Deliberative Democracy Consortium

December 9, 2019 Patrick L Scully, Participedia Team
November 27, 2019 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
May 9, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
September 17, 2017 Mattleighninger
May 9, 2010 Mattleighninger

The DDC is an association of leading organizations and scholars in the field of deliberation and public engagement. With more than 50 partners in all sectors and levels of government, the DDC supports research activities and promotes the advancement of deliberative practices.

Mission and Purpose

The mission of the DDC is to bring together practitioners and researchers to support and promote the emerging, broad-based movement to institutionalize deliberative democracy at all levels of governance in the United States and around the world. Their alliance works to share information, build knowledge and visibility, and effectively promote a citizen voice in government decision-making processes. Fundamental to the DDC’s work is the belief that the outcomes of deliberation result in qualitatively better and longer lasting decisions on policy matters, and that participation in deliberative opportunities is vital to reviving democracy. The DDC has set out on an impressive research agenda that aims to build knowledge around the actual impact of deliberation on civic attitudes and behavior. Their hypothesis is that: “with expanded application, increased frequency and greater visibility, deliberative democracy can invigorate and rekindle the civic virtues of trust, participation and responsibility.” The DDC believes that democratic deliberation is an influential, transformational experience for everyone involved, which can shift people’s attitudes toward the institutions and practice of democracy overall.

The Consortium has committed to the following goals

  • Help public leaders find the examples and resources they need to engage citizens
  • Integrate research and practice in the field
  • Integrate online and face-to-face approaches
  • Articulate how democracy is changing
  • Help to build a permanent infrastructure for deliberative democracy
  • Encourage research and practice to support all aspects of deliberative democracy
  • Design of, and experimentation with, innovative deliberative practices
  • Develop evaluation models and tools
  • Relationship building, collaboration and convening within the field
  • Create connections between the field of deliberation and other related fields
  • Disseminate results to the public, decision-makers, academics, etc.
  • Promote the philosophy and methods of deliberative democracy to all levels of government
  • Increase the credibility and visibility of the deliberative democracy movement in the United States and around the world[1]

Origins and Development

The DDC was founded in 2002 by leading organizations in the field of deliberative democracy. Tonya Gonzalez was the Consortium's first director; Matt Leighninger became the second in 2006 and the position is now held by Wendy Willis.[2]

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The activities of the Consortium are coordinated by an Executive Committee, chaired by Wendy Willis, Founder and Director of Oregon’s Kitchen Table Program, and co-chairs Kyle Bozentko or the Jefferson Center and Bruce L. Mallory, co-director of New Hampshire Listens.[3] 

Organizational members of the Consortium include the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), the Jefferson Center, the Kettering Foundation, Public Agenda, and Everyday Democracy.[4]

Specializations, Methods and Tools

Online Deliberation


Major Projects and Events

The DDC used to comprise several Task Groups who organized activities associated with knowledge building, democratic governance, online deliberation and linking to government. 

Knowledge Building

The Knowledge Building (KB) Task Group identified the necessary questions and collaborators that will advance knowledge and practice in the field of deliberative democracy. KB was led by Archon Fung (Harvard University) and Peter Levine (CIRCLE). The KB Task Group organized three Researcher and Practitioner Workshops in 2003, 2005, and 2007. The mission of the group was to “increase the quantity, quality and availability of knowledge about the theory and practice of deliberative democracy through: (1) setting the scholarly research agenda, (2) conducting high-quality research and experimentation on deliberative democratic practices, and (3) collecting and distributing knowledge about theory and practice to researchers and practitioners.”

Major goals the KB task group identified and worked towards included: 

  • Increasing academic research and experimentation on deliberative democratic practices and shape the agenda for that research and experimentation.
  • Expanding discussion of such experiments in scholarly work on deliberation and democracy.
  • Improving knowledge and understanding of how deliberative democratic institutions function, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of various models.
  • Increasing information about the outcomes of deliberative processes and highlight their value to various constituencies. 
  • Developing better assessment tools.
  • Increasing interaction and communication amongst researchers and practitioners and develop an ongoing network among them.[5]


The FedNet (Federal Network) Task Group, also known as the Link to Government (LTG) group, convened federal officials from different countries to discuss ways of bringing together democratic deliberation and federal policy-making. The LTG was formed to identify opportunities and come up with strategies to promote and support citizen deliberation in government decision-making. The task group included representatives from the Centers for Disease Control, the EPA, and international organizations such as the Danish Board of Technology. The LTG worked to bring together civic engagement resources for elected officials and government agency practitioners. Their stated goals were to

(1) Champion deliberative democracy before government

(2) Build knowledge around existing practice

(3) Raise level of awareness within the DDC, elsewhere of government views and practice with regards to citizen engagement and deliberation.

