Monthly community engagement myth - stakeholder involvement in deliberative engagement processes with random selection

We’re kicking off our 2019 #MonthlyMyth series by addressing a topic we’re often asked about. We’ve noticed that it’s an issue that makes organisations nervous.  There’s a fear that (where a randomly selected panel or jury is involved) stakeholder and interest groups will be cut out of the conversation and oppose the process or decision.  

Luckily, not only is it important to incorporate these groups in a deliberative process, there’s also lots of ways they can be involved.    Today we’re exploring why it’s a good idea to do so, and giving you seven ways to bring them on your deliberative journey.


When we refer to stakeholder and interest groups in this post, we’re talking about the groups that have a stake or high level of interest in the decision.  Often (but not always) community based, these groups are highly likely to send representatives to your public workshop and/or write a lengthy submission.  These groups are often obvious -  you’ve likely heard from them before and you expect to hear from them again in the future.  Examples might include environmental groups, residents’ associations, historic societies, business associations etc.

There’s another category of people that might have input into the process, and that’s technical and subject matter experts.   Of course, some stakeholder groups (or members of them) may be able to provide ‘expert’ information and insights, so there’s likely some crossover here.  However, this group of ‘experts’ may be broader than this and will include individuals who aren’t aligned with any interest group such as academics or people with a profession related to the issue. We’ll deal with how this group provides input into a deliberative process in a future post. 


One of the keys to deliberative engagement is transparency and therefore it’s essential that those affected by or interested in the decision are, at the very least, aware of your process.   

Running a ‘good process’ with integrity is one part of the puzzle – letting people know about it is another.  You can’t expect your efforts to result in a trusted public decision if your stakeholders and wider community: 

  • didn’t understand how the decision was made,

  • weren’t aware they were being represented by a panel or jury,

  • feel an important perspective (perhaps their own) wasn’t considered,

  • believe the process was rigged or undertaken ‘behind closed doors’.

Therefore, it’s important to provide stakeholder and interest groups with information, opportunities to observe/scrutinise, and in many cases have input into the process.  This will:

  • reduce the likelihood that these groups will attack the process itself

  • ensure groups feel there was a fair and equal opportunity for everyone’s ideas and perspectives to be heard in the process (including their own), and

  • capture important perspectives, insights and ideas relevant to the issue for the panel’s or jury’s considerations.\

It’s unlikely that every stakeholder will love every panel recommendation or project outcome.  However, you can aim to build overarching satisfaction with, support for and trust in the integrity of your deliberative approach.    


The following ideas are examples of some of the ways that stakeholders have been involved in some of our past processes.  However, there’s other ways to engage these groups and we’re always working to be innovative and adaptive in our approaches.  Some ideas may not be suitable for your specific process, therefore activities always need to be carefully tailored to your individual circumstances.

1 - Wider engagement process

Before a deliberative phase begins, a wider engagement phase can take place that aims to capture as many peoples’ ideas and views as possible.  This might include a mix of activities that stakeholders can get involved in.   These inputs are then provided to the randomly selected jury or panel for consideration.

2 - Information events

Stakeholders can learn more and ask questions about the process, provide content input, and understand how they can be involved.

3 - Speaker nominations

Sometimes stakeholders can play a role in nominating and voting on the ‘experts’ they think the panel or jury should hear from and these people can be added to the final mix of speakers.

4 - Submission process

Submissions can be made by stakeholder or interest groups who want to provide unstructured views or ideas to the panel for consideration.  

5 - Observers

Anyone can observe the panel process in action.  Observers can see people ‘like them’ working together to grapple with the issue at hand and increase their understanding of the process.  There are rules that guide observer behavior to ensure they do not distract or interfere with the panel.

6 - Speakers

Sometimes representatives of stakeholder or interest groups are speakers during the panel process.  Some speakers are organised by the organisation and some are selected by the panel itself.   The aim is to ensure that all sides of an issue are presented.

7 - Post-deliberation engagement activities

Sometimes a panel or jury deliberation is followed by an opportunity for stakeholders and the wider community to provide feedback on the group’s report.  Stakeholders could be invited to get involved in these activities.


The newDemocracy Foundation conducted a Citizens’ Policy Jury on the issue of a safe and vibrant nightlife in Sydney during early 2014. nDF engaged the Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) at the University of Technology Sydney to explore stakeholder perceptions of the Jury process through interviews with key stakeholders.

They have published a report -  Stakeholder Perceptions of Deliberative Democratic Processes  - outlining the findings of that research and making recommendations for how the feedback of stakeholders might be used to inform the design of future processes.


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