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Five - Evidence in Deliberative Mini-Publics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2023

Nicole Curato
Affiliation:
University of Canberra
David Farrell
Affiliation:
University College Dublin
Brigitte Geissel
Affiliation:
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt Am Main
Kimmo Grönlund
Affiliation:
Åbo Akademi University, Finland
Patricia Mockler
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
Jean-Benoit Pilet
Affiliation:
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Alan Renwick
Affiliation:
University College London
Jonathan Rose
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
Maija Setälä
Affiliation:
University of Turku, Finland
Jane Suiter
Affiliation:
Dublin City University
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Summary

Introduction

Citizens’ lack of knowledge is often used as an argument against their participation in policymaking (for example, Schumpeter, 1943). How can we expect citizens to deliberate if they lack information, feel disinterested in politics and are unable to convey coherent policy preferences (Achen and Bartels, 2016)? Compared to politicians and lobbyists, citizens spend little time thinking about politics. They have little access to information beyond what is available in the media. For democratic participation to flourish, it is important to bridge the knowledge gap between citizens and policymakers.

Bridging that gap is one of the purposes of DMPs. Central to their design is the opportunity for citizens to think, reflect, listen to each other and engage with the range of evidence presented to them. In this way, mini-publics can help address the cognitive challenges of modern citizenship (Warren and Gastil, 2015).

Learning takes place both between DMP participants themselves, and through the provision of structured learning materials. It can be easy for DMP organizers, who put great effort into writing briefings and organizing programmes of witnesses, to forget the importance of peer-to-peer learning. However, such learning is vital: DMP participants often speak of how much insight they gain from hearing about the lives and perspectives of people very different from themselves. The development of such mutual understanding is at the core of good deliberation. Our focus in this chapter, however, is on the learning that is structured and enabled by DMP organizers. Research shows that briefing materials and interactions with subject-matter experts help to explain much of the participants’ learning in mini-publics (Setälä et al, 2010). Acquiring knowledge and deliberating with their peers based on credible evidence enables citizens to reach a considered judgement. Thus, evidence, as discussed in this chapter, refers to written and oral expert information, as well as arguments and personal testimonies by advocates and stakeholders who are invited as witnesses to a mini-public.

In most mini-publics, evidence is given in the form of briefing materials and witness testimonies. While evidence gathering is an essential part of all DMPs, practices vary in terms of the selection and presentation of evidence in deliberation. Concerns are often raised over how sponsors and organizers of mini-publics might use expert evidence to manipulate the deliberative process.

Type
Chapter
Information
Deliberative Mini-Publics
Core Design Features
, pp. 69 - 85
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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