Deliberative participation is an umbrella term for a number of different models of participation based on public deliberation and discussion. Although the term deliberative participation is not common within the youth sector, projects based upon this form of participation are still quite common.
Examples of projects include citizen’s juries, citizens assemblies, participatory budgeting, or simply a youth conference which enables participants to reach consensus on a topic. One of the most widely known examples of deliberative youth participation is the EU Youth Dialogue. This enables young people to deliberate on topics linked to the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Deliberative participation comes from theories of deliberative democracy and the belief that political decisions should be the product of open discussion and debate amongst citizens. Deliberative participation can involve citizens of all ages, but it can also be focused specifically on young people. When it is focused on young people it is called deliberative youth participation.
The goal of a deliberative participation project is to enable participants to reach a set of decisions or conclusions on a topic or set of topics. Emphasis is placed on detailed discussion so that the participants can thoroughly consider the topic as well as a range of views on it. Deliberative participation takes place as a one-off event or series of events, with a clear end point and defined method to reach the final conclusions.
For example, in participatory budgeting, participants decide how part of the budget for their area should be spent. They begin the process by proposing ideas for how the money can be used. The process is then concluded by participants selecting which ideas should be funded. The project finishes when the funding is distributed.
To avoid tokenism, it is important for deliberative participation projects to have an influence on the topics they deliberate on. Decision makers or policy makers can be directly involved in deliberation, or they can receive the results of the deliberations afterwards. In either approach, having commitment from decision makers to act on the outcomes of deliberations is important.
A crucial part of deliberative participation is ensuring that people from a wide range of backgrounds take part. Some models of deliberative participation aim for participants to be an exact cross representation of society (called a ‘mini-public’). Others make a strong commitment to inclusion and supporting participation for all. The involvement of people from various backgrounds ensures that a range of different opinions and perspectives on a topic.