Development Department Research Programme Research Findings No. 97People's Juries in Social Inclusion Partnerships: A pilot project
Robin Clarke, Ruth Rennie (Office of Public Management)
Clare Delap, Vicki Coombe (Institute for Public Policy Research)
In January 2000, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Office for Public Management (OPM) were commissioned to plan, conduct and evaluate People's Juries, Stakeholder Juries and Inter-Jury fora in two area-based Social Inclusion Partnerships (SIPs) in Scotland. This followed an announcement in August 1999 that resources would be available to SIPs to conduct People's Juries as part of the Listening to Communities programme. This programme was introduced in 1998 to encourage community capacity building and to expand the public's input into the decision-making processes. The main output from this study is a Guidance Manual for SIPs on running the jury process. This CRU Research Finding focuses on the results from the evaluation component of the project.
A People's Jury is a potentially powerful form of public consultation when coupled with an appropriate issue and with adequate organisational capacity and commitment.
A Steering Group should be formed early on to ensure that a diversity of viewpoints are engaged in the developmental stages of the process.
The issue for deliberation should be a 'live' local issue that presents a number of possible policy alternatives.
Recruitment of the People's Jury should not be undertaken while other consultation initiatives are underway.
The agenda should include a mix of large and small group sessions, single witness slots and witness panels.
The agenda should seek to steadily build-up the jurors' knowledge of the issue over the four days.
There needs to be agency buy-in at an early stage to ensure there is commitment to the process.
Members of the Stakeholder Jury should be of sufficient seniority to be able to commit their organisations to action following jury discussions.
The Stakeholder Jury should contain all relevant organisations and avoid over-representation of any one body.
The purpose of the event needs to be clearly stated at the outset.
Careful consideration needs to be given to how the Stakeholders present their recommendations back to the People's jurors and others. Technical jargon needs to be avoided.
In August 1999, the Minister for Communities announced that resources would be available to develop People's Juries as part of the Listening to Communities programme. Introduced in 1998, this programme is designed to encourage community capacity building and a further shift in culture among public sector bodies to more effective community involvement in decision making. This programme aims at getting the best out of community-focused initiatives by supporting the development of best practice, piloting new approaches, developing new ways of providing information and developing new techniques to evaluate the impact of community participation.
Introduction to Juries
People's Juries are designed to provide a forum for collective deliberation, inclusive of any citizen, with a view to increasing the public's voice in decision making in their own communities. A randomly selected group of citizens are invited to become jurors for the discussion of a single issue of importance. Jurors are exposed to information on the issue for deliberation from witnesses selected on grounds of their expertise and/or interests. Juries generally comprise 11-16 people and commonly sit for a period of four days. While the recommendations of the jury are not legally binding to any institution, they will provide important direction on the issue discussed.
Public participation in decision making was first established in the 1970's in the USA (The Citizen's Jury Process) and in Germany (Planning Cells). There has been great interest in the concept of People's Juries since their introduction to the UK in 1996. Juries have recently been used extensively across the UK as part of the Millennium Debate of the Age. In Scotland, People's Juries have been conducted in Fife, South Lanarkshire, Inverclyde and Glasgow. The experiences of establishing and conducting such a jury are well documented. This project was commissioned to pilot the approach in the SIPs in Scotland and to produce Guidance for SIPs on running a People's Jury.
When planning public involvement initiatives (including People's Juries), there is often insufficient attention given to feeding results into decision-making processes. Whether outcomes lead to impact within, or across organisations, is often left to chance. To address this, the pilot project tested a three-stage jury model in an attempt to precisely link public involvement to policy implementation. This involved conducting a People's Jury, Stakeholder Jury and Inter-Jury forum in each pilot area.
The recommendations resulting from the People's Jury were fed into the Stakeholder Jury. This jury comprised representatives of relevant local agencies and organisations and aimed to examine how these recommendations may be implemented (where deemed appropriate). It was designed to 'hothouse' the policy process, ensuring that the momentum from the People's Jury was maintained and that the recommendations resulted in appropriate action at an organisational level. Finally, the Inter-Jury Forum provided a vehicle whereby the stakeholders were able to feedback their intended policy responses to the members of the People's Jury and the wider public and media.
