what is deliberative democracy?


Deliberative democracy (deliberative engagement) is about citizens being given adequate time, information and support to grapple with an issue or decision, and an opportunity to have direct influence over agency policies and programs.

WHAT DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY MEANS

Deliberative democracy or deliberative engagement is all about placing people (citizens, residents, affected individuals) closer to the affairs of government.

Deliberative democracy is different from representative democracy because puts conversations, diverse perspectives and understanding at the centre of the decision rather than relying on polling and voting.

Deliberative democracy emphasises information processing (meaning/sense-making) as much as information exchange (communication of information), and encourages people to critically test, weigh up and grapple with a a range of perspectives, inputs and evidence.  It is an alternative approach to 'asking people what they think when they're not thinking', which elicits uninformed responses.  Instead, deliberative approaches seek to elicit informed, quality, meaningful outputs. 

Democracy is not elections, even though every manual on the subject tells us otherwise. Campaigning and electioneering now are so synonymous with democracy, we can’t imagine anything else. We’ve lost sight of how democracy was originally conceived.
— Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, Founder, NewDemocracy

why DELIBERATIVE APPROACHES ARE WORTH IT

When conducted effectively, deliberative processes can lead to new solutions for the most challenging problems we face (sometimes known as 'wicked' problems), improve policy outcomes and engender trust between citizens and government.   

These processes draw on collective intelligence and result in decisions that are not only better, but are better supported by the wider public.  They build shared responsibility, meaning that the outcomes of these processes are more likely to 'stick'.  

Deliberative processes are not only more representative and more productive than non-deliberative engagement activities, they are also less adversarial, taking the politics out of the issue. 

Deliberative democracy has a number of, ongoing and often trans-formative benefits that include:

  • increasing participants’ levels of knowledge about issues (more broadly), resulting in more informed, considered views being shared,
  • cultivating trust between authorities and communities,
  • building civic capacity and capability, and
  • increasing general levels of civic engagement and political participation.

Are you deliberation ready?

Take the MosaicLab deliberation assessment test.

Start now →

DO YOU OR YOUR ORGANISATION NEED TO GET DELIBERATION READY?

MosaicLab offers several deliberation training options.  Our training sessions have been designed to suit individuals or larger groups, and will leave you or your staff ready to prepare, plan and manage a deliberative engagement process.  

We offer: 

deliberation

| noun | de·lib·er·a·tion |
1. A long and careful consideration or discussion.


When used with the term ‘democracy’, deliberation is about participants {1} considering relevant facts from multiple points of view, talking with others to think critically about options before them and enlarging their perspectives, opinions and understandings.

{1} A random and representative sample of participants is necessary to achieve integrity with the process.

PRINCIPLES OF DELIBERATIVE ENGAGEMENT 

Deliberative processes are built around: 

  1. The assumption that the process will have a high level of influence over outcomes or decisions.
  2. Participants will have access to the information they need to have an in-depth conversation and sufficient time to consider that information.
  3. Participants are selected randomly, are representative of the broader community and inclusive of all voices.

For more information, download our our free pdf which details all 6 deliberative engagement principles

FORMS OF DELIBERATIVE ENGAGEMENT 

The principles of deliberation can be applied to a range of contexts and formats.  Deliberative processes include:

  • Citizen juries 
  • Participatory budgeting 
  • Deliberative panels and forums

Deliberative principles and approaches can also be integrated into a range of other types of engagement activities. 

Learn more about our deliberative democracy services →


CASE STUDIES


The MosaicLab team specialises in facilitating deliberative forums and juries. Past projects include:

VicHealth's Citizen's Jury on Obesity
Learn more →

City of Melbourne's Ten Year Financial Plan
Learn more →

Bayside Child Care Futures Deliberative Panel
Learn more →

Future Melbourne 2026 Citizens' Jury
Learn more →


FREE DELIBERATIVE ENGAGEMENT RESOURCES 

Our free resources section contains a number of useful, free deliberative engagement resources including videos and downloads for those considering or about to embark on a deliberative journey.