21st Century Dialogue


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Mission and Purpose

21st Century Dialogue is based in the state of Western Australia. The organisation's approach is rooted in the normative principles of deliberative and participatory democracy. It draws on a number of methods to develop its own methodology.

21st Century Dialogue aims to create processes that are:

  • inclusive (representative of the population and inclusive of groups who are often not heard);
  • deliberative (opportunities for informed discussion, small group dialogue - speaking and listening to all views -, to find alternatives and seek common ground); and
  • influential (has the capacity to influence policy development or decision making)


The following is taken from 21st Century Dialogue's website and outlines the development of their approach:

The 21st Century Dialogue methodology has been adapted from 21st Century Town Meetings -large-scale public participation processes, originally developed in the USA by AmericaSpeaks and applied across the USA, including with nearly 5,000 residents after September 11 to plan for the future of the Ground Zero site in New York; and more recently at the World Economic Forum Meeting at Davos in Switzerland with 700 of the world’s political, economic and social leaders. 

This engagement process uses small group, facilitated deliberation together with networked computer technology, to enable the room’s key themes to be broadcast to the entire room virtually in ‘real time’. At each table, ideas are submitted to the computer including individual, team and strongly held minority views. Table inputs are relayed to a theme team who synthesise the results and display them to the room on large screens. Key issues are prioritised, with each participant nominating their individual preferences. Preferential rakings in the form of a histogram are projected back into the room in ‘real time’. At the conclusion of the forum, each participant is given a Preliminary Report of the outcomes of the forum. 

The consultants from 21st Century Dialogue have developed their own technology – software and networked computers – as well as the interactive group dynamics system to suit Australian requirements. They have carried out this format for Dialogue with the City (1,100 participants), Dialogue with the Pilbara: Newman 2020 (120 participants); Port Hedland Enquiry by Design (140 participants), Dialogue with Bunbury (300 participants) and Cockburn Vision Dialogue (200 participants). Dr Janette Hartz-Karp will continue with the role of designing, coordinating and lead facilitating. Les Buchanan, will continue in the role of controlling the event management. David Bruce, will continue with the design and analysis of the survey methodologies. The 21st Century Dialogue computer technology has been tried and tested on many occasions, and the computing consultant, Leor Karp will continue to provide the computing support.

Organizational Structure and Funding

21st Century Dialogue describes itself as "a boutique business" and, as such, employs just four people - David Bruce, Les Buchanan, Leor Karp - with leadership from the well-known scholar and deliberative practitioner, Dr Janette Hartz-Karp. They are a for-profit consulting firm.

Specializations and Activities

21st Century Dialogue's methodology combines a range of established methods including: 

  • "Consensus Forums – which ensure that participation is representative of the population, there is informed deliberation and in-depth dialogue, and the initiative has the capacity to influence policy development and decision-making.
  • 21st Century Town Meetings – with custom developed computer software that is unique, reliable and flexible, training of support personnel that is targeted and effective, and agendas that deliver the outcomes set at the commencement of the engagement.
  • Community Surveys - that are statistically rigorous, creatively discern people’s attitudes and values, and reported in a user-friendly style.
  • Event management - that is customer focussed, efficient and flexible." 

Major Projects and Events

21st Century Dialogue has been involved with a wide range of engagement activities and deliberative processes in Western Australia in the past 15 years. Case studies of their initiative can be found at https://goo.gl/fv1rF3

Their website includes an index of previous initiatives which each have a detailed outline available. Dialogue with the city, a process to engage Perth residents in planning, is also detailed here on Participedia. 


A range of papers are available to download free on 21st Century Dialogue's website.


External Links