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Seminar on involving citizens in deliberative processes

How can deliberative processes stimulate mutual reflection, better understanding and open dialogue on controversial and complex issues such as climate change, nanotechnology or organic agriculture?

Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at Oslo Metropolitan University invites to a workshop in Oslo with special focus on methodologies for engaging citizens in deliberative processes. We have invited researchers and specialists in the field to share their experiences, views and ideas on the involvement of citizens in complex and often controversial issues within research projects. There are a number of different approaches for involving citizens on public deliberations in research projects such as Citizens Juries, Hybrid Forums and mini-public deliberations, and we want to seek out what we can learn from these different approaches in order to develop these methodologies further.

The seminar is financed by the Norwegian Research Council and linked to the EU project Organic-PLUS focusing on the current use of - and possibilities for phasing out - contentious inputs within organic agriculture in Europe. Through Citizens Juries one task in the project is to establish a dialogue with the general public to further evaluate how new practices and regulations best can be developed to meet the overall goal of sustainable production and consumption of organic food.

The seminar will have two separate sessions; one before and one after lunch.

In the first session invited speakers will present their experiences with different methods for involving citizens in deliberative processes. What are the rationale behind involving citizens in specific research projects? How can we design these deliberations such that we get a two-way dialogue between scientists and members of the public, especially on issues that often are too technical for direct public scrutiny? What are the pros and cons of different methods?

In the section after the lunch break we will discuss ethical and political issues related to this type of involvement of citizens in research projects. How can we avoid that deliberative processes only act as legitimation of certain outcomes in controversial policy issues? What are the (potential) implications for the involved citizens and for policy decision making? Under which conditions will deliberative processes enhance democratic values, and when may deliberations threaten these principles?

The discussion will be organized as a “world café” with participants circulating between groups discussing the given topics. There will be an introduction to the world café by SIFO/ the Organic-PLUS project and the workshop will end with a plenary discussion based on the summaries from the groups.

There will be coffee breaks with poster presentations of the Organic-PLUS project and with room for exchange of experiences.

  • Program

    09:30 Coffee and tea. Poster presentation of Organic-PLUS project:  Judith Conroy & Ulrich Schmutz (project coordinator)

    10:00 Adrian Evans & Rosa van Kesteren, Coventry University: Citizen Juries:  Enhancing our understanding of animal welfare and organic farming through science-society dialogues  

    10:25 Cathrine Hasse, Aarhus University: Reeler Outreach: Minipublics

    10:50 Simon Burall, The Involve Foundation: The UK experience of deliberative processes

    11:15 Coffee and tea. Poster presentation / discussion Organic-PLUS

    11:45 Virginie Amilien, Consumption Research Norway (SIFO): Hybrid Forums

    12:10 Erik Thorstensen, Work Research Institute (AFI): Engaging Older Adults through World Cafés.

    12:35 Pål Strandbakken & Harald-Throne Holst (Consumption Research Norway (SIFO): 3rd Generation Deliberations

    13:00 Lunch / poster presentations and discussions

    14:00 World Café

    16:00 Plenary discussion

    17:00 Finish

  • About the presentations

    Adrian Evans and Rosa van Kesteren: Citizen Juries:  Enhancing our understanding of animal welfare and organic farming through science-society dialogues

    We begin this presentation by outlining the need for multi-disciplinary and participatory approaches to food and farming, which draw on both leading-edge scientific research as well as the valuable insights that practitioners and members of the public have to offer. In particular, we draw on the insights of Latour and Callon to argue that new forms of public engagement, new forms of democracy and new, more modest, forms of science and technology are required if we are to face the great environmental and societal challenges of the 21st Century. We then draw on our experiences of undertaking Citizen Juries about farm animal welfare in the UK, Italy and Norway (as part of the WelfareQuality project) to highlight some of the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to public engagement. Finally, we look ahead to new research within the Organic-PLUS project, which aims to foster a science-society dialogue about contentious issues in organic farming, and we pose a series of questions about the best ways to achieve democratic dialogues in the context of sometimes complementary and sometimes incompatible knowledge bases.

    Cathrine Hasse: Reeler Outreach: Minipublics

    In the EU-project REELER (Responsible and Ethical Learning in Robotics) we have worked closely together in an interdisciplinary team on expanding understandings of users in robotics. We have developed new methods to better understand these new types of users, which we present in what we call a Human Proximity Model. This model is partly developed through ethnographic research but also through two novel approaches: Mini Publics and Social Drama. We have made three different types of Mini Publics in REELER – all involving affected stakeholders in robotics: one on healthcare, one on work and one on agriculture. Different citizens have participated in different ways, which have given us a platform for understanding the scope and potentials of Mini Publics (an approach that originates in public deliberation of legal issues).

    Simon Burall: The UK experience of deliberative processes

    This presentation will explore Involve's work to bring the public into the heart of complex, controversial decisions through deliberative processes. It will use case studies to explore the role that the public can play and how to make choices about which deliberative method to use.

    Virginie Amilien: From hybrid forum to hybrid forum 2.0.

    Hybrid forum can be described as a general concept including conventional public engagement methods, such as citizen juries, consensus conferences, focus groups or deliberative processes. This presentation aims at focusing on a new generation of hybrid forums: HF 2.0. We refer here to HF 2.0 used in a H2020 project meaning that it is still experimental in the way that the method is continually adapted to the field and evolving. But in contrast to other deliberative processes, HF 2.0. usually entail a more dynamic and democratic mechanism to reflect and act together, with the aim of constructing a common project around a defined challenge (Callon et al., 2001, 2009).

    Erik Thorstensen: Engaging Older Adults through World Cafés

    Erik participates in a project aiming at understanding and developing assistive technologies for older adults. He is currently on the writing theme for the article on the adapted World Café method for older adults. Erik will share some of the observations and reflections on engaging older adults in technology research and development.

    Pål Strandbakken and Harald Throne-Holst: 3rd Generation Deliberations

    Through the coordination of the 7th Framework Programme Nanoplat, SIFO gathered and analysed experience with deliberative processes on nano technology and science. We identified some change over time, mainly in specificity and resource use, and started to distinguish between a first and a second “generation” of deliberations. At the end of the project, we identified a set of areas where the method should be improved; avoid replication of results, have a clear understanding of the political framing, introduce more workshop democracy etc. In the subsequent project NanoDiode we had the opportunity to test our ideas in practice, by arranging a set of deliberations in six European countries. The presentation mainly focuses on the Norwegian event, on human enhancement and nano medicine.


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