What situations is this tool used in?
Citizen juries are participatory processes used to consider issues of local or national concern, with the jury hearing from expert ‘witnesses’ before agreeing a solution or recommendation to be passed on to the relevant decision makers. The process is especially useful where there is a desire for a consensus or a clear way forward on a particular issue, but where various evidence or information needs to be evaluated in detail first.
Who is this tool aimed at?
Similar to the larger citizen assemblies, the jury process is designed to allow decision-makers to hear considered input from citizens – in this case a small, but representative group – so that subsequent decisions are based on an understanding of the types of values, concerns and ideas members of the public might have in relation to the issue or problem. Wider benefits in terms of increased engagement and awareness amongst members of the public more widely are also often cited.
How Is the Tool Used?
First emerging from the Jefferson Center in the 1970s, citizen juries can be created by a government body or by a civil society organisation. In each case around 20 randomly selected citizens – representative of the demographics in the area – come together over a period of 4-7 days. The jury hears from a range of expert ‘witnesses’ and spends time deliberating. Jurors then agree a solution or recommendation to be passed on to the relevant decision makers.
Citizen juries can also involve wider public communication, for example through online presence, social media or wider media presence. They may also involve an oversight panel composed of a wide range of stakeholders, whose role is to monitor and evaluate the credibility of the process.
Who has used the tool?
In 2001, the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, along with a number of partners, developed a citizen jury process in India. The aim was to give farmers and rural dwellers a voice in the government’s plan to reshape farming policy. The jury discussed a range of topics contained within the government’s plan, including GM crops and production-enhancing technologies. Jurors concluded with broad consensus over the need for community control over resources and livelihood, and issued a statement outlining their level of support or opposition in relation to specific measures proposed by the government.
India Together coverage of the Andhra Pradesh citizen jury process: http://www.indiatogether.org/agriculture/reports/teerpu.htm
PeopleTalk, based in Ireland, is an example of an ongoing Citizen Jury process. Launched in June 2013, the process ultimately seeks to answer two questions: how can government organise itself better to serve citizens; and how can citizens have a greater say in the design and delivery of public services.
PeopleTalk home page: http://www.peopletalk.ie/
Where to find out more
Jefferson Center Citizen Jury home page:
Academic analysis of Citizen Juries:
Jefferson Center Citizen Jury handbook: http://www.epfound.ge/files/citizens_jury_handbook.pdf