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.

Read Forms of Mini-Publics: An Introduction to Deliberative Innovations in Democratic Practice 

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:

“R66: As part of moving towards a more participative approach to scrutiny as envisioned by the CSG, the Committee Engagement Unit should pilot minipublic approaches.”

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 is working with the Scottish Parliament to advise on ways to develop these ideas from the Commission.