In Citizen Dialogue, a randomly selected sample of about 20 citizens is informed on a policy issue via written briefing materials, and then meets for one or two day-long structured, moderated sessions of small group discussion with the results being relayed to policymakers.
Problems and Purpose
Citizen Dialogue — also called Citizens' Dialogue — is a public deliberation method created by Canadian Policy Research Networks. The Citizen Dialogue method is based on Viewpoint Learning's Choicework Dialogue method. In Citizen Dialogue, a randomly selected sample of approximately 20 citizens is given a workbook about a policy issue, and then meets for one or two structured and moderated sessions in small groups and plenary sessions to discuss the issue. At the beginning and end of a Citizen Dialogue, each participant completes a survey measuring the participant's attitudes about aspects of the policy issue discussed in the workbook.
This participatory method is designed to create a channel between citizens and political decision makers to inform the policies of the latter. The use of the workbook enables citizens to shape their political opinion about new policies. The process thus enables both input of lay opinion into the political process and informing citizens of political possibilities (and impossibilities).
Origins and Development
This participatory method was first developed as the Citizens’ Dialogue on Public Health Goals in Canada.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, Canadian public health research and government inquiries identified several problematic issues respecting public health in Canada. These problems included unequal health outcomes among Canadian citizens, the future health of Canada's children, Canadian citizens' nutrition and physical fitness, disaster preparedness and response, and environmental protection.
In the early 2000s, much public debate and discussion of Canadian public health policy took place. Some notable examples of these debate and discussion were the Citizens' Dialogue on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care (also known as The Romanow Report), and the 2003 Canadian First Ministers' Accord on Health Care Renewal.
In 2004, Canada's First Ministers met to consider the state of Canada's public health policies in light of the debate and discussion of the previous few years. The First Ministers issued the 2004 Canadian First Ministers' Health Accord, which called for the development of a "pan-Canadian Public Health Strategy." The 2004 Accord also required "governments" to "set goals and targets for improving the health status of Canadians through a collaborative process with experts."
To obtain public input on Canadian public health goals the Public Health Agency of Canada commissioned EKOS Research Associates, Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN), and OneWorld Inc. to hold the Citizens’ Dialogue on Public Health Goals in Canada ("Citizens' Dialogue") in 2005. During the Citizens' Dialogue, which was held in August 2005 in five locations in Canada — in "Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Quebec City (French) and Halifax" — a randomly selected and representative sample of a total of 102 participants, with approximately 20 participants meeting in each location, met in-person to discuss "public health goals for Canada." The deliberation method used during the Citizens’ Dialogue on Public Health Goals in Canada was CPRN's Citizen Dialogue.
After the Citizens' Dialogue had concluded, a Goal Statement Working Group used the results of the Citizens' Dialogue, along with input from other consultations with Canadian citizens and experts, to develop a set of eleven draft public health goals for Canada.
In October 2005, the Goal Statement Working Group held a conference during which these eleven draft Canadian public health goals were discussed. Ten Citizens' Dialogue participants (2 from each location) attended the conference. That same month, the Canadian First Ministers agreed nine Health Goals for Canada.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Typically, a sample of approximately 20 citizens is randomly selected in order to ensure representativeness.
How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making
In Citizen Dialogue, approximately 20 citizens are randomly selected to be given a workbook on a particular policy issue prior to meeting. They then participate in one or two structured and moderated sessions consisting of a total of 8 to 12 hours in length, using small group discussion and plenary sessions to deliberate on the policy issue. To both begin and end the Citizen Dialogue, each participant completes a survey measuring their attitudes about aspects of the policy issue discussed in the workbook. The final survey also contains items about the quality of the dialogue results.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
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Canadian Policy Research Networks. (2005). CPRN and Deliberative Dialogue – A Primer. Ottawa: Canadian Policy Research Networks. https://web.archive.org/web/20091204041252/http://www.cprn.org/documents/36557_en.pdf
EKOS Research Associates. (2005). Citizens’ Dialogue on Public Health Goals in Canada: Final Findings Report. Ottawa: EKOS Research Associates. http://www.ekospolitics.com/articles/cd-phg_e.pdf