The Citizens Jury is our comprehensive engagement process that allows decision makers and the public to hear thoughtful input from an informed microcosm of the public. The Citizens Jury convenes diverse groups of citizens to study an issue deeply, discuss different perspectives on the issue, and recommend a course of action or craft their own solutions to address the issue at hand.
-Participant in the 2009 Citizens Jury on Election Recounts
Why a Citizens Jury?
Democracy is based on the idea that elected officials and public agencies carry out the will of the people. Distressingly, the manipulative nature of our campaigns and the great power of lobbyists make it doubtful that government policy is based on the positions of a well-informed and engaged public. Still, politicians and policymakers often justify their actions as “the will of the people.” The actual will of the American people is likely quite different.
A Citizens Jury provides citizens the opportunity to learn about an issue, deliberate together with a diverse group of their peers, and develop well-informed solutions to challenging public issues. A Citizens Jury also allows decision makers and the broader public to know what people really think once they have the opportunity to study an issue closely.
What Is a Citizens Jury?
In a Citizens Jury project, a randomly selected and demographically balanced panel of citizens meets for three to five days to carefully examine an issue of public significance. The jury of citizens, usually consisting of 15–24 individuals, serves as a microcosm of the public. Jurors are paid a stipend to limit barriers to participation and ensure diversity. They hear from a variety of expert witnesses and are able to deliberate together on the issue. On the final day of their moderated hearings, the members of the Citizens Jury produce recommendations for decision makers and the public. Citizens Jury projects can be enhanced through community organizing and extensive public outreach, including a dynamic web presence and media coverage.