Edited by Stephen Elstub and Oliver Escobar
Chapter 3: Mini-publics: design choices and legitimacy
Aiming to harness peoples’ input on an issue, mini-publics consist of sub-groups of citizens that engage in facilitated deliberations and make public recommendations. We’ve witnessed their worldwide proliferation in recent decades. Described as ‘the most advocated method to institutionalize deliberative democracy’ (Elstub, 2014), this chapter argues mini-publics can blend participatory and deliberative forms of democracy in their efforts to achieve inclusion, equality of voice and ‘reasonableness’. Defining the term, it assesses the impact micro and macro mini-public design choices may have on its input, throughput and output legitimacy with reference to numerous international examples. Acknowledging that mini-publics are part of a wider democratic system of governance, the chapter discusses their potential to mitigate real-world asymmetries in power, wealth and knowledge through careful and considered design choices. It concludes with a call for political elites to empower them through proper resourcing, open agenda setting and prompt, constructive responses to their recommendations.
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