Free trial: students experience citizen juries

Posted by pt91 at Nov 22, 2011 02:40 PM |
Leicester students have been exploring the benefits and flaws in a novel means of deliberating public issues.
Free trial: students experience citizen juries

The Jury, by John Morgan.

Dr Ipek Demir of the Department of Sociology led her students in a 'mock' citizen jury as part of their 'Living with Risk' module. They tried to arrive at a consensually agreed answer to the question: 'Should those with mental health problems who are thought to pose a risk to the public be 'screened' and 'intervened'?'

Having learnt the shortcomings of vote-centric and talk-centric systems of governing public controversies and risks, students were exposed to a novel type of deliberative democracy, namely citizen juries, which are increasingly being used by policy-makers, especially on controversial issues such as science-related risks and topics (GMOs, cloning, climate change) as well as public finance, obesity, crime-prevention and welfare reform.

Citizen juries bring together a representative microcosm of the citizenry and enable them to deliberate and arrive at a consensus on a particular controversial issue by questioning and listening to the testimonies of a range of experts, holding group discussions and writing a final collaborative report which summarises their consensually agreed recommendations and concerns. These decisions are then passed onto policy makers and help shape future policy and direction.

The workshop aimed to provide students with a unique insight into the strengths, as well as weaknesses, of 'reaching decisions together' through enabling them to experience at first hand the citizen jury model. The citizen jury workshop was coordinated by Dr Demir. The experts involved were Elizabeth Bryant and Dr Lydia Lewis and it was moderated by Carl Reynolds of Rhizome Co-op who specialises on consensus decision-making, facilitation and training.

The citizen jury was funded by an award to Dr Demir from the University's Teaching Enhancement Project Stream B: Supporting New Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities.

The students gave their feedback on the session in a selection of video interviews, and here Kenzie Macnamara, Manisha Purba and Richard Linnell explain their experience:

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