what is deliberative democracy?


WHAT IT MEANS

Deliberative democracy is all about placing people (citizens, residents, affected individuals) closer to the affairs of government.  It is different from representative democracy in that it places conversations and understanding at the centre rather than polling and voting.

Deliberative democracy emphasises information processing (meaning/sense-making) as much as information exchange (communication of information).

The best examples of deliberative democracy see the people participating in the process have direct influence over agency policies and programs.

why IT'S WORTH IT

When conducted effectively, deliberative processes can lead to new solutions for the most challenging problems we face and improve policy outcomes.  

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?

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THE FORMS IT CAN TAKE

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

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
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City of Melbourne's Ten Year Financial Plan
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Bayside Child Care Futures Deliberative Panel
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Future Melbourne 2026 Citizens' Jury
Learn more →


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.

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


PRINCIPLES

Deliberative processes are built around the following underlying principles:

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.