In 2003 the new Department of Planning and Infrastructure undertook three concurrent citizens' juries. The juries were primarily used to give DPI staff an insight into deliberative democratic processes, but also to gain feedback on the future work of the new department.
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Problems and Purpose
The WA department of planning and infrastructure was in 2003, a fairly recent amalgamation of planning and transport departments. The then Labor DPI Minister, Alannah McTiernane, had been key in promoting deliberative democratic processes as a meaningful form of community engagement and consulation. However, the majority of DPI had not had the chance to be involved with or experience deliberative processes.
It was decided that three citizens' juries would be held with DPI staff as participants. The aim of the juries was twofold: firstly, to give DPI staff the experience and insight of how a deliberative process works. Implicitly, the long term goal was that DPI staff could be champions of these processes in the future. The second aim was to enable staff to deliberate effectively on how to integrate the two functions of the department - transport and land use.
The question that the juries sought to address was the following:
"To determine how to integrate land use and transport though our planning (policies, services and department) to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes for WA"
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 three juries were initiated by the WA department of planning and infrastructure, and implemented by 21st Century Dialogue.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Jurors were selected through a process of random stratified sampling. First, the Human Resources department carried out a random sample of DPI staff. This sample was then stratified to ensure that all levels of staff and different sections of the department were represented. Each jury had 15 members, and each group was also stratified to ensure staff level and section were represented.
Methods and Tools Used
This event used the Citizens' Jury method which involves various tools of engagement including surveys, information and question and answer periods , small group deliberation (such as thematic dialogue tables or future workshops ) and plenary discussion.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The three juries ran concurrently over two days. The proceedings were facilitated by expert consultants, although it's not clear from the information available where they were recruited from.
The first day was dedicated to questioning five expert witnesses. The day began with a capacity-building exercise which involved jurors working in small groups to practise questioning, answering and observing in preparation for the witness examinations. Jurors then worked to compile and prioritise questions. This was compromised somewhat by the fact that the jurors had to prepare their questions before hearing the witness presentations. Expert witnesses were asked to join the jury during the lunch break so they could get an idea of what questions to expect. The questioning session was held with all three juries together. A representative from each jury asked the prioritised question from each group. Following responses, there was an opportunity to ask additional questions. Nominated scribes took notes. Finally, the jury separated back into their three groups to consider the responses and think about what questions were left unanswered. At the end of the first day, jurors filled in feedback forms about the jury process.
The second day of the jury began with the facilitators feeding back a synopsis of day one to the juries. Due to the feedback, the task/question given to the jury was changed to the question outlined above. The question was changed to become more focussed on internal factors that could be influenced within the DPI. Following this change, the jurors worked in groups of three to explore different levels of strategic questioning. Strategic questioning is a technique focussing on different types of questioning such as considering alternative, visioning and support questions. The aim is to encourage creativity, solutions and forward thinking. After familiarising themselves with strategic questioning in more depth, jurors designed questions and practised in their groups questioning, answering and observing. Recommendations and questions were presented in a plenary session with all three jury groups.
The jury's recommendations were divided into three themes: one relating to visions on external factors and two on internal factors. Jury members then split into different groups according to theme. The final recommendations were presented to the Corporate Executive of the department, who agreed to hold off on responding until the jury submitted their final report.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The final report was complied by several jurors who volunteered. The final report provided detailed recommendations which were accepted by the Executive, who subsequently worked with a small group of jurors to come up with an action plan. The public report "Creating Communities - Corporate Directions 2003-2005" was published in September 2003 and it (austensibly) took the results of the citizens' juries into account.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
21st Century Dialogue discuss several lessons derived from the juries. One of the biggest successes was the use of random stratified sampling. This gave lower level staff members the opportunity to have their voices heard, and meant that DPI could discuss issues with colleagues they have never met before. Although there was no consensus on whether citizens' juries should be used within the DPI, participants were positive about the process in general and many offered to be 'corporate citizens', "willing to volunteer, carried out the task with ability, good will and creativity - mirroring the same effect as Citizens' Juries in the community" (21st Century Dialogue 2011).
Some challenges arose around the witnesses questioning. Some jurors were frustrated by the witnesses' responses to their questions. This is at least in part due to the fact that the jurors prepared their questions before hearing the witness evidence. However, this would have involved having the witnesses wait around following their presentations for the jury to formulate questions. This was not possible due to time restraints of the witnesses.
Running the three juries at the same time enabled more DPI staff to take part. However, because the questioning took place with the whole group of 45 jurors, only a minority could actually participate in the questioning process. During the final synthesising of recommendations in the three themes, jurors regrouped according to the themes - no longer working in their original jury groups. 21st Cenutry Dialogue note that "the easy relationships between jury members that had developed over the two days were no longer there. There was insufficient time either to build new relationships or to finalise the recommendations satisfactorily. Another option might have been for each jury to have presented its own findings to the corporate executive. After the event, an integrating team could have worked on bringing the threads together".
Embarking on a deliberative process to showcase such methods within a government department is an innovative approach; it also provides an opportunity for capacity and team building within an organisation, to engage with each other in a different way. Arguably, the DPI juries were successful in achieving this first aim. It is perhaps less clear how successful the process was in helping integration of land use and transport within the DPI. Having to change the question/challenge on the second day of meeting is not ideal. However, the fact that it was changed according to feedback is a positive. It is possible that with an additional half day meeting prior to the two day hearing, some of these challenges could have been overcome. For example, jurors could have had extra time to familiarise themselves with witness presentations - making planning their questions easier.
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/
The following entry was summarised from 21st Century Dialogue's website.
Lead image: DPI Corporate Directions 2003-2005