(4) Raise level, quality of practice of deliberative democracy in government

To meet these objectives, the LTG developed specific proposals, which included: 

  • Developing a "federal network for deliberation" that shared information about the state of practice within various executive and legislative institutions.
  • Creating a "best practices in deliberation" award for federal managers and others.
  • Identifying research questions that are compelling for federal public participation practitioners.[6]

Online Deliberation

The Online Deliberative Democracy Consortium (ODDC) was the DDC’s task group for supporting online innovation in the field of deliberation. Their mission was to build knowledge and track improvements made within the field of online deliberation. The ODDC created a number of online features, which include:

  • the Internet’s number one destination for news about deliberative democracy. It receives 3,000-4,000 hits each month and is the second site to appear when the words “deliberative democracy” are searched on Google.
  • The eBulletin: a monthly electronic newsletter that highlights recent activity in the field, distributed via email to more than 700 subscribers.
  • The Democracy Movement: a group blog maintained by more than a dozen leading scholars and practitioners in the field, that raises topics of interest related to democratic deliberation for discussion.
  • The FedNet wiki: provides a private network for federal government managers to develop a community of practice through online knowledge sharing and networking.
  • The Deliberative Democracy Handbook Online: a section of the website dedicated entirely to the Handbook, providing chapter summaries, author bios, and discussion boards.[7]

Online Deliberative Democracy Workgroup

Much of the DDC’s online activities were done through the Online Deliberative Democracy Workgroup (ODDW). This network of online deliberation leaders met monthly to talk about their recent activities and to come up with strategies to encourage online deliberation efforts around the world. In June 2005, the ODDW held a regional meeting in St. Paul, Minnesota, called “Deepening Online Deliberation Through Practice and Research.” The meeting was attended by state and local elected officials whom regarded it as highly productive.[8]

Democratic Governance

Developed tools for leaders who are using deliberative strategies in their work.[9]

Ongoing Projects and Events

The DDC partners have given assistance to hundreds of public involvement projects that have engaged hundreds of thousands of people in dialogue, deliberation, and problem-solving. Many of these projects have included young people, recent immigrants, and low-income people; those who are normally considered “hard to reach.”[10] Past and ongoing projects include:

  • Meetings and conferences such as the annual “Frontiers of Democracy” conference; special Researcher & Practitioner meetings, and sessions at the annual conferences of the National League of Cities (NLC), International City and County Management Association (ICMA), National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), and many other associations.
  • Participatory innovations such as Text, Talk, and Act, a nationwide, text-enabled, face-to-face discussion that has engaged thousands of young people in dialogue and action on issues of mental health, as part of President Obama’s National Dialogue on Mental Health.
  • Participatory reforms such as the Model Ordinance on Public Participation and Model State Act on Public Participation, created by a working group (coordinated by DDC) that included the International Municipal Lawyers’ Association, American Bar Association, National Civic League, Policy Consensus Initiative, NLC, ICMA, and NCDD.[11]

Analysis and Lessons Learned

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The Deliberative Democracy Consortium has produced numerous publications including Public Participation in 21st Century Democracy (Wiley-Blackwell 2015), Infogagement: Citizenship and Democracy in the Age of Connection (PACE 2014), Democracy in Motion (Oxford UP 2012) Using Online Tools to Engage – and be Engaged by – the Public (IBM Center for the Business of Government 2011), Planning for Stronger Local Democracy (National League of Cities 2011), and The Deliberative Democracy Handbook (Jossey-Bass 2005). It also oversees the publication of the Journal of Public Deliberation, a free, online, peer-reviewed publication that has become the leading journal in the field, and is now also supported by the International Association for Public Participation.[12] The DDC website and e-bulletin offer reports on new resources and developments from around the world.[13]

See Also

Jefferson Center

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

Public Agenda


[1] “The Deliberative Democracy Consortium,” November 8, 2008,

[2] Citation needed. 

[3] “Leadership,”

[4] “Members & Partners,”

[5] “Knowledge Building,” November 8, 2008,

[6] “FedNet,” November 8, 2008,

[7] “Online Deliberation,” November 8, 2008,

[8] Citation needed. 

[9] “The Deliberative Democracy Consortium,” November 8, 2008,

[10] Sandy Heierbacher, Tonya Gonzalez, Bruce Feustal, and David E. Booher, “Deliberative Democracy Networks: A Resource Guide,” National Civic Review Vol 93, no. 4 (2004),

[11] “The Deliberative Democracy Consortium,”

[12] “The Deliberative Democracy Consortium,”

[13] “DDC Bulletin,”

External Links

Official Website:

Journal of Public Deliberation: