What are Mini-publics?

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This Research Note introduces a range of ‘mini-publics’ and outlines key features, how they work, and how they may improve opportunities for citizens to contribute to public deliberation and participatory governance.

Introduction:

The idea of mini-publics was first proposed four decades ago by political scientist Robert Dahl. Inspired by democratic ideals and social science principles, Dahl envisioned an innovative mechanism for involving citizens in dealing with public issues. He called it ‘minipopulus’: an assembly of citizens, demographically representative of the larger population, brought together to learn and deliberate on a topic in order to inform public opinion and decision-making. A growing number of democratic innovations have flourished around the world based on this idea, from Citizens’ Juries, to Planning Cells, Consensus Conferences, Deliberative Polls and Citizens’ Assemblies. Mini-publics have been used to deal with topics ranging from constitutional and electoral reform, to controversial science and technology, and myriad social issues (e.g. health, justice, planning, sectarianism).

The paper includes answers to frequently asked questions about mini-publics. You can also see more examples and resources on the What Works Scotland website.

 

 

 

 

New report for Participatory Budgeting practitioners, activists and policy makers in Scotland and beyond

An exciting collaboration has been established between the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) and What Works Scotland (WWS) to support the strategic and operational delivery of Participatory Budgeting within Scotland and beyond.

PB Harkins-Escobar front cover

The first output from this collaboration is a joint publication by Chris Harkins and Oliver Escobar: Participatory budgeting in Scotland: an overview of strategic design choices and principles for effective delivery.

The paper takes stock of the policy context for PB in Scotland, and outlines ten strategic PB design choices and ten principles for effective delivery. The metaphor here is not ‘transplanting’ but translating and adapting. PB delivery organisations, communities and citizens involved in the PB process are thus encouraged to use the design choices and principles selectively, flexibly and reflectively as meets their specific purpose, need and context.