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Citizen Jury

Citizen juries use a representative sample of citizens (usually selected in a random or stratified manner), who are briefed in detail on the background and current thinking relating to a particular issue, and asked to discuss possible approaches, sometimes in a televised group.

Citizen juries are intended to complement other forms of consultation rather than replace them. Citizens are asked to become jurors and make a judgement in the form of a report, as they would in legal juries. The issue they are asked to consider will be one that has an effect across the community and where a representative and democratic decision-making process is required.

Citizen juries can be used to broker a conflict, or to provide a transparent and non-aligned viewpoint. A citizen jury involves the wider community in the decision making process. Participants are engaged as citizens with no formal alignments or allegiances rather than experts.

Citizen jurors bring with them an intrinsic worth in the good sense and wisdom born of their own knowledge and personal experience. The Citizen Jury provides the opportunity to add to that knowledge and to exchange ideas with their fellow citizens. The result is a collective one, in which each juror has a valuable contribution to make. (Jefferson Center's Citizens' Jury Handbook, summer 1997.)

Citizens' juries were first used in the 1970s in the United States and in Germany to overcome the limitations of standard opinion polling for complex scientific issues. A citizens' jury brings together a group of 16 or so randomly chosen citizens as jurors and provides a forum in which the jurors can consider how best to deal with an issue of public importance. It takes place over a number of days during which jurors are given detailed, balanced information about the issue, hear a wide range of views from witnesses, and are able to question these witnesses as well as seek out any additional information they might want. The citizens' jury is organised in consultation with an advisory committee and stakeholder reference group whose role includes making sure that witnesses are of high quality. There is a neutral facilitator who ensures that jurors are able to get the information they need, and at the same time takes care that all witnesses are treated fairly. The event concludes with the jurors preparing a report that records recommendations and any dissenting points of view. (Using Citizens' Juries for Making Decisions in Natural Resource Management. Land and Water Australia, July 2001. www.lwa.gov.au/downloads/publications_pdf/PF010167.pdf)


  • Citizen juries aim to draw members of the community into participative processes where the community is distanced from the decision-making process or a process is not seen as being democratic.


  • The citizen jury will deliver a considered report with recommendations for future actions or directions.


  • Can be used to draw members of the community into participative processes where the community is distanced from the decision-making process or a process is not seen as being democratic.
  • Strives to improve representation in participative processes by engaging a cross section of the community in the jury.
  • Can be used to moderate divergence and provide a transparent profcess for decision making.
  • Provides a transparent participatory process which can be seen to be independent and credible.
  • Provides a public democracy mechanism.
  • Provides citizens with an opportunity to develop a deep understanding of the issue.
  • Involves ordinary citizens.
  • Pinpoints fatal flaws or gauges public reaction and opinion.(IAP2, 2001)

Special considerations/weaknesses:

  • Jury members need to be representative of the community in consideration.
  • Setting up involves selecting jurors and experts and planning the timing, as it takes up to four days to run the jury.
  • Moderators may be required, and would need to be hired.
  • Everyone involved needs to be clear about the results and how they will be used. Ahead of the event, time needs to be allowed to engage jury, hire facilitator, put together briefing or background papers and contact 'experts'.
  • Allow up to four days for the jury to consider its 'verdict'.
  • The commissioning body must follow recommendations or explain why.

Resources required:

  • Venue rental
  • Catering
  • Staffing
  • Engagement of moderator / facilitator
  • Other facilitators
  • Overhead projectors
  • Data projectors
  • Slide projector
  • Projection screen
  • Data projectors
  • Props for working in groups (pens, paper, pins, etc.)
  • Juror's fees

Can be used for:

  • Engage community
  • Develop community capacity
  • Develop action plan
  • Communicate an issue

Number of people required to help organise:

  • Medium (2-12 people)

Audience size:

  • Medium (11-30)

Time required:

  • Long (> 6 months)
  • Medium (6 weeks-6 months)

Skill level/support required:

  • High (Specialist skills)


  • High (> AUD$10,000)
  • Medium (AUD$1,000-AUD$10,000)

Participation level:

  • High (Stakeholders participate in decision)

Innovation level:

  • High (Innovative)


  • Select a broadly representative group of approximately 8-12 people (see Case Study of Citizen Jury with 20 jurors).
  • Determine a question important to the issue being considered or develop a series of options for the jury to consider.
  • Brief jurors on the rules of the proceedings, and allow them between two and four days to come to a recommendation.
  • Provide expert witnesses to brief the jury who can be cross-examined and who can spend time discussing the issue with the jury.
  • Engage independent moderator(s) to assist the process of deliberation.
  • At the agreed time, arrange a presentation from the panel and/or collect the jury's report, which should outline their recommendations.
  • Publish the report and recommendations (this would normally be done by the commissioning body).
  • If the recommendations of the citizen jury are not followed up, publish the reasons for not following up (this would normally be done by the commissioning body).


  • Abelson, J., Forest, P-G, Eyles, J., Smith, P., Martin, E., &Gauvin, F-P. (2001) A Review of Public Participation and Consultation Methods. Canadian Centre for Analysis of Regionalization and Health http://www.regionalization.org/PPfirstpage.html [accessed 3 Jan 2002].
  • Australian National University (2000). Far North Queensland Citizens Jury Project. Canberra, ANU. http://cjp.anu.edu.au/index.html [accessed 16/12/02].
  • Crosby, N. (1995). Citizen juries: One solution for difficult environmental questions. In Renn, O., Webler, T., & P. Wiedemann, (Eds.). Fairness and competence in citizen participation: Evaluating models for environmental discourse. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers
  • Anna Coote and Jo Lenaghan (1997) Citizens' Juries: Theory into Practice. London, Institute for Public Policy Research.
    Jefferson Center (2002) The Citizen Jury Process. http://www.jefferson-center.org. Jefferson Center for New Democratic Processes, Minneapolis, MN. USA
  • NSW Environmental Protection Agency.(2001). Stormwater jury piloted at Waverly Council. EnviroNetwork News. Dec. http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/enn/enndec01.htm [accessed 19 Dec 2002]
  • The Waterways Trust (2002) Citizen's Jury To Consider New Waterway (News Release 17 October 2002). http://www.thewaterwaystrust.co.uk/news/viewarticle.asp?NewsID=144
  • London Borough of Waltham Forest. (2001). Consultation Guidelines. http://www.lbwf.gov.uk/government/bv/consultation_guidelines.pdf [accessed 3 Jan 2002].
  • New Economics Foundation & UK Participation Network. (1998). Participation Works: 21 Techniques. http://www.neweconomics.org/default.asp?strRequest=pubs&strContext=pubdetails&intPubID=16 [accessed 3 Jan 2002].

Many of the resources in the “Participatory Practices” category originated in Coastal CRC's Citizen Science Toolbox (www.coastal.crc.org.au/toolbox/). With permission, NCDD included the resource on our wiki so practitioners could expand upon the listing.

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