Dialogue & Deliberation

John Dryzek on the Citizens Parliament

In an earlier post on the Open Government Initiative of the Obama Administration, I mentioned an Australian experiment called the Citizens Parliament. Here is the background piece on a video showing a clip from John Dryzek’s presentation to the Australian Senate on the results of the 2009 gathering. Since this is a clip from a much longer presentation, it ends a little abruptly on a critical point about the government’s response to the Citizens Parliament recommendations. In the next post, I’ll go into that important issue in more detail in relation to deliberative democracy generally. The full text of the Dryzek speech can be found on the Australian Senate web page.

In February 2009, a group of 150 randomly-selected Australian citizens were brought together at Old Parliament House in Canberra. Called “The Citizens Parliament”, the group spent four days discussing politics, policy, and systems of parliament. While the specific subjects under consideration were not prescribed, the attendees were asked to address the broad question:

“How Can Australia’s Political System be Strengthened to Serve Us Better?” Here, speaking as part of the Department of the Senate Occasional Lecture series, political scientist John Dryzek reports back on the event.

John Dryzek is a pioneer in the field of deliberative democracy, and has written several books on the subject, including “Discursive Democracy” and “Deliberative Global Politics”. He is a professor of Political Science at the Australian National University.


4 replies on “John Dryzek on the Citizens Parliament”

Thanks for this John,
Interesting that John Dryzek, in his video, makes reference to British Columbia’s Citizens Assembly model, and the Assembly’s work to define a new voting system. Unfortunately, the proportional representation model the Assembly recommended for BC was rejected in May on a ballot put forward to the population-at-large. My observation on the ground, here in BC, was of a gulf between the new system design, as envisioned by the Assembly, and the public’s perception of the proposed system. The biggest challenge being how to present/communicate a sophisticated (i.e., more complex) model in ways Joe citizen could relate to. At the end of the day, the public were not sufficiently motivated to commit to the new path. Makes for a good example around marketing of a new idea in the context of public engagement!

Thanks, Ben –

That’s an interesting example. It’s hard enough to get a commitment to follow through from an administrative agency, let alone the electorate. And when you talk about changing the voting system, that’s getting into the realm that, in Callfornia, would take a huge investment in public education.

This is the sort of issue I’m working on for the next post – and I’d like to use the BC example as well as the Citizens Parliament and America Speaks. I’ll search for online material. Can you give me some references – I’ll look at your site first.

All my best — John

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