Public consultation exercises are now a routine part of what governments do. Citizen participants, citizens' juries, and participatory budgeting have been trialled across the world. To varying degrees, all these initiatives offered citizens the opportunity to help shape policy, and enabled governments to increase citizen participation. This paper argues that citizen engagement exercises need to be bestowed with real power; governments need to believe in the capability of citizens’ assemblies to craft well-reasoned policy and allocate resources for learning and for consulting with fellow citizens. Citizens’ assemblies differ from these previously mentioned engagement exercises in several ways. The main difference is their commitment to real engagement—that is, sharing decision-making with the public, not selling decisions to them. Too often, public engagement is used as window dressing. Citizens’ assemblies, however, create social and civic capital, and members gain greater efficacy and awareness of the power of citizens to make change.
These Occasional Papers are jointly published by ANZSOG and the (former) Victorian State Services Authority.
Rose, J. (2010). Civic engagement and the promise of a new citizenry. SSA/ANZSOG Occasional Paper, 2. Melbourne: ANZSOG.