The Vorarlberg Bürgerrat model, aka Citizens' Councils, was included in OECD's report on Innovative Citizen Participation. Based on Jim Rough's Wisdom Council Process, it addresses community issues in a relatively brief and inexpensive manner by facilitated creative exploration.
Problems and Purpose
Manfred Hellrigl, the former director of the then-Büro für Zukunftsfragen in Vorarlberg, Austria, had successfully experimented with a variety of participatory processes, including Citizens' Juries and Planning Cells. He was convinced that participatory processes were crucial for developing the social will to implement policies related to sustainability. Yet he also found the costs associated with many of these processes to be quite high for his rural and frugal State, so he was continually on the lookout for new possibilities. 
Origins and Development
In 2006, Manfred Hellrigl began experimenting with the Wisdom Council model.  He soon renamed the format "Bürgerrat", which translates as Civic Council or Citizens' Council.
Kairos and the European Institute for Public Participation conducted an external evaluation of Bürgerräte in Vorarlberg, which was published in 2012 and also translated into English. 
By 2014, there were 32 different and successful instances where this model had been applied within the state of Vorarlberg  while by April 2018, the participation.at website reported 24 non-Vorarlberg case studies using this format.
The model has also been spreading to Germany, where it was used by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB) for their Integrated Environmental Plan 2030 (IUP). For this project, they organized six Citizens’ Councils in six major cities in Germany.  Some variation of this model is also being used in a participatory project in Berlin. 
Anecdotal evidence is of mostly positive outcomes, which seems to be further evidenced by the method's growing popularity. Clearly, more research needs to be done; and more English-language translations of these growing numbers of case studies would be very helpful as well.
Since that assessment in 2011, there have been two particularly significant projects utilizing Civic Councils. One took place in Mauthausen in 2013, as part of a larger participatory project at the site of a former concentration camp. The second was an award-winning project sponsored by the State of Vorarlberg in 2015 on the topic of Asylum and Refugee Policies.
Over time, the Vorarlberg model has distinguished itself in at least four different ways from the original Wisdom Council process:
- the use of stratified sortition processes, instead of simple random selection;
- the use of a concise briefing at the beginning of the process;
- the use of the World Cafe format to host the Civic Café after the smaller Council has completed their work;
- the addition of a "Responder's Group" that follows through on the outcomes of the process. 
At the same time, a significant point of continuity between the Vorarlberg Bürgerräte or Citizens' Councils, and the Wisdom Councils that inspired this model, has been the use of Dynamic Facilitation to create a psychologically safe environment where participants can engage creatively with differences. 
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Participants are chosen through sortition. The process is designed to ensure stratified random selection so that the microcosm reflects the make-up of the larger population.
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
The Vorarlberg Bürgerrat method generally involves the 4 steps described below. 
Citizen Council: over the course of a day and a half, between 10 to 30 randomly selected citizens work out a joint statement (not open to the public). If there are more than 15 participants, the group is subdivided into two working groups. They carry out their work with the support of two moderators trained in Dynamic Facilitation.
Citizen Café: the findings of the Citizen Council are presented to the public at a large gathering convened using the World Café methodology. Usually there may be between 50 - 100 people attending. After some brief introductions by the sponsoring organization, and the report by the Council itself, participants are invited to join in a deeper conversation at their smaller tables before reporting out to the larger group.
Responder Team: a team including professionals involved with the issue under discussion at the institutional level is created, in order to review the Citizen Council's findings and to monitor their implementation. This team traditionally also includes one or more community members from the Citizens' Café.
Documentation & Next Steps: The documentation encompasses the findings of the Council and the results from the Café, providing the informational groundwork for further conversation among both community members and government.
In cases where the Bürgerrat has been sponsored by the State government instead of at a more local level, the Vorarlberg State Parliament will issue a detailed review assessing the measures that have been taken and/or need to be taken.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
In 2014, the Bür füe Zukunftsfragen published an “Interim Report”, which included the perspective of policy-makers, state and local administrators, and Council participants, on their experiences with the Citizens' Councils. The report also includes both supportive and critical perspectives from academic experts. 
In 2020, the Citizens' Councils that originated in Vorarlberg were named as #6 of 12 innovations in citizens' participation, by an OECD report titled "Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions".
Analysis and Lessons Learned
In the recent OECD report , the first four models they list (Citizens' Assemblies, Citizens' Juries, Consensus Conferences, and Planning Cells) are categorized as "informed citizen recommendations on policy questions"; they all require between three to 18 days of in-person deliberation. In contrast, the next five models described in the report (G1000, Citizens' Councils, Citizens' Dialogues, Deliberative Polls, and WWViews) are categorized as “citizen opinion on policy questions”, as they generally involve between one-to-two days of deliberation. The Citizens’ Council model is an example of how, when done well, even a less intensive format can produce useful results. 
 Hellrigl, M. (2012). "Local development and empowerment, methods and inspiration”. Presentation at international conference in Göteborg. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lid7UuqCDQE
 Hellrigl, M. & Lederer, M. (2014). "Wisdom Councils im öffentlichen Bereich" (Wisdom Councils in the Public Sector), in R. Zubizarreta and M. zur Bonsen (Eds.) Dynamic Facilitation: Die erfolgreiche Moderations-methode für schwierige und verfahrene Situationen: 150-162. Beltz Verlag. English translation at <http://tinyurl.com/zklusgg>
 Strele, M., Lüdeman, M, and Nanz, P. (2012). BürgerInnen-Räte in Österreich: Gemeinsames Forschungsprojekt des Lebensministeriums und des Büro für Zukunftsfragen. Ergebnisbericht zur begleitenden Evaluation. Original at <http://tinyurl.com/h34kv9y> [retrieved 15 August 2015]; English translation at <http://tinyurl.com/grzwymy> [retrieved 15 August 2015].
 Rausch, M. (2016). Civic Council Project 2016 - German Ministry for the Environment - BMUB. https://vimeo.com/184388934
 Bürgerrat Demokratie. (2019, Feb 9). "Die Bezirksbürgermeisterin war begeistert." https://www.buergerrat.de/aktuelles/die-bezirksbuergermeisterin-war-begeistert/
 Zubizarreta, R., Paice, A., & Cuffy, A. (2020). Citizens' Councils: What are they, and why are they so popular in Austria? On website of newDemocracy Foundation, R + D notes.
 Trattnigg, R. and Haderlapp, T. (2014). Dynamic Facilitation – eine Methode des kulturellen Wandels. in R. Zubizarreta and M. zur Bonsen (Eds.) Dynamic Facilitation: Die erfolgreiche Moderations-methode für schwierige und verfahrene Situationen, 163-177. Beltz Verlag. English translation at <http://tinyurl.com/goqartj> [retrieved 5 January 2016].
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