chapter  5
Deliberative democracy and mini-publics
ByGRAHAM SMITH
Pages 22

In the last three decades, we have witnessed increased experimentation with a family of democratic innovations that collectively have been termed ‘mini-publics’ (Goodin and Dryzek 2006): citizens’ juries, planning cells, consensus conferences, deliberative polls and most recently Citizens’ Assemblies. While there are some important differences, all models share significant design features: participants are selected using random sampling techniques; they are brought together for a period of between two to five days, except for Citizens’ Assemblies which last much longer; facilitators aim to ensure fairness of proceedings; evidence is provided by expert witnesses, who are then cross-examined by participants; citizens are given an opportunity to deliberate amongst themselves in plenary and/or small group sessions before coming to decisions. There is a shared assumption amongst proponents of mini-publics that ordinary citizens are both ‘willing and able to take important decisions in the public interest’ (Coote and Mattinson 1997: 4).