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Today’s Featured NCDD Member: Healthy Democracy Oregon

The following post by NCDD members Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford of Healthy Democracy Oregon is part of an ongoing effort to highlight the extraordinary people and groups involved in the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD). We encourage you to add a comment here today (or anywhere else you see a post about this).  Tyrone and Elliot will be watching NCDD’s blog, listserv, facebook and other social media, and will respond to any questions or comments you have.

Hi, NCDD Community – Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford of Healthy Democracy Oregon here. We’re just winding down a major phase of our project, the Citizens’ Initiative Review, and we wanted to share some of what we’re doing and learning with the NCDD community.

We’re pioneering an historic first for deliberative democracy in the U.S. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time a model of deliberative democracy relying upon random sampling has ever been legislatively empowered and directly tied to an election in this way in the United States.

All day today (Wednesday, August 18th) we’ll be watching NCDD’s social media (blog, listserv, facebook group, linkedin group and twitter feed) so we can answer any questions you have about what we’ve been up to — and so we can learn about what you’re doing.

First, a little background:

We (Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford) formed Healthy Democracy Oregon in early 2007. We were colleagues from the University of Oregon’s Public Policy Master’s Program. While in graduate school in 2003, we studied methods of citizen deliberation and democratic reform policies. A few short years later we began discussing with Ned Crosby and Pat Benn of the Jefferson Center a new proposal for using the Citizen Jury method of public deliberation to evaluate ballot measures (or propositions) as a way to provide voters with clear, useful, and trustworthy information at election time.

In 2007 and 2008 we met with legislators, refined our legislative proposal, and ran a full scale test of the Citizens’ Initiative Review process. In 2009, we successfully lobbied the Oregon Legislature to officially use the Citizens’ Initiative Review process during the 2010 general election. From August 9th – 20th, Healthy Democracy Oregon is conducting two Citizens’ Initiative Reviews; the results of which will be published and distributed to every voting household in Oregon as a prominent new part of the official statewide Voters’ Pamphlet published by the Secretary of State. Following this pilot project, a research team led by John Gastil, and funded by a $218K grant from the National Science Foundation will determine the impact of the Citizens’ Initiative Review on the election.

Now, to the Citizens’ Initiative Review:

The CIR is an adaptation of the well established Citizens Jury process to evaluate ballot measures (or propositions). Over five days, 24 randomly selected and demographically balanced voters hear from advocates and experts, deliberate, and provide an evaluation to be sent to every voter. You can learn more about the CIR and Healthy Democracy Oregon here on our website.

The first Citizens’ Initiative Review, conducted last week, was a big success. It was a review of a measure requiring mandatory minimum sentences for certain sex crimes and repeat drunk drivers. You can read about it in Oregon’s three largest newspapers here, here, and here.

This week we’re running a second CIR on a measure to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries in Oregon. You can check out the live stream here, or get updates about it via Facebook and Twitter.

I look forward to discussing the CIR and more with the NCDD community today. Thanks again to Sandy Heierbacher for helping create this opportunity to share what we’re doing here in Oregon.

Best regards,

Tyrone Reitman and Elliot Shuford

Co-Directors
Healthy Democracy Oregon
tyrone@healthydem.org and elliot@healthydem.org

Sandy Heierbacher on FacebookSandy Heierbacher on LinkedinSandy Heierbacher on Twitter
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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  1. Tom Eckstein says:

    If these two Citizens' Initiative Review are successful, what will it take to continue it in Oregon?

  2. Tyrone and Elliot: I’m curious about how you ensure the Citizens Initiative Review is a trustworthy process– and not only IS trustworthy but is SEEN as trustworthy? I know Healthy Democracy Oregon is a non-partisan organization, but have you been accused of being from one side of political aisle or the other? And if so, how did you handle that?

  3. Good question Sandy. Several things are in the design to make it trustworthy: a randomly-selected (and demographically balanced) panel; daily evaluations by panelists and advocates; and staff does not prepare any information for presentation. We do work with both advocate teams (pro and con) to present a list of background presenters and then panelists choose who they want to hear from out of that list. Finally two highly-trained facilitators walk the panelists through the process;

    In terms of appearance, we’ve got a good reputation due in part to our track record with the CIR field test in 2008. Additionally: HDO never takes stances on ballot measures or candidate races; we’ve promoted the CIR and citizen deliberation as our exclusive focus and we’ve have a fantastic group of advisors- both democrats and republicans; former Secretaries of State; members of the business community and good government advocates.

