Research Papers

We aim to write, fund others to write, and curate the leading academic papers in the field of democratic innovation.

Professor Chris Riedy
Dr Jenny Kent
Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS


A mini-public is a democratic innovation that brings together a small, representative group of citizens to deliberate and advise on a decision, or sometimes make a decision. Members of mini- publics are often randomly selected from the community. Mini-publics include such innovations as citizen juries, deliberative polls, consensus conferences, and citizen assemblies.

Mini-publics are one expression of the theory of deliberative democracy. Deliberative democracy puts ‘communication and reflection at the centre of democracy’ so that democracy ‘is not just about the making of decisions through the aggregation of preferences’ but ‘also about processes of judgment and preference formation and transformation within informed, respectful, and competent dialogue’ (Dryzek 2011, p.3). Thus, deliberative democracy puts talking, rather than voting, at the heart of democracy (Chambers 2003). Anybody can engage in deliberation, which is recognisable by a ‘deliberative stance’: ‘a relation to others as equals engaged in the mutual exchange of reasons oriented as if to reaching a shared practical judgment’ (Owen & Smith 2015, p.16).

While mini-publics have been very successful at facilitating deliberation amongst participants, they often lack influence and authority, which means their recommendations are too rarely implemented. Recognising the limitations of discrete deliberative experiments such as mini-publics, democratic theorists have recently turned to a systemic view of deliberative democracy in which the goal is to advance the deliberative capacity of entire political systems (Chambers 2009; Curato & Böker 2016; Elstub, Ercan & Mendonça 2016; Owen & Smith 2015; Parkinson & Mansbridge 2012; Stevenson & Dryzek 2014). A deliberative system is one in which the institutions and networks of governance support a deliberative approach to political conflict and problem-solving at a whole-system scale (Mansbridge et al. 2012).

The systemic view of deliberative democracy brings questions about the relationship of the mini- public to broader political systems to the fore. It invites assessment of how mini-publics fit into democratic systems, and how they can be run in such a way as to promote a deliberative stance, thinking beyond the boundaries of the event. This research project asks what mini-publics contribute to democracy from a systemic perspective, and how that contribution might be strengthened. For evidence, we draw on three mini-publics supported by the newDemocracy Foundation during 2015 and 2016: the Penrith Community Panel; the Noosa Community Jury (on management of the Noosa River); and Infrastructure Victoria’s citizen juries.

Pollinate Research, April 2017


In March 2017, Pollinate Research conducted a quantitative study that takes the ‘pulse’ of Australians on a range of issues and concerns. Pollinate is an independently owned and run research agency based in Sydney, and has conducted similar work on a regular basis since 2007. Each round of research samples 1,000 respondents nationwide, and this latest round included a series of questions for newDemocracy, designed to give an insight into trust in Australian democratic structures and system; how everyday Australians want those structures and systems to work better; and what they see as their role in its achievement. The research was conducted on a pro-bono basis by Pollinate.


A proposal for democratic participation at constituency level

Oliver Dowlen

Le Centre de Recherches Politiques de Shiences Po
(Political Research Centre of Sciences Po)

Paris Institute of Political Studies, France
(Sciences Po)

MARCH 2017


This is a feasibility study for a scheme for citizen participation based on randomly-selected Citizens’ Parliamentary Groups (CPGs). The essence of the scheme is that there would be a CPG in each parliamentary constituency. The main role of the CPGs would be to defend the fairness and integrity of the political system. They would approach this in three distinct ways: 1) by ensuring that the MP adheres to the agreed code of parliamentary conduct 2) by acting as a link between the MP and the wider constituency 3) by making sure that issues of grave public concern receive proper parliamentary attention.

The study looks at how a scheme of this nature could work in the contexts of the various parliamentary institutions of the UK and Australia. It looks at the balance between the three tasks, the powers needed for their successful operation and the possible constitutional status of the CPGs. Details are put forward concerning the mode of selection, remuneration, regulation, internal structuring and other aspects of the CPGs.

Read more ...

newDemocracy Foundation Research Project 2015-7
Final Research Report, 13 April 2017

Dr A. Wendy Russell
Double Arrow Consulting


Deliberative ‘mini-public’ processes such as citizens’ juries are becoming increasingly popular in Australia at local and State levels. As such, they are developing currency and impact as tools for engaging with communities on contentious political decisions. Impact, particularly in relation to political decisions, is an important aim and success criterion for such processes, yet it is not often investigated empirically.

This research project considered the political impacts of selected citizen deliberation processes. Funded by the newDemocracy Foundation (newDemocracy), the research took case studies from among newDemocracy projects. The intention was to assess the specific impacts of these selected processes, and to draw broad observations about the nature of impact and lessons for impact assessment in this context. The research focused on macro-political impacts, including direct impacts on political decision- making, and impacts on other actors who influence political decision-making. Impacts on participants were also considered, particularly as these impacts affected their role in the political system.

Author: Jen Roberts and Ruth Lightbody
Released: February 2017
ClimateXchange. Scotland's centre of expertise connecting climate change research and policy.

