Albany local council wanted to move their administration centre out of the city centre, whilst the WA state government disagreed. A Citizens' Jury was held to understand the community's views on the topic.
Problems and Purpose
The problem in Albany stemmed from a schism between Albany city council the Western Australian state government department of of planning and infrastructure (DPI). Albany city council requested permission to relocate the Albany administration building to 1.4km away from Albany city centre. Essentially, the city council did not want to locate the admin centre within the CBD (central business district). However, the state government's view was that the city council had not gone to sufficient efforts to find a CBD site, and that there was community opposition to relocating outside of the CBD.
The final decision was down to the DPI Minister Alannah McTiernan. She decided to put the issue to a Citizens' Jury of Albany residents. Albany city council agreed to take part but refused to sign an agreement with the DPI outlining each party's responsibilities during the process. Given the division between the council and state department, developing a brief for the Jury took considerable negotiation. Eventually, both parties agreed on:
Is it fundamental to Albany to have the administrative centre within the central business district (CBD), or do the advantages of the proposed administrative centre in North Road outweigh any disadvantages of it being outside the city centre?
Background History and Context
When Labor came to power in WA in 2001, one of their key pledges was to enhance community and participatory decision-making. In particular, 'the new Minister for Planning and Infrastructure, Alannah MacTiernan, was determined to champion community engagement as a way of encouraging joint decision making and democratic renewal' (Gregory 2008). In order to achieve this, the Minister employed Janette Hartz-Karp, a deliberative democracy scholar and practitioner, to undertake the task. Between 2001 and 2005, Hartz-Karp - founder of 21st Century Dialogue - delivered nearly 40 deliberative processes in WA. At the time this was pretty much unique - where a politician had so whole-heartedly embraced deliberative and participatory decision-making.
Since then, Jay Weatherill (South Australian Premier) has done something similar, embracing deliberative democratic methods in South Australia through YourSAy. None the less, WA's range of initiatives remain for now, perhaps the most impressive.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Citizens' Jury was initiated by the WA department of planning and infrastructure. It was organised by 21st Century Dialogue, with an independent facilitator with no interest in the outcome.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
A steering group was created to oversee the jury process including the recruitment of jurors. The group was made up of various stakeholders in the debate including city and state representatives and lobbying groups.
The 17-person jury was selected from a random sample of 600 Albany residents whose addresses were provided by the state electoral commission. 92 people agreed to participate, and from that group a further random sample was taken. The final group had a balance of gender, occupation and residents from different parts of the city. However, there were no jurors under the age of 25. This is probably because the steering group eventually decided to have a random rather than random stratified sample.
Participants' names and details were not made public and were not known even by the steering group. It was suggested that jurors did not tell people that they were on the jury, to avoid potential targeting by lobbyists.
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Prior to the jury meeting, the steering group had the responsibility of selecting expert witnesses to present all the relevant information and viewpoints to the jury. Unlike most Citizens' Juries, the Albany Jury met only for one full day of deliberations, supplemented by a half day introductory session. Due to time limitations, it was determined that there should be no more than 8 expert presentations. Ultimately, the steering group determined to try and ensure all viewpoints were represented, rather than all individual stakeholder groups.
The steering group also developed information packs for the jurors to read through before they met. The first introductory session was held for three hours a few days before the one day deliberation. Due to postage issues, some jurors did not receive all of the information prior to the introductory session.
At the introductory session, the jurors got to know each other and familiarised themselves with the issues. They also began to formulate questions to ask the witnesses. Witnesses were given notice of possible questions in order to prepare concise responses. Jurors also agreed on the format for questioning witnesses, with jurors nominating themselves to lead questioning of a witness. They also began to develop decision-making criteria, in line with the multi-criteria analysis method they chose.
The jury hearing lasted a whole day and was held on a Saturday from 9am to 6.15pm. The morning session was dedicated to witness presentations and questioning, and this was open to an audience of around 100 people. The 8 presentations were made in two batches of 4, with questioning in between. Audience participation was enabled through audience members putting their questions in a box. The jury considered the audience questions and could choose which were relevant. Jurors also questioned the witnesses directly, and finally the audience questioned witnesses directly.
In the afternoon, the hearing was closed to the audience so the jurors could deliberate. During this session the jury refined the multi-criteria analysis, which consists of "agreement to the criteria upon which to base the decision, weighting of each criterion according to its importance, discussion of each option according to each criterion, scoring of each option based on the available data, then using the weighted score to determine the preferred option" (21st Century Dialogue 2011). The jury also agreed that whatever option they decided on (in or out of the CBD) they would accompany this with a number of related recommendations.
Following the jury's decision, the outcome was first presented to the steering group. One juror was the key speaker with other supporting and commenting. An Albany representative then presented the outcome to the audience and media who were allowed back into the room at 6pm.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The preferred option was calculated using the multi-criteria analysis. The result was a preference for locating the admin building outside of the CBD at the location where Albany city council wanted to relocate (North Road). This option did not receive unanimous or even overwhelming support from the jury. However, they stuck by their decision method and all endorsed the outcome. Nonetheless, post-jury interviews showed that not all the jurors were happy with the outcome.
The jury presented their decision to the steering group with a raft of recommendations. These included requirements for the council to make improvements to the CBD site, improving public transport links, and developing a parkland area at the North Road site. They also recommended that the Citizens' Jury method be used in the future for controversial issues. The Minister and DPI accepted the jury's recommendations and approved the relocation of the admin centre to North Road. The DPI also suggested a joint inquiry with Albany council to look into the jury's additional recommendations. The North Road site is now up and running as Albany council's administration centre.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Hartz-Karp (2007, p11) considers possible reasons for juror dissatisfaction with their decision. She suggests that the individual and anonymous scoring used in multi-criteria analysis led to a loss of trust and confidence in the outcome:
"Some jurors felt others on the Jury had not been entirely fair in their ratings, biasing the final results in the direction they had preferred at the outset. Such feelings illustrate a disadvantage of anonymous individual ratings: a loss of trust. Anonymity is at odds with the process value of transparency. Though using quantitative techniques to arrive at an outcome might be more rigorous and less messy, it may not prove as satisfying to participants as more-dialogic methods".
The experience in Albany demonstrates the possible trade-offs involed in choosing a decision method. Whilst the MCA is rigorous, it does not require that a collective decision is made through deliberation itself. Hartz-Karp contrasts this with the Reid Highway Extension Jury, where the jury agreed to reach and reach a unanimous decision without voting. This encouraged collective deliberation and a search for consensus. It also meant that decisions were not made privately as in the MCA. Ultimately, the Reid jury reached a consensus and had trust and confidence in the outcome in a way that was not possible in Albany.
Gregory, J, Hartz-Karp J and Watson, R. (2008) Using deliberative techniques to engage the community in policy development, Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, 5(16), available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2500036/
Hartz-Karp, J. (2007) Understanding deliberativeness: bridging theory and practice [pdf], International Association for Public Participation Journal, available at: http://www.australiancollaboration.com.au/pdf/Democracy/Citizen-engageme...
This entry was summarised from 21st Century Dialogue's website.