Digital Deliberation: Catching the Deliberation Wave

Digital Deliberation: Catching the Deliberation Wave

This article is a translation by Open Source Politics of the article published on the Medium "Participo", an OECD publication. To read the original article by Mauricio Mejia, click here.

The OECD's Innovative Citizen Participation workstream explores the ongoing paradigm shifts towards more inclusive governance. The idea is to better understand the new forms of deliberative, collaborative and participatory decision-making that are taking place, analysing what works well and what does not, and asking how democratic institutions might change in the long term as a result. (See our first article on Participo which explains the context).

The first report in this work stream focuses on the use of representative deliberative processes by public institutions. Catching the Deliberative Wave: Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions (June 2020), is the first international empirical comparative study to examine the functioning of representative deliberative processes for public decision-making and discusses the desirability of institutionalising them.

The report focuses on many aspects of deliberative processes, but recognises that this is the first step in more in-depth research on deliberation for public policy making. The use of digital tools to enrich deliberative processes is an area for further research and discussion.

The current situation and the consequences of COVID-19 will certainly have an impact on the way we interact and carry out our daily (and civic) activities. At the time of writing, millions of people are physically isolated and trying to carry out their normal activities. We are adapting to new tools and methods to make the most of working from home and maintaining social ties with friends, colleagues and family.

The coronavirus epidemic is also affecting the organisation of ongoing and future deliberative processes. The French and British Citizens' Assemblies on climate, for example, are considering the use of digital conferencing tools to replace or complement physical meetings that are postponed until further notice.

Even long-standing traditional institutions such as the European Parliament, the British House of Commons and the Lebanese Parliament are considering the use of video tools and electronic voting applications to replace face-to-face parliamentary debates and meetings. Other organisations, such as political parties, are also implementing digital tools to carry on their normal activities and could be a source of inspiration for our work.

We believe that this is a good time to open the discussion on the use of digital tools for deliberative processes, in collaboration with our colleagues working on digital government and innovation in the public sector.

Rather than replacing face-to-face deliberation with digital deliberation, we want to gather all relevant evidence on how digital tools and practices can enhance and support face-to-face deliberation processes. While the focus will be on the use of technology, the aim is to contribute to the general discussion and framework of deliberative processes for policy making. In other words, digital tools are the means to an end, not an end in themselves.

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