Faced with reductions in funding alongside an increased demand for services, Eurobodalla Shire Council convened a Citizens' Jury to help address this challenge. This process was mirrored by another local council in Greater Bendigo.
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Problems and Purpose
The Eurobodalla Citizens' Jury was intended to inform the local council's review of spending and services which is a requirement of Fit for the Future, a state-wide reform program for local councils in NSW. The aim of the Jury was to find out what the community thinks of the council's spending. The question posed to the jury was:
“Is Council spending your money on the right things? If not, what should we change?”
Background History and Context
newDemocracy Foundation, who undertook the design and implementation of the Eurobodalla Jury, also ran a Citizens' Jury on a similar topic in Bendigo, Victoria. Both councils were at a critical point - with elections coming up and the need to deliver plans on service provisions in the near future.
"As a research based organisation, we are keen to understand how two regional localities respond to similar subject matter and designs.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to observe, record and assess the two as both not only cover content related to local government services and expenditure, but will be operating within similar timeframes and under similar external social/media/political environmental factors at state and national levels.
This mirroring also offers ESC and Greater Bendigo an important opportunity to share learning and knowledge, continuing the strong tradition within local government of cross-organisational growth and development. nDF will be pleased to facilitate and support this connection and sees this as a valuable way to leave a strong legacy of "doing democracy differently" within both councils" .(newDemocracy Foundation 2016)
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Eurobodalla Citizens' Jury was funded by the Eurobodalla shire council. It was designed and implemented by newDemocracy Foundation, an independent nonprofit research organisation.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants were selected from two rounds of random sampling. 5,000 invitations were sent by post to addresses in the area. Information was taken from land titles information to ensure that people who are not on the electoral register are included in the sample (some processes take information from the electoral roll). From those who responded positively to the initial invitation, a second random sample was drawn to select final jury members.
newDemocracy Foundation decided to send out 5,000 invitations to Eurobodalla residents rather than the 3,000 they usually send to recruit jurors because the area has a high number of non-residential rate payers - people who own homes and pay taxes but don't live full time in the area. Therefore it was necessary to over-sample (Eurobodalla Shire Council 2016).
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.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
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Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
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Eurobodalla Shire Council (2016) Citizens' Jury: is Council spending your money on the right things? [online], available at: http://www.esc.nsw.gov.au/inside-council/community-and-future-planning/c...
newDemocracy Foundation (2016) Eurobodalla Citizens' Jury [online], available at: http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/ndf-work/315-eurobodalla-citizens-jury