A citizens council in the making: dilemmas for citizens and their hosts

Davies, Celia; Wetherell, Margaret and Barnett, Elizabeth (2009). A citizens council in the making: dilemmas for citizens and their hosts. In: Littlejohns, Peter and Rawlins, Michael eds. Patients, the Public and Priorities in Healthcare. Oxford: Radcliffe, pp. 129–138.

URL: http://www.radcliffe-oxford.com/books/bookdetail.a...


How feasible is it to call upon ordinary people to come forward and take part in decision-making, not just locally but in relation to the institutions of central government? There have been multiple citizen participation initiatives in Britain in recent years, using citizens' juries, peoples' panels, consultative forums and other techniques. They seek to engage both already organised stakeholders and those directly affected by the outcome of an issue in political debate. There are fewer examples of new institutions which call on citizens who do not have an immediate personal interest in an issue, and observe how they work as a group, how they handle complex information, and what arguments they find persuasive. ...

The first part of the chapter concentrates on citizens themselves, on what they bring to such an arena and how they interact once there. Later the focus turns to the matter of hosting and designing citizen participation, teasing out what may be learned from the very active attempts made by the host organisation not only to encourage and shape the deliberations of the Council itself, but also to position the results in relation to its many – not always enthusiastic – stakeholders. The chapter is organised around seven messages about how to approach the twin questions of 'citizen competence' and 'citizen capture' in ways that shift the terms of the debate, emphasising the active fostering of citizen potential and the complexities of a set of political processes into which reports from the Council had to be inserted.

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