All Hands On: deliberative democratic ideals, citizen participation, and the practice of public service
Concerns about the state of contemporary democracy and efforts to enhance how citizens participate, have led to what some have described as an increasing ‘deliberative wave’ across the world. New institutional forms and the use of democratic methods such as deliberative mini-publics, have been increasingly drawn on to enable informed public involvement in decision-making. In the UK and Ireland, governments and other public bodies are particularly commissioning mini-publics- citizen assemblies, juries and panels - to engage the public at national and local levels on a wide range of policy issues.
Drawing on practical experience using, and research evaluating, mini-publics in Scotland, Nick considers what can be learnt from these experiments in deliberative democracy; and reflects on the implications of Covid-19 for the place given to on-line engagement. He discusses whether and how these developments might increasingly influence the work of public servants and other professionals. Nick explores these issues by looking particularly at the police as one example; he identifies opportunities to better engage with, and involve, the public in the contemporary challenges that the police face. Finally, Nick looks to the academy in the context of increasing concern with research impact and evidence-based practice. He raises questions about the role of academics in informing the public, and how better to strengthen public engagement with, and understanding of, research evidence.