What is Deliberative Democracy?

At our meeting on Saturday 29 October we discussed deliberative democracy.  But what is deliberative democracy?

Well, according to John Dryzek and Simon Niemeyer who are leading experts in the field, it is a ‘field of political inquiry that is concerned with improving collective decision-making’.  They say that it stresses the right, opportunity and capacity of people subject to collective decisions to take part in a deliberative process that has some influence on policy.

Any communication should be allowed that is non-coercive, capable of inducing reflection, strives to link personal viewpoints to larger principles, and tries to make sense to others who do not share the speaker’s framework.  This is contrasted with communications techniques that are intended to mislead, like political spin.  It should also not be confused with focus groups which are essentially intended to extract information that might be useful for the company or political party that conducts the exercise through an interview with a small group of respondents.

The process of deliberation is also about the listener engaging with the argument with an open mind and one of the aims is to change positions where this is justified by the debate.

There have been successful attempts to trial deliberative processes at a local level, including Assembly South in Southampton in 2015, but the big research challenge now is to find ways of scaling it up to a national level.


Dick Bellringer