This three-stage process was conducted in two SIP areas. In Area A, the juries were asked 'how can we improve the quality of life for individuals and families in communities affected by drugs?' In Area B the juries were asked, 'how can we encourage people to participate more actively in the community?' In each area the People's Jury sat for four days, the Stakeholder Jury lasted for two days and the Inter-Jury fora were two hour events.
The recommendations of the People's Juries were fed into the Stakeholder Juries, where decision-makers assessed how they may be most effectively implemented. Where stakeholders felt unable or unwilling to respond to a recommendation, they were asked to outline their reasons when presenting their action plan to the People's Jurors. Finally, an inter-jury forum was held in each area, bringing together the two juries to discuss the recommendations and agree a plan of action. In one area this was a large public meeting that was open to the press and other agencies. In the other area this was a smaller forum involving the two juries only.
An evaluation of the process was conducted as part of the project. People's Jurors, Stakeholder Jurors and witnesses completed short questionnaires before and after participation in the process. The questionnaire was designed to elicit jurors' perceptions, attitudes and experiences of the jury process and to identify how the process could be changed or improved. This involved 16 people's jurors in Jury A and 13 people's jurors in Jury B. Thirteen stakeholder jurors took part in the evaluation in each pilot. Researchers also observed all jury proceedings and compiled jury reports. This Research Finding outlines the results of the evaluation.
People's jurors were broadly positive about their experience of the process. When asked what they felt had been the best thing about the jury, the following responses were given:
'A representation of peoples views and ideas being brought together to produce something positive or improvements in their community'.
'Learning about the work and experience of other people'.
It gets some opinions from a wide range of people which may make a difference in the community'.
'The opportunity to voice your own opinion, particularly about local issues.'
'It pulls people together'.
'Communicating with one another and self confidence'.
Several others endorsed the feeling that the jury process brings people together to make recommendations in the interests of the wider community rather than on the grounds of narrow self-interest. However, many jurors also viewed the process as a powerful vehicle for personal development. Some felt it had given them confidence in their own abilities and an interest in becoming more involved in their local community. In Area A, some had changed their views on drugs, 'before I thought put them all behind walls but now I know drug dealers are people with families...there is someone behind the stigma'.
However, not all comments were positive. Some jurors had reservations about various aspects of the process. One of the main problems was the length of the jury. For some there were difficulties with taking time-off work or other commitments to attend for four days. Others were unaccustomed to concentrating intensely for long periods. When asked what they thought was the worst thing about a People's Jury, the jurors responded:
'The witnesses are made to feel defensive'.
'Sitting about for long periods of time'.
'Getting the time off '.
'Not enough different age groups represented'.
'Jurors following their own agenda and not addressing the matter in hand.'
'Some jurors' unwillingness to compromise'.
In Area A, most jurors thought that the jury represented a cross-section of people living in the area. However, in Area B, several felt it did not or were unsure. The reasons jurors gave for a negative response were that people from several geographical areas were not present and that young people were under-represented. Recruitment of young people had been a problem, particularly in Area B. This may have been partly because two other major consultation exercises were underway in the area. One had recently been completed, the other was on-going.
In Area A, the jurors discussed issues around improving quality of life for drug users and their families. There was a great deal of evidence from both the People's and the Stakeholder Juries that this was a useful and appropriate topic for the jury process. This topic seemed relevant to the jurors and the wider community and it was an open question with a number of different views and policy options. In Area B, the juries were asked to look at ways of improving community involvement. From the point of view of the jurors and the stakeholders this was much less successful as a jury question. Encouraging community involvement was not a burning issue for local people, it was more abstract and difficult to define.
