Together with Australia’s newDemocracy Foundation, we decided to source our solutions to public deliberation having to go digital by examining the things that have worked, while keeping in mind the challenges that are inherent.
Just like many, we at the Democratic Society have found ourselves in the midst of a question that imposed itself on us and our work alike: how have the measures that have led us to this “new normal” caused by the spread of Covid-19 affected public deliberation? And what can be done to resolve the challenges and make the shift to digital mechanisms as quickly and as efficiently as possible?
Indeed, the tallest of orders. And not only due to the pandemic: the challenges of taking deliberation online while making sure its most useful aspects are retained have existed prior to this shift. Together with Australia’s newDemocracy Foundation, we decided to source our solutions by examining the things that have worked, while keeping in mind the challenges that are inherent to this, digital approach.
A simple ‘lift and shift’ online will not work as well — if it even works at all.
“Designing an online public deliberation”, presented here, is just that. The note has a singular purpose: it goes beyond a simplistic amalgamation of digital tools, but rather puts together the tools and techniques that, in our opinion, can get the best out of what exists and is available online, while ensuring that the qualities of public deliberation that we firmly believe in are preserved as much as possible, given the bigger picture.
In our note, we examine the pre-existing barriers to a viable shift to the digital domain: how the shift affects access, what it does to the ability for everyday people to participate, but also build relationships with one another and engage at length while solving a shared problem, as well as how to strike a good balance while using the tools that at the same time make us feel more able to contribute and make us more prone to distraction.
The questions of connectivity, skills and troubleshooting all come into play here. Our approach attempts to offer answers to these questions that can act pre-emptively, allowing for a “flat” space like the online domain to become a healthy, comfortable, and feasible area for the most important discussions that truly get to the heart of any issue.
Though this approach does not change dramatically with the move online, it requires specific emphasis on the efforts that will be made to ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate, independent of their technological access.
Now that you know what this note is about, we at Democratic Society encourage you to read it, take it into consideration, think, discuss and deliberate, and in the end, make it your own, while maintaining the core philosophy behind public deliberation at its heart. In the end, it is not a finished article by any means: we ourselves are going to continue to develop and build on these innovations through our practice and research in the field. In short, this is what we know so far, and we hope that it will help spark a discussion and help you in your work in the long run.