History Of Citizens Juries

A Citizens' Jury is based on the legal model for trials and is typically held for a period of four to five days in which a group of jurors question expert witnesses, deliberate on a question or series of questions and present their recommendations. Citizens' Juries involve using the lay populace in their capacity as citizens as opposed to users of services, consumers, or members of specific interest groups. They are based on the premise that ordinary people given enough time, support, resources and the opportunity are eminently capable of arriving at decisions about complex policy matters. According to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) (1996:1) "jurors are not merely a resource to be mined by researchers, nor actors in a public relations exercise. They are citizens engaged in a serious civic task who become lay experts as well as confident and competent decision makers".

The concept of Citizens' Juries originated almost 30 years ago in Germany and the US. The German model was developed by Professor Peter Dienel of the Research Institute for Citizen Participation and Planning Procedures at the University of Wuppertal in 1969 (Dienel, 1978). The American model was developed two years later by the millionaire Ned Crosby who established the Jefferson Centre for New Democratic Processes in Minneapolis (Crosby, 1996). Citizens' Juries were first piloted in the UK in 1996 by the IPPR, a left-of-centre think-tank, and the market research organisation, Opinion Leader Research (OLR) and drew on both German and American experiences (Leneghan, 1997).

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