Considerations for conducting deliberative dialogue workshops

Description:

Deliberative workshops are a form of facilitated group discussion that provide participants with the opportunity to consider an issue in depth, challenge each others opinions and develop their views/arguments to reach an informed end position. Deliberative workshops are similar to focus group although there tends to be more focus on deliberation. They can take anything from a few hours to several days to conduct.

Used For:

Deliberative workshops allow for an in depth discussion on a specific topic with a few people over a couple of hours.

It allows the organisation conducting the event to have a greater understanding of what may lie behind an opinion or how people's views change as they are given new information or deliberate on an issue.

Suitable participants:

Deliberative workshops typically involve between 8 to 16 participants. Who is involved will depend on the issue at stake; participants could be selected on the basis of demographics, interest group, or random selection.

Cost:

Medium-Low

  • The cost of deliberative workshops is generally not high, unless you need to recruit participants through truly random selection, which can be costly.
  • An incentive may have to be offered to citizens in order to get them to participate in the workshop. Additional costs include venue hire (choose an informal setting where possible), catering and supporting arrangements, such as childcare.
  • Sometimes a deliberative workshop reconvenes on several occasions; which will add to the cost and time requirement.

Time Requirements:

Low, unless the workshop takes place on several occasions

When To Use / What It Can Deliver:

  • To gauge the informed opinion of a small group of people
  • To observe and track how people's views and perspectives change through deliberation or as they receive information

When Not To Use / What It Cannot Deliver:

  • Deliberative workshops only involve small numbers of people and can therefore not be used to gather statistically significant data to accurately measure public opinion.
  • The fact that participants' views are developed through deliberation may also mean that they are not representative of the views of the wider public.

Strengths:

  • Allows participants the time and resources to consider an issue in depth, including costs, benefits and long-term consequences.
  • Discussing with others give participants an insight into other perspectives, allowing their own views to be developed and challenged.
  • Can build and improve relationships between participants.
  • Can give participants new knowledge and skills.

Weaknesses:

Like all forms of qualitative research, deliberative workshops are open to manipulation: how the discussions/activities are framed, how the participants are introduced to the topic, and what questions are asked will all influence the results.

Initiating a deliberative dialogue effort may not be the solution for every community wrestling with an issue. To plan and implement it successfully will require work, time, resources, and especially the willingness and enthusiasm of the people involved. For it to be a uniquely valuable experience, participants will need to explore the topic they discuss at a deeper level than they usually do and with others whose perspectives significantly differ from their own. http://www.sedl.org/policy/insights/n09/8.html

Note: Most of the material in this link is borrowed from people and participation.net. It is a very informative site on issues related to public participation and clarifies some of the confusion many of us initially have about forms of consultation and engagement. http://www.peopleandparticipation.net/display/Involve/Home