Our work on mini-publics is part of a range of on-going work focused on participative decision-making, community engagement and governance.
These resources include examples of mini-publics which what Works Scotland has been involved with, and reflections on what we have learnt from these experiments.
What are mini-publics?
This paper, by Dr Oliver Escobar and Dr Stephen Elstub for newDemocracy, a research and development organisation in Australia, is an introduction to to minipublics.
In The People’s Verdict Claudia Chwalisz presents the findings of her study of 50 long-form deliberative processes, where randomly selected citizens have played key roles in decision-making. What Works Scotland hosted the Edinburgh launch of the book in June 2017.
Examples of using mini-publics
Working with police and fire services
What Works Scotland worked with police, fire and council services in the North East of Scotland to use a citizens’ jury to consider the issue of a community bonfire which, due to its popularity and size, was raising safety concerns for the local police and fire service.
Read and download a summary of the process: Local solutions to local problems: innovation in public participation – SIPR Annual Report 2016.
Examining health inequalities
We ran three citizens’ juries in Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow as part of the ‘How should we tackle Health Inequalities?’ research project. The participants were asked to assess the merits of alternative policy proposals to tackle health inequalities.
Find out more about each citizens’ jury on the Health inequalites project website.
Wind farm locations
We worked with ClimateXChange to run three citizens juries in Coldstream, Helensburgh and Aberfeldy which worked on creating criteria for decision-making for onshore wind farms in Scotland.
Mini-publics in the Scottish Parliament
Ideas about mini-publics are incorporated into the Report on the Scottish Parliament, published in June 2017 by the Commission on Parliamentary Reform, in the chapter on Deliberative engagement and democratic innovations, including this recommendation:
Recommendation 66, Report on the Scottish Parliament
The Report explains: “…. Mini-publics also provide an opportunity to build capacity in the Parliament by utilising external knowledge and skills. They complement and inform the decision making process but, crucially, do not replace the decision taking responsibility of members. This approach is in keeping with the Parliament’s founding principles. We consider deliberative approaches would be well suited to bill scrutiny or to examining issues where it is important to understand the public’s views on a complex moral or social issue. They could be used as part of an inquiry into an issue where public opinion is divided. The mini public report would demonstrate to the committee what happens when people with different views are invited to deliberate and report their conclusions.”
What Works Scotland co-director Dr Oliver Escobar, Lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh, gave evidence to the Commission about new forms of participatory democracy, such as mini-publics.
As well as speaking directly before the Commission, Dr Escobar gave written evidence and also provided a research briefing, co-authored with Dr Stephen Elstub from Newcastle University, on Deliberative innovations: Using ‘mini-publics’ to improve participation and deliberation at the Scottish Parliament.
What Works Scotland worked with the Scottish Parliament to advise on ways to develop these ideas from the Commission.
Since the publication of the Report on the Scottish Parliament, mini-publics have been used in the Scottish Parliament to examine several different issues. This collection of reports provides evaluations of those processes.
Comparing Mini-Publics in the Scottish Parliament
This report provides recommendations for the use of mini-publics in parliamentary committee inquiries. The recommendations are based on the evaluation of the first two mini-publics undertaken by the Scottish Parliament in 2019: the Citizens’ Jury on Land Management and the Natural Environment; and the Citizens’ Panels on the Future of Primary Care. The report was produced by Stephen Elstub and Jayne Carrick of Newcastle University in 2020.
Evaluation of the Scottish Parliament’s Citizens’ Jury on Land Management and the Natural Environment
This report provides an evaluation of the Scottish Parliament’s Citizens’ Jury on Land Management and the Natural Environment that was sponsored by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR) and organised by the Committee Engagement Unit (CEU). Produced by Stephen Elstub, Jayne Carrick & Zohreh Khoban of Newcastle University in Spetmber 2019.
Evaluation of the Scottish Parliament’s Citizens’ Panels on Primary Care
This report provides an evaluation of the Scottish Parliament’s Citizens’ Panels on Primary Care that was sponsored by the Health & Sport Committee (H&S). The citizens’ panels were organised by the H&S Committee Clerks, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) and the Committee Engagement Unit (CEU).
Both reports were produced by Stephen Elstub, Jayne Carrick and Zohreh Khoban of Newcastle University in autumn 2019.
Evaluation of the Citizens’ Assembly on the Inquiry of Long-Term Funding of Adult Social Care
This report provides an evaluation of the Citizens’ Assembly Social Care (CASC) that was commissioned by the Health and Social Care Select Committee and the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee from the House of Commons, as part of their inquiry into the long-term funding of adult social care in England. The assembly took place in April and May 2018 and was organised by participation charity Involve. Report produced by Stephen Elstub and Jayne Carrick of Newcastle University in April 2019.