Let’s talk Citizens’ Juries – with Max Hardy

Our Managing Director, Amanda Newbery interviews Max Hardy on Citizen Juries. Max has and continues to work alongside Articulous on a number of projects.

Amanda: What was your first citizens jury?

Max: Way back in 1999. It was for Wollondilly Shire Council, on the outskirts of the Sydney Metropolitan Area. They were required to develop a Social Plan, and the social planner there, Sandra Ruecroft, was tired of doing the same old thing, and hearing from the usual suspects. I had an idea, ran it by her and she was keen. I had just read a book on Citizens’ Juries, (handed to me by Vivien Twyford) which was based on some pilots undertaken in the UK.

We did it on the smell of a very oily rag, but it was an amazing experience. We presented a paper on it at the very first IAP2 Australasian Conference, in Sydney in 1999. I then presented it as a case study at an IAP2 Conference in Banff Canada, and met the Executive Officer of the Jefferson Center in the USA. I was then invited to present to an International Waste Conference in Sydney. It was an early lesson for me, as a consultant, of trying something new and then sharing the learning with others.


Amanda: What sorts of decisions are citizens juries best suited to?

Max: Citizens’ Juries have proven to be quite versatile for a range of issues and decisions. Once upon a time I would have replied that juries are best suited to weighing up different options to a controversial issue. More recently I have seen some citizens’ juries address more open ended questions, providing directions for long term planning, and identifying principles to inform policy development.

I believe what is important is that citizens’ juries have a very clear remit, or task, and sufficient work has already been undertaken to provide sufficient evidence for them to deliberate.

Citizens’ Juries are terrific for complex decisions at the convergence end of an engagement process. Deliberation is about weighing up pros and cons, critiquing evidence, and arriving at a landing point. I believe other processes are better at innovating, and options development, such as co-design engagement processes.
Amanda: Some people are very strict about the format for citizen’s jury. Should they be? 

Max: Citizens’ Juries can be a versatile in structure; just as in any facilitated process. There is never just ‘one-way’ to do them. I believe the principles guiding the process should be quite strict though. Among these:

  • Jurors should be provided with a broad and balanced range of information, or evidence, to carry out their job of responding to the remit
  • Deliberation time should match the amount of time for presenting information.  If it is too content-heavy the jurors will find it difficult to do critical thinking and deliberation work.
  • A broad, overarching, steering group should oversee the design and facilitation of the process.
  • Decision-makers should commit to seriously consider the recommendations of the CJ, at the very least, have those recommendations published unedited, and then respond to those recommendations publicly.
  • Decision-makers must have an open mind to the issue, and be open to being influenced by the process
  • Jurors should be randomly selected by a professional and independent recruiter (this isn’t to say that deliberative processes must always be restricted to randomly selected people; some processes may benefit by stakeholders being included, or by self-selected applicants being included – I just wouldn’t describe them as a citizens’ jury).


Amanda: What’s the best insight you’ve gained from facilitating CJs?

Max: That’s easy. Jurors will always rise to the occasion. Jurors can be trusted to do an amazing job provided the process is sound. They are capable of absorbing information, considering it, conversing about it, and willing to change their minds if the evidence stacks up. I am inclined to expect more of jurors, and get out of the way to let them do their work.