The first ever citizens' jury to take place in South Australia was convened in 2013 to consider how to ensure a safe and vibrant nightlife in Adelaide. 43 randomly-selected citizens met over six months in Adelaide and produced seven recommendations to government.
Problems and Purpose
The jury were asked to deliberate on the following specific question :
How can we ensure we have a vibrant and safe Adelaide nightlife?
The jury was asked by the South Australian government who convened the jury to produce a minimum of five specific recommendations, with the difficult aim of achieving a balance between tackling alcohol-related crime whilst retaining the vibrancy of the night-time economy.
Background History and Context
One of the main motivations for convening a citizens' jury (CJ) on this topic was to elicit new and innovative ideas from the community to help create a safe and vibrant nightlife in Adelaide - potentially coming up with solutions that government had not already tried. The jury was the first to take place in South Australia.
Extensive research in this area made this topic ideal for a CJ as there is a wealth of statistics, experts and data for a jury to consider in order to make well-informed recommendations.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The CJ was funded and initiated by the South Australian government as part of their YourSAy programme.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
43 participants were recruited through random selection by the New Democracy Foundation . A random stratified selection ensured that the jurors were representative of the wider South Australian community.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative used a citizens' jury, broadly defined as a small group of randomly-selected individuals who come together to deliberate on an issue after hearing from experts in order to provide recommendations on future action for decision-makers . The deliberative democratic process is intended to result in consensus.
What went on: Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The jury was managed and delivered by independent facilitators the newDemocracy Foundation. Prior to and during the process, the jury received submissions from stakeholder organisations including traders associations, local businesses, government departments and the general public. The jury were also able to call on expert witnesses to provide additional information if they needed.
A supermajoritarian voting system was used (80% +1) and by the end of the process the jury had reached consensus on the seven recommendations outlined in the final report.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The jury produced a final report containing their recommendations. The government was committed to submitting the jury recommendations directly to the parliament - an unprecedented direct connection of citizens to government. The government response to jury recommendations supported the majority of proposals. However, it was noted that a number of the recommendations were already covered by existing government initiatives.
The South Australia government provides quarterly updates on the progress made on CJ recommendations. The most recent update for this jury indicates that out of five recommendations and sub-recommendations, three were completed with two in progress or ongoing. This does not include the jury's recommendations that were already being undertaken by the government.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The process was independently evaluated by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation who provided a full report on the experiences of different groups involved in the jury (the citizen jurors, bureaucrats, experts, special interest groups and facilitators). It also sought to identify opportunities for improving future Citizens' Juries.
The key findings from the evaluation are summarised below :
- One of the most positive aspects was the jury process demonstrating the capacity of citizens to deliberate on and make decisions on complex political issues. People who observed the jury - including bureaucrats and experts - were surprised and encouraged by this. The jurors themselves also reported feeling and acting differently: "They felt empowered by the charge and by the opportunity to engage directly with those in power. Many shared feeling more affinity to the political system, of having a sustained interest around the issue they tackled"
- Evaluators considered whether the CJ demonstrated that decision-making could be done differently, in a way that is more democratically legitimate and can produce more innovative policy ideas. Responses on this were mixed. Whilst bureaucrats recognised that this was a novel and very different approach, some were unsure of whether the CJ had actually added anything distinct in terms of policy ideas.
- Overall, it was not clear whether the groups interviewed were completely convinced that the CJ could change the landscape of public decision-making. In particular, stakeholders and bureaucrats felt left out of the process which may have influenced their negative evaluation of the process. Evaluators recommended that in future, more innovative ways of engaging with stakeholders throughout the process could mitigate this.
The evaluation report identified a range of opportunities for improving future processes, including non-exhaustively :
- having a more focused, specific question for the jury to deliberate on
- better engagement with stakeholders throughout the process
- greater effort to engage the broader public with the CJ process
South Australia has since convened two more citizens' juries which arguably have made good progress in accommodating evaluation from the first jury.
 Better Together (2013). Vibrant Adelaide Nightlife. Retrieved from http://bettertogether.sa.gov.au/vibrant-adelaide-nightlife
 YourSAy. (2013). Creating a safe and vibrant Adelaide Nightlife. Retrieved from https://yoursay.sa.gov.au/decisions/creating-a-safe-and-vibrant-adelaide-nightlife/about
 tacsi. (2013). Verdicts on the jury. Retrieved from http://assets.yoursay.sa.gov.au/production/2014/08/22/01_45_56_391_Verdicts_on_the_Jury_TACSI.pdf
All reports relating to this Jury can be found here: http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/decisions/creating-a-safe-and-vibrant-adelaide-...
Lead Image: Citizens Jury/Your SAy https://goo.gl/NDhE5R