what is deliberative ENGAGEMENT


| 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.



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

Deliberative democracy is different from representative democracy because it 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’s 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

VIDEO: This video prepared by Yarra Valley Water as part of the 2017 Yarra Valley Water Citizens' Jury process features interviews with MosaicLab co-founder Nicole Hunter and newDemocracy Foundation Executive Director Iain Walker.  It provides an explanation of what a citizens' jury is and the value of this approach. 



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. The community is more likely to trust a decision influenced by ‘people like them’ than one made solely by an organisation.  They build shared responsibility, meaning that the outcomes of these processes are more likely to 'stick'.  

These processes also less adversarial than most non-deliberative engagement approaches, and can take the politics out of the issue. This is influenced by a number of factors, including:

  • random selection - representative group of everyday people (rather than a a group comprising those with the biggest stake in the issue)

  • exposure to a diverse range of views, perspectives and alternate ideas,

  • enough time and information so people can provide considered input (not a reactionary/immediate response),

  • professional facilitators who support the group to identify their own biases, employ critical thinking skills, interrogate evidence and come to agreement.

Deliberative democracy can result in number of, ongoing and often transformative 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,

  • increasing general levels of civic engagement and political participation.



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. 

We also often tackle myths, misconceptions and questions around deliberative engagement in our ‘Monthly Myth’ series, including:

Recently, a panel of experienced deliberative engagement practitioners, researchers and project managers conducted a panel Q&A session for the IPAA Public Sector Week 2017  event. A summary of these insightful questions and answers can be found here.

Additionally, the newDemocracy Foundation (nDF) website contains a large selection of interesting and helpful resources and research papers. nDF is an independent research organisation that works with governments to design and operate public engagement projects that enable everyday people to contribute to reaching shared and trusted recommendations around challenging areas of public policy.


VIDEO: Part 1 in a three part series on deliberative engagement. What is it? And how does it different from many other kinds of 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



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

  • Citizens’ juries

  • Participatory budgeting (where deliberation is integrated into the process)

  • Deliberative panels and forums

  • Citizens’ assemblies

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

Learn more about our deliberative engagement design and facilitation services →



The MosaicLab team specialises in facilitating deliberative processes. Past projects include:

Geelong Citizens' Jury
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VicHealth's Citizen's Jury on Obesity
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City of Melbourne's Ten Year Financial Plan
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Yarra Valley Water Citizens' Jury
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Future Melbourne 2026 Citizens' Jury
Learn more →



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: 

Are you deliberation ready?

Take the MosaicLab deliberation assessment test.

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Deliberative engagement or democracy - what is it and what are the benefits?