The majority of jurors in each pilot area found the information mostly or all easy to understand, felt able to contribute in large and small group sessions and considered the number of witnesses to be about right. The agenda was designed to bring the jurors up to speed on the issues over the four days. Generally, a session with only one witness involved a presentation for no longer than fifteen minutes, followed by a maximum of forty-five minutes of questions. If the jury heard from a large number of perspectives, witnesses were clustered together to form witness panels. A witness panel session generally included three or four speakers who each spoke for a shorter time. The panel then took questions jointly. The agenda included both large and small group discussions. Jurors generally appeared to react most positively to witnesses who spoke about their personal experiences or were working at service-level rather than strategic-level.
When asked if they would participate in another People's Jury, all but three jurors said they would. The negative reactions to the process were mostly around the Inter-Jury forum. Half of the jurors were 'quite' confident that something would happen with the jury recommendations. However, those who had attended the inter-jury fora were less likely to be confident. The observation of the inter-jury forum suggested that the technical jargon use by some stakeholders alienated some of the People's Jurors.
The two pilot areas had contrasting experiences of the Stakeholder Jury process. In Area A, the participants were extremely positive about the event. They felt it afforded them an important opportunity to come together in a multi-agency environment to tackle issues of joint concern. Several stakeholders in this group said the process had changed their relationships with other bodies. In particular, already close relationships had been further strengthened when focused on a specific joint area of concern, 'these organisations do talk but they are rarely given the time to concentrate on a single subject". All of the stakeholders in Area A were confident that positive changes would happen as a result of the jury process.
In contrast, only a minority of stakeholders in Area B were positive about the process. There were a number of concerns from this group, particularly regarding the structure of the two days and the outcomes achieved. Some suggested a one day event would have been sufficient. Another key problem, which was highlighted in both pilot areas was the difficulty in ensuring that the right people were present, or that there was a balance on the jury so as to ensure that no single organisation could dominate. In both areas there was a consensus that at least one relevant stakeholder had not participated in the jury. While a Steering Group can play an important role in identifying stakeholders early, it can sometimes be difficult to foresee who the appropriate stakeholders will be until after the People's Jury is complete.
Most of the stakeholders in Area A recognised the responsibility and the remit of their organisation to act to address drugs issues. This meant that many stakeholders demonstrated concretely what they intended doing about the recommendations, and there was a lot of praise for the practical nature of the recommendations and for their emphasis on action. In contrast, the issue for deliberation in Area B was not one local stakeholders felt compelled to act upon. Few stakeholders considered promoting community involvement to be a key responsibility for their group or organisation. Their focus tended to remain specifically on the service they provided to particular groups or around particular activities.
In Area A, there was overwhelming support for promoting similar events in the future. Two stakeholders were already considering running juries on other issues in their area, 'every area should have one, it got people right into the subject and challenged people like me: a good way of coming up with firm recommendations". Several stakeholders in Area B felt that while the juries should be promoted in principle, they had a number of reservations. In particular, they questioned whether a jury was the right consultation or involvement tool for some issues and they flagged up concerns that one body had dominated proceedings, 'it was a sound principle but it did not meet up to my expectations".
The stakeholders made a number of recommendations for improving the three-stage jury process:
Ensuring the jury discusses an appropriate topic.
Building further on the process, ensuring that recommendations are actioned.
Ensuring that relevant people are informed at an early stage about the event.
Ensuring that the right people are invited to sit on the Stakeholder Jury.
Encouraging witnesses and stakeholders to have an input into the design of the process.
Facilitating greater interaction between the two juries.
While their reactions to the People's Jury were positive, jurors were generally less enthusiastic about the third stage of the process, the Inter-Jury Forum. Following this final stage, a number of those jurors who attended said they were now less confident that positive action would result from their deliberations. The stakeholders also had a number of similar concerns about the process.
The evaluation suggested that there may have been some confusion over the purpose of the event. This needs to be made clear to both People's and Stakeholder Jurors in advance so they know what to expect. Secondly, it is particularly important at this stage to avoid using language that is specific to organisational contexts. The final proposals for action must be couched in terms that the People's Jurors will recognise from their own discussions and recommendations.
This pilot project was designed to help inform the roll-out of a juries programme across the SIPs in Scotland. This will take place over the next two years. Guidance on running a People's Jury was prepared as part of this project.
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