During a citizens’ jury, participants need to learn more about the topic at hand before they go on to deliberate the issue and agree collective recommendations. Citizens’ juries are one of several deliberative processes, which are a useful ‘tool’ in the toolbox of policy practitioners. Such processes have been used in a variety of ways to support decision making processes.

Following ClimateXChange's project on citizens juries we have reviewed ten similar projects to understand how witnesses are being involved in different ways.

The report looks at a range of issues relating to the expert witnesses, including scope and selection, recruitment, and their specific roles. A more detailed research report will also be published at a later point.

By Mark Evans*, Max Halupka* and Gerry Stoker*

The Australian economy has experienced twenty years of economic growth. A remarkable performance that is unprecedented both historically and in comparison with other OECD countries over the period. Yet during the same time we have also witnessed a decade of democratic decline. Only 42% of Australians are satisfied with the way democracy works, 60% of citizens describe the standards of honesty and integrity in Australia as low, trust in politicians and the political process are at their lowest level and remarkably Grey Australians are amongst the most disaffected![1] This is the group of Australians that have benefitted most from both the post-war settlement in terms of social entitlements (e.g. health, education and pensions) and economic conditions (e.g. growth, the property boom and superannuation). All the socio-economic data suggests that they should be pigs in clover. However, recent data on trust and democracy paints a very different picture.

Read more ...

Authors: Carolyn M. Hendriks, The Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU and Adrian Kay, The Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU


Many parliaments around the world are undergoing a ‘participatory makeover’. Legislative institutions are opening their doors to the public through open days and communicating the latest ‘parliamentary updates’ via websites and social media. Many of these ‘community outreach’ activities may make parliaments more informative and publicly accessible, but their impact on democratic renewal is likely to be minimal.

Read more ...

The Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF), University of Technology, Sydney.

The newDemocracy Foundation conducted a Citizens’ Policy Jury on the issue of a safe and vibrant nightlife in Sydney during early 2014. The Jury is an example of a deliberative democracy approach that gives citizens a chance to participate directly in decision-making about policy issues. The Foundation 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. This report outlines the findings of that research and makes recommendations for how the feedback of stakeholders might be used to inform design detail of future processes.

Author: Thomas Jordan, Department of Sociology and Work Science, Gothenburg University, 2013.

Abstract: When a group of diverse stakeholders face a complex issue that needs to be managed skillfully, the group may need support in order to work effectively. A large number of methods for scaffolding group deliberation on complex issues has evolved over the last few decades, however little research has been conducted to date on what functions these methods actually perform.

Read more ...

Authors: Mann, C.; Voß, J.-P.; Amelung, N.; Simons, A.; Runge, T.; Grabner, L.:

Innovation in Governance Research Group, Department of Sociology, Technische Universität (TU) Berlin


This report emerged from the workshop “Challenging futures of citizen panels”, held by the Innovation in Governance Research Group on April 26, 2013, at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin, Germany.

Read more ...

Authors: Bruno S. Frey, CREMA & Lasse Steiner, University of Zurich

March 1, 2014 - University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 144

This paper discusses and proposes random selection as a component in decision-making in society. Random procedures have played a significant role in history, especially in classical Greece and the medieval city-states of Italy. We examine the important positive features of decisions by random mechanisms. Random processes allow representativeness with respect to individuals and groups.

Read more ...

Authors: Albert B. Kao and Iain D. Couzin, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University


Individuals in groups, whether composed of humans or other animal species, often make important decisions collectively, including avoiding predators, selecting a direction in which to migrate and electing political leaders. Theoretical and empirical work suggests that collective decisions can be more accurate than individual decisions, a phenomenon known as the ‘wisdom of crowds’.

Read more ...

Edited by Lyn Carson, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp, and Ron Lubensky

Growing numbers of scholars, practitioners, politicians, and citizens recognize the value of deliberative civic engagement processes that enable citizens and governments to come together in public spaces and engage in constructive dialogue, informed discussion, and decisive deliberation. This book seeks to fill a gap in empirical studies in deliberative democracy by studying the assembly of the Australian Citizens' Parliament (ACP), which took place in Canberra on February 6–8, 2009. The ACP addressed the question "How can the Australian political system be strengthened to serve us better?"

Read more ...

Mathematical research indicates that parliaments work best when some, though not all, members are chosen at random

Marc Abrahams
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 April 2012

Democracies would be better off if they chose some of their politicians at random. That's the word, mathematically obtained, from a team of Italian physicists, economists, and political analysts.

The team includes the trio whose earlier research showed, also mathematically, that bureaucracies would be more efficient if they promoted people at random.

Read more ...

Author: Mooney. G. (2010)

Honorary Professor, University of Sydney, Australia; Honorary Professor of Health Economics, University of Cape Town, South Africa; and Visiting Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark and the University of New South Wales, Australia.

This book is aimed primarily at health service staff in Australia interested in running a citizens' jury in health care. It will also be of value to similar people in other countries and students both of health care and of deliberative democracy. The techniques and processes involved are however relevant to other areas of society beyond health care such as education, the environment, etc.

