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Online Civic Juries or Citizen Assemblies

Page history last edited by Mike 11 months, 1 week ago

We need deliberative democracy. However, our modern institutions have been corrupted. Information has been weaponized. Traditional forms of deliberative democracy are not solving our problems. 


We need deliberative democracy for our policymakers. We also need to ensure their reasoning is shared with the crowd transparently. 


Unless it is well organized like Wikipedia, with one page per topic and all the quality control measures, broad public deliberation is not helpful. 


Attempts at deliberative democracy feel like grabbing random people from cross-walks and giving them the keys to our nation. However, Wikipedia allows people interested in a particular topic to contribute within their field of expertise. It is open to everyone. However, you don't have to convince the general public. You only have to convince a small number of people who have enough attention span and expertise to wade into the details of a topic.  




We could significantly improve civic juries by structuring them with the techniques taught in conflict resolution, moderation, and cost-benefit analysis techniques. We won't need skilled moderators if automated processes promote sound logic, identify logical fallacies, and social psychological research into deliberation.


It shouldn't matter what conclusions people form as much as what evidence they can bring. Instead of justifying policy with top-down advertising, we need to construct findings from evidence with a bottom-up "evidence-based political movement."


Elected officials should "show their math" just like we did in school. I don't care what they vote for, as much as I want to see that they have shown what arguments, cost-benefit and risks valid or likely. That gets to the "transparency of their reasoning."


And so what I envision is an open/online cost-benefit analysis with reasons that each cost or benefit is more or less likely. Arguments would have sub-arguments. Evidence and arguments would have linkage scores between them and their conclusions. We also need truth scores to rank the degree evidence can be verified or identify arguments as logically sound. 


We need "Unique scores" to cut down on duplicate ways of saying the same thing.


Suppose politicians say why they support a policy. We should build forums that allow us to post reasons why their assumptions are invalid or post pro/con evidence.


I took a "Conflict Resolution" class in college. Conflict resolution is the subject learned by professional mediators. These techniques are also taught in a book called "Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreements without giving in." The Harvard Negotiating Project developed this process. This process would be easy to implement in an online forum. For example, one method is to "focus on INTERESTS, not position." That would be easy to do. For each conflict, we brainstorm the "most likely," "shared," "opposing," and "individual" interests of each group. We could then place those interests within Maslow's Hierarchy of needs.

They say that when you resolve conflict, you want many participants to get diverse perspectives. However, you can't have too many because they won't all participate and stay engaged. That isn't a problem on the internet. Like Wikipedia, we need a forum that organizes and promotes conflict resolution and allows multiple people to participate. 

I see conflict resolution as working together to outline an online cost-benefit analysis. Cas Sunstein wrote a book called: "Cost-Benefit Revolution." I thought he would call for online cost-benefit analysis, but he just said how great it is that experts do it. I agree, but I think we start with the experts and move towards a Wikipedia model, that amateurs can post reasons to agree or disagree with the experts. What do you think? Do you want to start a political party that supports candidates that use this online platform to make decisions?


In theory, as representatives of the people, members of Congress should pay attention to what their constituents think. But, as we’ve seen, the majority of the country can be for something – UBI, or term limits – and legislators ignore the will of the people.

Instead of capturing the will of the people using flawed polling systems that are often ignored anyway, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig advocates for a more robust system of civic juries utilizing Deliberative Polling, a system first developed by Stanford professor James Fishkin. 

What does this involve? It’s simple - get a group of voters (a “civic jury”) together to weigh various policy options, with experts presenting various viewpoints. The group would report its viewpoints both at the beginning and at the end of the deliberation process, and the shifts in their thinking would be taken as a direction for policymakers.

Countries such as Iceland, Mongolia, and Ireland have used these civic juries to suggest constitutional amendments. The reporting around the findings of these juries tends to lead to a broader understanding of important issues. The media and politicians pay attention to the outcomes, and legislation results that better reflects the will of the people.

These civic juries can also be made to better reflect the population - Congress, after all, does not much look like a representative set of Americans on any of a host of dimensions: age, gender, wealth, education, race, etc. The natural authority of this group could steer legislation and the national conversation in important directions.

Problems to be Solved

Opinion polls lack the depth, breadth, and legitimacy to steer legislation.

Elected officials often ignore the will of the people.

Elected officials don’t reflect the diverse demographics of modern American along any dimension.

Americans don’t often get a chance to voice their opinions in a meaningful way outside of voting for candidates that have already been selected by the parties.

“It’s entirely feasible to simply convene a group of truly representative Americans and determine what they think about an issue.” –Andrew Yang

We Should

  • Convene “civic juries” made up of representative groups of Americans to deliberate on key issues and legislation.

  • Commit to debating and voting on any policy proposals put forward by this group.



  1. https://www.facebook.com/groups/onlinecivicjury
  2. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-wisdom-of-small-crowds-the-case-for-using-citizens-juries-to-shape-policy/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens%27_assembly 


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