16 people. Determine a question important to the issue being considered or develop a series of options for the jury to consider. Consider incentives and briefing packs for delegates.
  2. Book a venue.
  3. Plan pre and post event surveys to measure the shift in opinion.
  4. Identify budget for delegate support and incentives (if used).
  5. Recruit and brief expert witnesses.
  6. Brief jurors on the rules of the proceedings, and allow them two to four days to come to a recommendation.
  7. Provide expert witnesses to brief the jury who can be cross-examined and who can spend time discussing the issue with the jury.
  8. Engage independent moderator(s) to assist the process of deliberation.
  9. At the agreed time, arrange a presentation from the panel and/or collect the jury’s report, which should outline their recommendations.
  10. Publish the report and recommendations (this would normally be done by the commissioning body).
  11. If the recommendations of the citizens’ jury are not followed up, publish the reasons for not following up (this would normally be done by the commissioning body.

Role of Citizens

  • Critically engage with witnesses
  • Direct questioning, can request other witnesses
  • Scrutiny of evidence
  • Deliberate with each other
  • Work in small groups
  • Recruitment process
  • Representation, responsibilities (themselves, family and friends, society more widely?)
  • Contribute to the decision/recommendations

Role of Expert Witnesses

  • Explain issues
  • Summarise existing evidence
  • Can provide their viewpoint/experience and advocate a position
  • Respond to questions

Role of Facilitators

  • Support the citizens, lead them through the process
  • Moderate discussions and participation
  • Ensure fairness and decorum
  • Guide the group deliberations
  • Support if needs be the questioning of the experts
  • Help frame decision/recommendations

Role of Citizens' Friends

  • Source of evidence and objective expertise to aid understanding of complex issues

Role of Commissioning Body

  • Theoretically no involvement in the process, but will have driven the research question and the framework
  • Made some commitment to responding to the outcomes
  • May help with costs

Data collected and used as evidence

  • What sort of data? Flip chart notes, key themes, video recording, votes, secret votes, interactive comments
  • Targeted outcomes – set questions
  • Other outcomes? Citizen engagement, expert witness reflexivity

Pros

  • Can be used to draw members of the community into participative processes where the community is distanced from the decision-making process or a process is not seen as being democratic.
  • Strives to improve representation in participative processes by engaging a cross section of the community in the jury.
  • Can be used to moderate divergence and provide a transparent process for decision making.
  • Provides a transparent participatory process which can be seen to be independent and credible.
  • Provides a public democracy mechanism.
  • Provides citizens with an opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the issue.
  • Involves ordinary citizens.
  • Pinpoints fatal flaws or gauges public reaction and opinion.

Cons

  • Jury members need to be representative of the community in consideration.
  • Setting up involves selecting jurors and experts and planning the timing, as it takes up to four days to run the jury.
  • Moderators may be required, and would need to be hired.
  • Everyone involved needs to be clear about the results and how they will be used. Ahead of the event, time needs to be allowed to engage jury, hire facilitator, put together briefing or background papers and contact ‘experts’.
  • Allow up to four days for the jury to consider its ‘verdict’.
  • The commissioning body must follow recommendations or explain why.
  • Costs can be high e.g. £16,000 – £23,000 for organisers’, jurors’ and witnesses’ time, venue/facility hire and recording deliberations and publishing outcomes.

Sources and Further Information