Read more ...

Author: A Draft Policy Paper from The newDemocracy Foundation

Abstract: This paper has been produced in response to requests from a number of political parties leading in to the 2013 Federal Election. It outlines a practical, costed option as a clear, substantive step for those parties seeking to improve our democracy by posing the question of the citizenry as to how we should govern ourselves.


Full Research Paper 

December 2008

Author: Daniel McFadden, Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

Abstract: This paper explores an economist's view of the rationale for using randomly selected juries of citizens for resource allocation projects such as major infrastructure decisions and tax policy.


Full Research Paper 



Hélène LANDEMORE, Yale University, Connecticut

Prepared for Presentation at the Annual Convention of the American Political Science Association, Toronto, Canada, September 3-6, 2009.

The idea of collective wisdom—that is, the view that many heads can be smart and are in general better than one—is at least as old as Aristotle’s Politics, if not older (Aristotle himself borrows the view that many heads are better than one and that this is why democracy is a good thing from the Sophists.) One might argue that this idea is at the core of any collective endeavor, perhaps any society.

Read more ...

May 2012

Edited by: Gemma M. Carney & Clodagh Harris

Deliberative and participatory democracy specialist group of the Political Studies Association of Ireland.

The ‘Beyond the Ballot’ symposium, held in Dublin in March 2012, was a public, academic and civic event which questioned, criticised, investigated and celebrated the status of democracy. This book, which publishes short versions of the papers presented on the day, is kindly supported by a ‘New Ideas’ grant from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences and by the PSAI.

Read more ...


May 2012

Authored by:

  • Dr Annie Bolitho, Associate, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Carolyn Hendriks, Senior Lecturer, The Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University
  • Mr Chad Foulkes, Research Fellow, World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention, Deakin University

This report summarises the key findings from a pilot research project on local committees of management (or ‘citizens’ committees’) in Victoria. The research was supported by funds from the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy at the University of Western Sydney and The newDemocracy Foundation. It has been undertaken by researchers from The Australian National University (ANU), University of Melbourne and Deakin University.

Read more ...

Margaret Gollagher and Janette Hartz-Karp

The intent of the paper is to contribute to the development of more systematic documentation and analysis of deliberative, collaborative governance throughout the globe. It endeavours to select case studies of decision-making processes from around the world that incorporate the coherent voice of public deliberations into policies and decisions, integrating everyday citizens as ‘co-producers’ of future plans and actions. Deliberative Collaborative GovernanceIt examines innovations where collaborative decision-making processes are being used to embed more democratic, participatory spaces.

Read more ...

Keith Sutherland, Department of Politics, University of Exeter;

In recent years a number of writers have argued that sortition (the random selection of citizens for public office by lot) should augment the institutions of electoral democracy, but there is little agreement on the precise role that it should play. At one end of the spectrum James Fishkin (Fishkin, 2009) has argued that sortive bodies should be limited to an advisory or educative role; whereas radical democrats have argued that sortive bodies can do anything an elected chamber currently does (Callenbach & Phillips, 2008; O'Leary, 2006).

Read more ...

January 1995

Edited by: Akhil Reed Amar, Yale Law School - Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 987

This proposal outlines a system whereby votes become, in effect, tickets in a lottery to select representatives. While it potentially allows for odd results in single electorates, on a system-wide basis the law of averages suggests it would yield a more representative array of representatives.

Read more ...

Hendriks, C & Carson L (2008)

Policy Sciences, Vol. 41, No. 4, December, pp. 293-313

Deliberative ideals have become commercial goods bought and sold in an expanding consultancy market. In this market, demand is generated by government and advocacy groups seeking innovative ways to engage with the public. On the supply side are a growing number of commercial organizations selling deliberative goods and services such as process design, facilitation and evaluation. This paper characterizes the nature of this deliberative market, and considers its implications for democracy and contemporary governance.

Read more ...

Jonathan Rose, Queen's University.

Occasional paper no. 2. State Services Authority of Victoria, Australia and New Zealand School of Government, February 2009.

There is a common refrain among policy advocates, politicians and academics that the key to halting the ever-quickening decline of democratic participation is re-engaging citizens in democratic life. Governments typically respond by adding some engagement strategy to existing processes. It’s the ‘add citizens and stir’ approach.

Read more ...

Michael Pal, University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation

November 16, 2012

(2012) 38(1) Queen's Law Journal 259


Recent experiments with deliberative democracy in British Columbia and Ontario have brought new life to the debate over electoral reform in Canada and have called into question the roles of the judiciary and the legislature on electoral law. In both provinces, Citizens' Assemblies composed of randomly selected members were tasked with deliberating on electoral reform and bringing their recommendations to the electorate in a subsequent referendum. These Assemblies were lauded as innovative alternatives to the conventional legislative decision-making process.

Read more ...

Yves Sintomer

Published in Constellations Volume 17, No 3, 2010. 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Abstract: This paper explores the rationale for -  and contemporary examples of – the use of stratified random selection to achieve descriptively representative mini-publics for the purpose of citizen deliberation.

Full Research Paper