Why Citizen-Driven Policy Making Is No Longer A Fringe Idea

Article by Tatjana Buklijas: “Deliberative democracy is a term that would have been met with blank stares in academic and political circles just a few decades ago.

Yet this approach, which examines ways to directly connect citizens with decision-making processes, has now become central to many calls for government reform across the world. 

This surge in interest was firstly driven by the 2008 financial crisis. After the banking crash, there was a crisis of trust in democratic institutions. In Europe and the United States, populist political movements helped drive public feeling to become increasingly anti-establishment. 

The second was the perceived inability of representative democracy to effectively respond to long-term, intergenerational challenges, such as climate change and environmental decline. 

Within the past few years, hundreds of citizens’ assemblies, juries and other forms of ‘minipublics’ have met to learn, deliberate and produce recommendations on topics from housing shortages and covid-19 policies, to climate action.

One of the most recent assemblies in the United Kingdom was the People’s Plan for Nature that produced a vision for the future of nature, and the actions society must take to protect and renew it. 

When it comes to climate action, experts argue that we need to move beyond showpiece national and international goal-setting, and bring decision-making closer to home. 

Scholars say that that local and regional minipublics should be used much more frequently to produce climate policies, as this is where citizens experience the impact of the changing climate and act to make everyday changes.

While some policymakers are critical of deliberative democracy and see these processes as redundant to the existing deliberative bodies, such a national parliaments, others are more supportive. They view them as a way to get a better understanding of both what the public both thinks, and also how they might choose to implement change, after being given the chance to learn and deliberate on key questions.

Research has shown that the cognitive diversity of minipublics ensure a better quality of decision-making, in comparison to the more experienced, but also more homogenous traditional decision-making bodies…(More)”.