Citizen Jury

Objective: In a citizen jury randomly selected individuals create a “citizens’ assessment“ on an issue. The participants make their recommendations from the point of view of the commonwealth; on the jury, they do not represent any special interests. Experts provide assistance with specialized aspects. For the duration of the planning process, the participants are released and compensated for their daily obligations. “This more recent tool is fairly similar to consensus conferences but features a couple of important differences. Questioning takes place as in a courtroom, open to the public at large. The questioning and deliberation time is much shorter, and the conclusions do not have to yield a broad consensus. Beforehand, government widely announces the initiative including the selection procedure for jury members, for instance via advertising. The procedure is open to all non-experts” (OCDE, 2001).

According to - the UK's public participation charity:

"Citizens’ Juries are a tool for engaging citizens on a range of issues. Such as examining cuts in public service funding, balancing work and family life, or healthcare provision. They are relatively inexpensive compared to larger deliberative exercises, such as Citizens' Summits and Planning Cells. Their small size allows for effective deliberation, but they are sufficiently diverse and citizens are exposed to a wide range of perspectives. A Citizens’ Jury is generally composed of around 12-24 randomly selected citizens (through stratified random sampling) representative of the demographics of the area, who come together to deliberate on a given issue. According to the Jefferson Center, which designed the method, a citizens' jury should take place over 4-7 days. However, most juries are held over 2 days. The description below is based on the time frame recommended by the Jefferson Center.

The first day the jury meets is dedicated to understanding the process that they are about to embark upon. Jurors receive a brief overview of the issue and get comfortable with each other. The next 3 or 4 days are dedicated to hearing from the 'expert witnesses. These should include ‘neutral’ experts, stakeholders, and advocates representing all sides so that the jury can receive a balanced and complete picture of the issue. There is time allotted for the jurors to ask questions of the witnesses and also time for them to deliberate. After all the hearings have been completed the rest of the time is set aside for the jurors to have final deliberations on the issue and answer the crucial charge question(s). The final decision is reached by either consensus or voting.

Normally the deliberation phase is not open to the public to ensure jurors feel comfortable in expressing their opinions without outside pressure. All phases are facilitated by a trained facilitator(s) who ensures a level playing field. On the final day, a public forum is held where the jurors present their findings and recommendations and explain how they reached their decision. About two to three weeks later a final report is issued and made available to the public.

12 to 24 citizens are selected through stratified random sampling, according to a number of criteria, including gender, age, socio-economic background, and ethnicity. Given the small sample, using too many criteria can prove methodologically problematic. Participants can be divided into four main groups depending on their role.

1 The randomly selected jurors

  • Critically engage with witnesses
  • Question witnesses directly/ can request other witnesses
  • Scrutinize evidence
  • Deliberate with each other
  • Work in small groups
  • Contribute to the decision/ recommendations

2  The Experts/ Witnesses

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

3 The facilitator(s)

  • Support the citizens and lead them through the process
  • Moderate discussions and participation
  • Ensure fairness
  • Guide group deliberations
  • Support  the questioning of the experts
  • Help frame decisions/recommendations

4 The Citizens Friends

  • Can provide a source of evidence and objective expertise to aid understanding of complex issues presented by experts

The Commissioning Body (generally policymakers/institutions)

  • Theoretically has no involvement in the process but will have driven the research question and the framework
  • Makes some commitment to responding to the outcomes
  • Makes decisions on costs
Participation level Target groups Number of participants Duration/Timeline Implementation Frequency Budget
Collaboration Citizens Up to 30 Up to a week Live event More than one event Medium
Organizational requirements:
  • People with subject expertise
  • Moderator/Facilitator
  • Protocol/Documentation
  • Education about the procedure of the activity before the actual activity taking place
  • Education about the topic before the actual activity taking place
  • Project management/Event organization