  4. Our next step is to continue to advocate for it to be ‘institutionalized’ in our state. Our primary route for this is to create an independent commission to oversee The implementation of the Citizens’ Initiative Review. It’ll likely need to be a public-private partnership (foundation and individual funding) in the beginning though, given Oregon’s budget shortfall.

  5. Nice work!

    How much time do you typically spend educating the participants (jurors) before they feel comfortable that they are making an informed recommendation? What’s your learning design?

  6. Lucas Cioffi says:

    Congrats on this tremendous traction. It would be wonderful to see this success modeled in other states.

    When I picture Citizen Juries, I picture the classic movie "12 Angry Men" about a traditional jury in criminal court. In such a tight group, inter-personal dynamics play a powerful role which makes me wonder about the following questions…

    Is there any need to safeguard against groupthink in citizen juries? Perhaps it's not a major concern. I'm also wondering whether there is also a need for participants to anonymously share some ideas such as opinions/questions that they are too afraid to state out loud.

    Thanks for the window into your process!

  7. Thanks, Tim. The Citizens’ Initiative Review follows the basic methodology from the Citizens Jury process, so it’s five days long. The first phase (day one) is really an orientation to the CIR process, followed by information gathering from advocates and policy experts called by the panel (days two – four). Mid way through the fourth day of the CIR process, the panel transitions into much more focused deliberation. At that time, at least with the CIR’s / Citizen Juries I’ve been part of, the panelists are comfortable moving into evaluating evidence and making recommendations (day five).

  8. Ernie Ting says:

    hi Tyrone and Elliot- Congratulations on what you have accomplished! HDO is indeed a wonderful initiative from what I can see. It seems very thoughtfully designed, but one thing struck me — how short the panel process is. In your experience so far, has that seemed to be an issue in terms of what the panel can digest and evaluate?

  9. Hi Ernie,
    It seems to work very well for evaluating ballot measures. I know the Citizens Jury process upon which the CIR is based, has been used in a bunch of different contexts with success. I just published on the Healthy Democracy website the evaluation from last week’s review of a measure dealing with mandatory minimum sentencing. I think this shows how well (and in depth) the panel researched the issue.

    Here’s the link: http://healthydemocracyoregon.org/results-citizens-initiative-review-measure-73

    There was also a great guest editorial written by a panelist from last week’s review with her perspective. It’s a great read. It’s on our Facebook page at http://tinyurl.com/265ww92

  10. Hi Lucas,
    Thanks for the question. Even though the Citizens’ Initiative Review is based upon the Citizens Jury method for public deliberation, the ‘jury’ analogy doesn’t capture the feel for the CIR process. In a lot of ways, the process feels a lot more like a legislative hearing, with the panelists as legislators, calling upon policy advocates, and asking questions. Given there’s a whole lot more to it that than legislative hearing (facilitation, small group and large group work, etc.).

    On to your question though. Having based the CIR on the Citizens Jury process, we feel that the issue of group think has been minimized by the design to a great degree. Part of this is due to the intermixing of small group and large group work. Panelists by and large are reporting via a private evaluation that’s filled out daily that they have been meaningfully engaged, and able to express themselves adequately. Additionally, we’ve changed up the process to involve touch pad voting for many decisions that used to be done via other public techniques, and see this as a further innovation on a good design.

    One of the goals with the project is to have a rigorous evaluation of it conducted. This is being done by Prof. John Gastil (who’s work many in the NCDD community are probably aware of) of the University of Washington, along with a team of fellow researchers. The evaluation is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. They’ll be looking at the quality of deliberation, and doing a qualitative analysis of the process (down the road they’ll be conducting a quantitative evaluation to determine the impact on the vote). Prof. Gastil’s research will be released this fall to answer a whole slew of questions about the CIR–including whether or not quality deliberation is taking place during the CIR. We’ll send this to the NCDD community once we’ve got it.

    Thanks again. I hope I’ve answered your question.

  11. Lucas Cioffi says:

    Thanks, Tyrone. Those innovations you mentioned in the second paragraph seem to be exactly what is necessary.

  12. Impressive.

    If you were to send me off to judge a CIR held somewhere else, what should I look for, and what questions should I ask to assess whether it that CIR was successful?

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