Citizens' Summits


A Citizens' Summit is a generic term for large-scale deliberative public meetings that use communications technology to facilitate discussions.


Citizens' Summits are deliberative meetings involving large numbers of people (typically between 500-5000) and using communication technology to facilitate discussions. The technology, which includes electronic voting, text messages, and online surveys, makes it possible to engage large numbers of people in the same place, at the same time. Citizens' summits trace their background to 21st Century Town Meetings and the work of AmericaSpeaks in the USA (see separate method entry).

Used for

When you want to engage large numbers of people in a discussion at the same time. Like the 21st Century Town Meeting, Citizens' Summits combine the intimacy of small-scale face-to-face deliberations with the impact and power of large-scale interactions and collective decision-making.


Most events are open to all citizens with targeted interventions to include hard-to-reach groups as a balanced and representative group of participants is important. Citizens' summits are unusual in the high number of participants that can be involved at the same time, without compromising the quality of the discussion.


High - A minimum budget in the range of £20,000 tends to be required.

Approximate time expense

High - Organising an event for hundreds or thousands of participants with advanced technology and high interest from the media requires a lot of staff time and planning.

When to use

You should use a Citizens' Summit when:

  • There is scope for change as a result of the process
  • When sufficient money, expertise and time is available for such a large-scale event
  • When you a large number of participants to engage in deep and meaningful dialogue.

When not to use

You should not use a Citizens' Summits:

  • If you cannot get the buy in of the the decision-makers
  • Unless you can get a diverse enough group of participants in the room


  • The use of communications technology makes it possible to record large numbers of discussions and opinions at the same time
  • The scale of the event can make it an inspiring experience for participants


  • Time and labour consuming to set up, run and follow-up
  • If not carefully planned, citizens summits can generate large amounts of material that is difficult to manage and respond to
  • High cost - Can raise expectations to unrealistic levels if not managed well
  • Reliant on technology


Deliberative Democracy - Citizens' Summits are a UK development based on the pioneering work of AmericaSpeaks in the United States.


None: Although the related 21st Century Town Meeting method is a copyrighted term for the process run by AmericaSpeaks.


Photo by Medhat Ayad from Pexels