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The Deliberative Agency: Opportunities to Deepen Public Participation

This report was written in 2004 by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium’s Link to Government Working Group.  Primary authors were Lars Hasselblad Torres (AmericaSpeaks), Rosemary Gunn (Information Renaissance), Roger Bernier (US Centers for Disease Control), and Matthew Leighninger (Study Circles Resource Center; now director of the DDC).

Public involvement in the activities of federal agencies is required by numerous Acts of Congress. Recent legislative activity suggests a heightened interest in this area as well. This, together with the increasing use of both face-to-face and online collaborative forums in civil society and the private sector, is increasing pressure upon government agencies to bring the public into decision-making processes.

Methods for deliberative citizen engagement emphasize non-adversarial, results-oriented, community-wide decision-making on large issues and are being used with increasing frequency around the world in a range of settings. This emerging field of practice is producing an array of tools and processes that can support the evolution of the deliberative agency. This discussion paper provides a general introduction to this exciting and growing field of democratic activity.

The first section provides an overview of the thought and practice that currently constitutes the ‘field’ of deliberation. The second section provides an overview of the enabling policy environment for public participation, and the third explores how deliberation can be used to enhance agency decision-making and share several practical examples of its application to agenda setting, policy formulation, and resource allocation decisions. In conclusion, the authors suggest several ways agency administrators and managers can improve the deliberative aspects of federal agency decision-making.

Resource Link: www.ncdd.org/rc/wp-content/uploads/TheDeliberativeAgency.doc (downloadable Word doc)

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