Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Citizens' Juries"...."Focus Groups" by another name?

The Observer shows a photo of Gordon and Sarah Brown outside Number Ten, with the caption: "..will finally move into their new home later this week."

That would be Number Eleven Downing Street would it? Or are they staying in Number Ten (flat over), where they have lived for years?

The Observer covers the likely options for Brown during his first month in office, eager to impress with a "fresh start".

One of the most concrete suggestions which the article throws up is that of "Citizens' Juries" to advise the government on policies.

That would be "Focus Groups" then would it?

I suppose if there is a more formal structure around them, these juries might be useful. But it is hard not to be cynical about them.


  1. "Citizen's juries", like normal jury service, co-opt individuals for short periods of time to serve on decision-making bodies. Anthony Giddens is particularly keen on them, and in some local authorities in the USA and other countries they have proven popular and useful. Basically, the jury sits for a few days or weeks, a policy proposal is put to them, the various issues set out, pro- and anti- campaigners may be allowed to speak, and then the jury decides.

    It’s not totally crazy, but it can only work where little in-depth knowledge is required. More complex debates would require longer-serving decision-makers. There is also the obvious danger that the benefits of any proposal (say, free annual holistic health check-ups) are clearer than the costs (say, 0.25% of GDP), especially the secondary costs (say, slower economic growth). On the other hand, they would not have a constituency to impress, so the activist bias of elected politicians would be ameliorated.

  2. Tom thanks - they sound like a very good idea if they have a structure around them along the lines you describe. But I would expect Brown/Labour to schmurgle them to become focus groups in all but name. However, I live in hope.