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Five Most Interesting Public Deliberations in 2010

Thought I’d cross-post this great end-of-the-year blog post by Joe Goldman for AmericaSpeaks’ blog at http://americaspeaks.org/blog/five-most-interesting-public-deliberations-in-2010/

What were the most interesting public deliberations to take place this year?

This certainly isn’t a definitive list. But as I think about the past year, here are the five efforts that stand out for me as being noteworthy and important.

1. Citizen Initiative Review

The Oregon Citizen Initiative Review is a process organized by Healthy Democracy Oregon that is designed to allow the citizens of Oregon to evaluate statewide ballot measures. Through the CIR process, a random sample of Oregon citizens come together to hear testimony about the pros and cons of initiatives, deliberate on the measure, and then relay that information to the voters of Oregon via a one-page citizen statement summarizing their findings and positions. This statement is added to the voter’s pamphlet, designed to give voters facts and perspectives that they may not have gotten on their own.

This year, the Oregon legislature mandated that a pilot of the CIR would be held on two initiatives that were on the ballot this November. This is what makes this process so interesting – it was called for officially by the legislature and is clearly integrated into the governance process through the voter pamphlet.

An evaluation from University of Washington professor John Gastil will be coming out soon!

2. Our Budget, Our Economy

I may be a bit partial to this one since I was the project director, but it would be pretty hard to ignore our national discussion on the federal budget. This summer, AmericaSpeaks convened 3,500 Americans across 57 sites to deliberate about the fiscal challenges facing the nation.

A new evaluation was just released by professors from Harvard and the University of California. The evaluators found that liberals and conservatives moderated their views based on the deliberation, among other things. Check out the evaluation and a highlights video on the project website usabudgetdiscussion.org.

3. National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposure

This project organized by Resolv for the CDC is still going on, but it has already accomplished a great deal. More than 1,000 people joined 52 community conversations around the country and a first round of web dialogues have been completed for this national discussion to ensure that chemicals are used in safe and healthy ways. Stakeholders are being engaged in the process through a leadership council and six working groups.

This is about as extensive a public process convened by a federal agency on a national topic as I’ve seen. It will be great to see the final results next year.

4. Participatory Budgeting in Chicago

This one may be most interesting because it is taking place in Chicago – not traditionally the home of participatory/deliberative politics. In the 49th ward of Chicago, an interesting participatory budgeting process was launched that is letting residents of the ward make decisions about the use of local funds.

Over 100 volunteers worked to develop 36 projects. Of these, 14 were selected in a vote by over 1600 members of the community to receive a total of $1.3 million in funding – the entire capital infrastructure budget from the wards’ Menu Fund.

Check out the Ward blog for an update on the projects.

5. 24 Dialogues on Agency Open Government Plans

This March, nearly every single federal agency launched an online brainstorm using Ideascale to gather input on their open government plans. While the level of participation varied, this effort was important because it represented a government-wide initiative to solicit public input.  (I should note that Joe Peters of Ascentum and I ran a moderator training for the agency staff running each of these crowdsourcing platforms.)

Many of the open government plans developed by federal agencies refer to comments from the open government dialogues and declare that the agency will continue to use the platform for public input in the future.

Recently, the GSA launched another online dialogue to gather input for a new tool to solicit public input. Check it out.

I’d be curious to know what I missed. What would you add to this list? (add your comments at http://americaspeaks.org/blog/five-most-interesting-public-deliberations-in-2010/)

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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