Citizens’ jury

$15k to $75k
estimated cost of external help
  • Prioritise options
  • Deliberate
  • Collaborate
3-5 weeks
estimated run time
6-8 weeks
estimated lead time
Specialist facilitator
recommended experience
Also called a ‘planning cell’, this is a small group of people who have been carefully selected to match the demographics of a given area. They are convened to deliberate on an issue (generally one clearly framed question) over a period of two to seven days. In addition to the jury, key witnesses are chosen – experts, stakeholders and advocates who represent all sides, which will inform the deliberative process.

Citizens’ juries offer a useful tool for engaging citizens on a wide range of issues. They’re small enough to allow for effective deliberation, and are relatively inexpensive compared with larger deliberative exercises, such as consensus forums. Participants bring their experiences to the table, and the process can be a useful test run of how the broader public debate on issues may unfold.

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In 5 steps...

  1. Allow the jury a reasonable period of time – as much as a day or two, potentially – to get across the task, any research material, and their own opinions and feelings on the topic.
  2. Subsequent days will be split between ‘hearings’, where expert witnesses explain their perspectives and evidence, and deliberation time.
  3. Hearings can be public events if part of the purpose of the jury is to build broader public dialogue and understanding of an issue.
  4. A facilitator should remain with the jurors at all stages of deliberation, to ensure that everyone can contribute equally.
  5. After a decision is reached, the jury presents back to the public or project team their recommendation, the findings/evidence that made the case for them, and how they came to a decision.

When to use it

Citizens’ juries are most applicable if a problem can be solved in a number of ways. The jury explores one or several of these options.


  • Ability to explore issues or ideas in detail.
  • Direct citizen input into a decision-making process.
  • Highly focused and detailed discussion.
  • Improved education of citizens on the topic (those participating and attending).
  • Provides a gauge of public opinion.
  • Impartial and objective decision-making process.
Long term
  • Higher degrees of participant satisfaction and trust.
  • Higher-quality, better-aligned solutions
  • Increased levels of support for outcomes.


  • There is reputation risk if the final decision-makers have a predetermined agenda. If it is not clear that the decision isn’t binding, the process may inflame tensions rather than being an outlet for channelling citizen opinions.



  • Establish a working group and advisory committee to manage tasks and inform the process inputs.
  • Determine how jurors will be selected; for example, a random invitation based on an address in the area.
  • What additional vetting of jurors needs to be done? A survey can quickly assess the appropriateness of a participant.
  • Identify and prepare key ‘witnesses’ (experts) who will be called upon to present during the process.
  • Communicate clearly to participants and other stakeholders what impact the outcome will have on your project. If the final decision does not lie with the jury, it should be clear how the results will be used to inform the project outcome. Should the outcome not align with the jury’s decision, any final report will need to clearly articulate why there was a difference of opinion.

During the process

  • Ensure adequate time is allowed for participants to think, pause and reflect throughout the process; there is often a lot of information to absorb.
  • Ensure that all participants have an equal ability to contribute, whether in questioning processes or deliberations.


  • Ensure that any final report includes information about how the jury process informed the final outcome, and what was learnt that was new as a result. This ensures that even if the decision isn’t aligned, participants will not feel like their time was wasted.

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