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What is Deliberation (and Public Deliberation)? Quotes from Leaders in the Field

Deliberation can be used to solve problems, make decisions, produce recommendations, identify choices, and develop action plans. The various models and methods that are used in our field often emphasize, strive for and obtain different outcomes. This resource shares for eight definitions of deliberation from leaders in the field. Also see our list of leaders' definitions of dialogue.

How do leaders in the field describe deliberation?

Deliberation is 'the kind of reasoning and talking we do when a difficult decision has to be made, a great deal is at stake, and there are competing options or approaches we might take. It means to weigh possible actions carefully by examining what is most valuable to us.'

- Kettering Foundation (link)

"[Public deliberation] is a public consideration about how problems are to be defined and understood, what the range of possible solutions might be, and who should have the responsibility for solving them."

- Nancy Roberts, from 'Public Deliberation: An Alternative Approach to Crafting Policy and Setting Direction' in Public Administration Review, vol. 57, no. 2 (124-132). 1997. (link)

"Deliberation...is a form of thought and reflection that can take place in any kind of conversation [including dialogue, debate and discussion]."

- Daniel Yankelovich, The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation. 1999. (link)

"Deliberation refers either to a particular sort of discussion-one that involves the careful and serious weighing of reasons for and against some proposition-or to an interior process by which an individual weighs reasons for and against courses of action."

- J.D. Fearon, from 'Deliberation as discussion.' In J. Elster (Ed.), Deliberative Democracy (pp. 44-68). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1998. (link)

"[Deliberation] is the act of considering different points of view and coming to a reasoned decision that distinguishes deliberation from a generic group activity.... Collective 'problem-solving' discussion is viewed as the critical element of deliberation, to allow individuals with different backgrounds, interests and values to listen, understand, potentially persuade and ultimately come to more reasoned, informed and public-spirited decisions."

- Julia Abelson et al., from 'Deliberations about deliberative methods: issues in the design and evaluation of public participation processes,' Social Science & Medicine 57 (2003) 239-251. (link)

"Public deliberation is simply people coming together to talk about a community problem that is important to them. Participants deliberate with one another - eye-to-eye, face-to-face, exploring options, weighing others' views, considering the costs and consequences of public policy decisions."

- National Issues Forums (link)

"Public deliberation is a means by which citizens make tough choices about basic purposes and directions for their communities and their country."

- David Mathews, Kettering Foundation; from Public Deliberation in America (link)

"[Public deliberation is] social learning about public problems and possibilities."

- Robert Reich, from Public Management in a Democratic Society (link)


NCDD compiled these quotes about deliberation. Add a comment below if you have a quote you think we should add.

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  1. NCDD Resource Center » Blog Archive » What is Dialogue? Definitions from Leaders in the Field Says:

    [...] Also see our list of leaders’ definitions of deliberation. [...]

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