Citizen involvement in public forums clarifies community values and everyday experience and provides democratic legitimacy. Stakeholder engagement offers whole-system insight and helps resolve issue conflicts. So hold both kinds of forums and, where possible, include citizens in stakeholder forums and stakeholders as “expert witnesses” in citizen forums.
Related: 4 Big Empathy, 28 Generating Shared Orientation, 48 Prudent Use of Power-Over, 57 Synergy of Part and Whole, 64 Using Diversity and Disturbance Creatively, 66 Well-Utilized Life Energy, 68 Whole System in the Conversation
Going deeper …
This introduction is an edited version of the video on this page.
Since we are talking about wise democracy, we want to access “the wisdom of the whole”. But that raises the question: What is “the whole”?
I see two ways to carve up “the whole” of any issue. There are probably more ways, but my two main ways are (1) the whole citizenry and (2) the whole spectrum of stakeholders involved with that issue.
On any given public issue the citizens in general, the larger community, have a legitimate interest in how the issue is resolved. So you want to have the wisdom of the community as whole or the society as a whole involved in coming up with the best possible solution.
Some deliberative democracy theorists have noted that there are different roles for experts and for citizens. A main role of the citizens is to uphold the values of the community. Their job is to understand “What is it that is important to us?“ Cognitive research has clarified the importance of that in decision-making.
Research has shown that we need to have a desire for something in order to make a decision. This is either explicitly or implicitly based on our values, because our values involve what we feel is desirable or undesirable, good or bad. An analysis may tell us a lot about what will happen if we make this or that decision or why we might want to make this and that decision, but it can’t decide AMONG the possible choices we face or the ways we might deal with the situation. For that we need a preference, a desire, some guiding value clarifying what we WANT. So a community has things that it values and wants and aspires to or that it needs. There is wisdom that comes from tapping into that and finding out what the community would really want in this situation. That’s what I mean by involving citizens to generate “community values wisdom”. This approach has democratic legitimacy: The community – the citizenry – has the ultimate say in what happens.
If we don’t have citizens involved in making a decision about a public issue, it doesn’t have real democratic legitimacy. That is the whole point in having a democratic system – that the voice and wisdom of the people will be involved in whatever decisions are made (if only by electing the people who are going to make the decision – but we want to involve citizens even more than that!). Various forms of citizen deliberative council – as well as mass public participation approaches like participatory budgeting – are examples of accessing the wisdom of the whole community or citizenry in addressing public issues.