A Citizens' Jury is a group of around 12 to 24 people from all walks of life, brought together to have an honest conversation & find common ground on an issue that matters. Those involved reflect the wider population in terms of demographics & relevant attitudes. They are particularly effective on value-laden and controversial questions, where knowledge is contested and there might be important ethical and social repercussions. The process generally takes between 2 and 7 days, and is a method of deliberation developed by the Jefferson Center.
Citizens’ Juries are a tool for engaging citizens on a range of issues. Such as examining cuts in public service funding, balancing work and family life or deciding whether an elected representative has behaved with integrity. They are relatively inexpensive compared to larger deliberative exercises, such as Citizens' Summits and Planning Cells. Their small size allows for effective deliberation, but they are also sufficiently diverse to make sure they include a wide range of perspectives.
A Citizens’ Jury is generally composed of around 12-24 citizens (selected through stratified random sampling) who are representative of the area, who come together to deliberate and find common ground on a given issue. The description below is based on the time frame of 4-7 days, but they can be shorter.
The first day the jury meets is dedicated to understanding the process that they are about to embark upon. Jurors receive a brief overview of the issue and get comfortable with each other. The next 3 or 4 days are dedicated to hearing from the 'expert witnesses. These should include ‘neutral’ experts, stakeholders and advocates representing all sides, so that the jury can receive a balanced and complete picture of the issue. There is time allotted for the jurors to ask questions of the witnesses and also time for them to deliberate. After all the hearings have been completed the rest of the time is set aside for the jurors to have final deliberations on the issue and answer the crucial charge question(s). The final decision is reached by either consensus or voting.
Normally the deliberation phase is not open to the public to ensure jurors feel comfortable in expressing their opinions without outside pressure. All phases are facilitated by a trained facilitator(s) who ensures a level playing field. On the final day a public forum is held where the jurors present their findings and recommendations and explain how they reached their decision. About two to three weeks later a final report is issued and made available to the public.
A Citizens' Jury can be used on different policy issues and it's particularly effective on value-laden and controversial questions, where knowledge is contested and there might be important ethical and social repercussions. Normally citizens deliberate over a clearly framed question(s). They will reach a decision following deliberation on the issue, either by consensus or voting.
To date Citizens' Juries have been used for different issues such as: cuts in public service spending; balancing work and family life; care provision; the wellbeing of young people; mental health service provision policy making; emergent technologies etc.
12 to 24 citizens are selected through stratified random sampling, according to a number of criteria, including gender, age, socio-economic background, and ethnicity. Given the small sample, using too many criteria can prove methodologically problematic.
Participants can be divided into four main groups depending on their role.
1 The randomly selected jurors
- Critically engage with witnesses
- Question witnesses directly/ can request other witnesses
- Scrutinise evidence
- Deliberate with each other
- Work in small groups
- Contribute to the decision/ recommendations
2 The Experts/ Witnesses
- Explain issues
- Summarise existing evidence
- Can provide their viewpoint/experience and advocate a position
- Respond to questions
3 The facilitator(s)
- Support the citizens and lead them through the process
- Moderate discussions and participation
- Ensure fairness
- Guide group deliberations
- Support the questioning of the experts
- Help frame decisions/recommendations
4 The Citizens Friends
- Can provide a source of evidence and objective expertise to aid understanding of complex issues presented by experts
The Commissioning Body (generally policy makers/ institutions)
- Theoretically has no involvement in the process but will have driven the research question and the framework
- Makes some commitment to responding to the outcomes
- Makes decisions on costs
A Citizens' Jury will cost an average of £15,000 to £20,000 for two days.
- Recruitment of jurors (i.e. using a market research company £3000 to £7000)
- Venue hire/ catering
- Per diem honorarium for jurors (i.e. £80 to £120 per day)
- Accommodation and travel expenses for jurors and experts/ witnesses
Approximate time expense
Most citizens' juries will take place over two days, mainly because of time and costs constraints. The Jefferson Center, however, recommends 4 to 7 days. A Jury could meet over two consecutive weekends, or there could be a break in between meetings to allow jurors time to reflect on the information they received and discuss the issue with friends and family. However, a long break in between meetings could affect the process' momentum and jurors' participation turnout. One way around can be to pay a higher per diem honorarium for the final meeting.
The method has many strengths including:
- Direct citizen input
- Impartial and objective decisions
- Interrogation of issues and experts/evidence
- Extended deliberation and highly focused discussion
- Highly specified outcome delivered through a verdict
- Specificity of the issue/decision
- Top-down framing of the question
- Risk of pre-emptive evaluative framework. Who determines the criteria for assessment?
- Small sample of citizens involved, although this should be highly representative of the demographics of the given area
The Citizens' Jury is a method first developed by the Jefferson Center.
The Citizens' Jury is trademarked by the Jefferson Center.
In text photo by Drew at The Frame Photography
Header photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels CC0