Participation Toolkit

A book named “Participatory methods toolkit: a practitioner’s manual” was published in 2005 by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Flemish Institute for Science and Technology Assessment (viWTA).

This toolkit has a “citizens jury” part that may be of interest to us.

Page 21:

4) Participants


In some methods, the participants are supposed to be representative of the population at large. However, this may be unrealistic to achieve perfectly in practice. Purchasing random sampling phone numbers may prove financially unviable.

In this case, the advisory committee and project management will need to establish recruitment criteria and decide on another method, such as newspaper advertising. In newspaper recruitment, panellists are somewhat self-selected because they have to initially respond to an advertisement. In any method of recruitment an element of bias is introduced at the selection stage by the preferences of the selection committee. Recruitment is usually done three to four months prior to the first activity.

If participants are not recruited using a simple random sampling method, the project management will need to establish selection criteria. It might choose to narrow the field using demographic criteria (gender, age, education, location, occupation, etc.)

Page 54:


A Citizens Jury is designed to be a microcosm of the population covered by the project (in all important and relevant ways), so jurors need to be chosen in a way that ensures this.

The first step is to clearly define the relevant population, which is determined by the scope and purpose of the project. The population may be as narrow as a subsection of a community or as wide as an entire transnational community.

The second step is to decide on which specific demographic variables to base the jury selection.

What characteristics of the population need to be reflected accurately in the jury in order to make it a microcosm of the public? Some common demographic variables include age, educational attainment, gender, geographic location within the community and race. Often a sixth variable is added. This can be a demographic characteristic, such as tax paying status for a given year or health insurance status, etc. Alternatively, it can be an attitudinal question, such as one’s opinion regarding European monetary union. Other variables can be incorporated as well, but the sponsors, project staff and advisory committee should carefully weigh the usefulness of each variable. The final constitution of the jury will reflect (or nearly reflect) the actual percentage of the population that falls into the sub-categories.


5 Responses

  1. Recruitment by newspaper advertising is a terrible idea — “somewhat self-selected” is the understatement of the year, as the selection criterion (voluntarism) will return a highly unrepresentative sample of the population. At least in elections people get to nominate their representative as opposed to having to kowtow to the will of self-important busybodies. Arthur C. Clarke was quite right when he suggested that anyone who wanted the job [of president] should immediately be disqualified. The sponsors of this publication should be ashamed of themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely. I choked at the exact line where Keith did!

    There are variations on this anywhere. I have seen someone in Australia spruiking a doc that says a “flaw” with our jury methodology is that people with opposing views may get in, and that her agency filters people to make sure that the 24 chosen are likely to deliver the view a government wants. She does this with a straight face and wonders why we won’t work with her AND warn govt agencies against this. So this is not isolated, despite being ridiculous at first, second and nineteenth glance.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Iain,

    Yes, the assumption seems to be that so long as they are “ordinary” people — i.e. not elected from the “political class” (whatever that is) and stratified by age, gender, education, income etc — then this will establish a representative microcosm. But this misses the elephant in the room — such a body may look like America/Australia or wherever, but self-nominating (or even self-selecting) persons will be entirely atypical wrt the target population and this may well be even more politically significant than the obvious demographic criteria, as it will over-represent activists and those with axes to grind — i.e. the sort of people who phone in to talk radio and make up the audience for Question Time and the likes. For a citizen jury to be statistically representative (its only raison d’etre) it has to be randomly selected and participation has to be quasi-mandatory. I would also argue that it can do little more than listen to balanced advocacy and then determine the outcome by secret vote, but this puts me at odds with most other deliberative democrats.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Also the number (12 to 24 ) is far from “representative” for legislative purposes. Deliberative systems have also far more risks for manipulation by those who are organizing the event. That is why I thought that summarizing the criteria for sortition might be of help


  5. Paul,

    Yes, 12-14 is based on trial jury numbers, but trial juries are charged with judging the facts of the matter, rather than expressing an informed preference. In legislative matters there is no right answer, that’s why the jury needs to be a reasonably accurate microcosm of the target population. This would suggest a sample size of 300-1,000 (depending on the decision threshold), randomly selected and with quasi-mandatory participation.

    Liked by 1 person

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