Groups and Deliberation

John Gastil was a guest on Margaret Throsby’s program today. I thought what he had to say was fascinating and followed up on his work:

  • The Jury and Democracy Project that aims to understand the impact that jury service has on citizens. (“Too often, people think of the jury as nothing more than a means of reaching verdicts. In fact, serving on a jury can change how citizens think of themselves and their society. Our purpose is to study those changes.”)
  • Deliberation (“Public talk needs to be democratic by giving each participant adequately speaking opportunities, ensuring participants can understand each other, and by giving each other due consideration and respect. Such talk needs to be deliberative in that it establishes a solid information base, prioritizes the key values at stake, identifies a broad range of solutions, looks carefully at the advantages, disadvantages, and tradeoffs among choices, and ultimately makes the best judgment.” Link)
  • The Group in Society (and the importance of co-presence, coherence, boundaries, communication, shared purpose and interdepedence).

I do think there are vital lessons in John Guptil’s work. Here in Australia we are learning enormous lessons about civic responsibility and personal resilience. The flourishing of voluntarism is remarkable in flood and cyclone-damaged areas.

I am hopeful that the lessons we are learning about collaboration in crises might extend to a deliberative and deliberating democracy. It would be remarkable if our political processes could acknowledge our sameness rather than invented difference. What an incredible society and culture we could have: empathetic, supportive and celebratory.
John Gastil has a message for our time. I am delighted I was able to spend an hour in his company.

Photo Credits
Partaha Village
Horsham Flood 2011



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