newDemocracy received a brief from Climate 200 to explore how electorate-level engagement could be improved by applying deliberative principles. We agreed that local Members of Parliament (of all parties) could better engage with a wider range of citizens if a more representative and meaningful approach could be developed.
newDemocracy undertook a pilot project with Member for North Sydney, Kylea Tink, on the usual condition (as an apolitical research foundation) that the methodology and learnings would be published for any MP to draw upon. This is that document.
The objective of the work was to pilot a replicable, cost-effective community engagement process for MPs and candidates in Australia that highlighted the benefits of deliberative engagement.
The key difference in deliberative methods is that they are designed to:
i. Reach more representative groups via lottery selection (not self-selection).
ii. encourage consideration of a diversity of evidence.
iii. have participants find common ground as a group, not just aggregate individual views.
iv. focus on weighing tradeoffs (including costs and downsides) rather than presenting wishlists.
The project aimed to demonstrate a more substantive and actionable engagement approach that results in community members feeling ‘more heard’ while offering the MP higher-quality insight(s) into community sentiment.
Success was agreed as:
- Reaching new people – those who would not normally bother.
- Showing how innovation can overcome voter disillusionment and apathy.
- Greater effectiveness from an MP’s engagement with their communities by having a more substantive output from citizens. Could the method deliver something realistic and actionable?
- Offer sharper insight into voter concerns and questions, in a format that does not require the MP to blindly agree, but to engage substantively with the recommendations and reasoning.
North Sydney Community Housing Forum Video