Deliberative Democracy & Public Policy


18-35 is a newly-formed national, non-partisan, multi-ideological organization dedicated to giving young adults a credible voice in policy-making. The mission of 18-35 is to infuse national policy debates with an innovative and young perspective and to engage young adults in these debates. Beginning in September 2003, 18-35 is challenging a select group of "up-and-coming" and "already-there" young adults to think across partisan and ideological lines to develop new, creative, effective solutions to critical social and economic problems. In addition to a broad dissemination effort geared to policy-makers, the media and the general public, 18-35 will convene on-line and off-line deliberations across the country that bring together young adults and elected officials.

The American Assembly

The American Assembly, an affiliate of Columbia University, was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1950 to illuminate issues of public policy. The Assembly's major objectives are to focus attention and stimulate informed discussion on a range of critical U.S. policy topics; to inform government officials, community and civic leadership, and the general public regarding the factual background and the range of policy options in a given issue; to facilitate increased communication among decision makers from the public and private sectors, as well as from institutions and organizations concerned with critical public policy issues; and to raise on a continuing basis the level and quality of public policy discourse on national and international issues.

Americans Discuss Social Security

In 1999, Information Renaissance collaborated with Americans Discuss Social Security to host a non-partisan electronic discussion and debate on Social Security reform. Thousands of Americans participated in a national discussion with policymakers, experts and each other via the internet. You can browse the archives of this event to learn more about large-scale online discussions.

Americans Talk Issues

The ATI Foundation promotes a democratic process that combines repeated large-scale, random polling of Americans with 30-minute deliberations between individual voters and unbiased professional interviewers. The result is a consensus of public opinion, which sometimes includes unexpected positions and solutions. As explained in the book Locating consensus for Democracy, Public Interest Polling provides an inexpensive, practical way to locate a consensus of all Americans on major national issues.

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Promoting the founding belief that every citizen has a right to impact the decisions of government, AmericaSpeaks serves as a neutral convener of large-scale public participation forums. Through close consultation with leaders, citizens, the media and others, AmericaSpeaks designs and facilitates deliberative meetings for 500 to 5,000 participants. Its partners have included regional planning groups, local, state, and national government bodies, and national organizations. Issues have ranged from Social Security reform to redevelopment of ground zero in New York.


A program of the Ludwick Family Foundation, Arsalyn promotes constructive dialogue between groups with diverse viewpoints as well as the sharing of models and methods. Arsalyn has been convening a series of regional conferences geared toward helping young people ? especially politically active youth - develop skills that will help them communicate effectively with those of opposing views or with more lukewarm potential allies without alienating them or poisoning the wells of deliberation and common action. The aim of these conferences: to explore of the art of political deliberation and to apply this art in "bridging the partisan divide."

By the People
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By the People: America in the World, an initiative of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, aims to energize and enhance the national conversation on America's role in the world through a series of national and local broadcasts and events that demonstrate the relevance of foreign policy issues to local concerns. The project includes three national PBS specials, two cycles of local programming to be produced by PBS stations in cooperation with community organizations, national and local forums for civic dialogue, and an interactive web site.

The Center for Assessment and Policy Development (CAPD)

CAPD is a non-profit organization founded in 1987 to help institutions, communities and public systems craft and execute thoughtful responses to pressing social issues ? particularly, improving outcomes for children, adolescents, and families. CAPD works on many issues, including education, violence prevention, community change, reduction in racism (particularly institutional racism), leadership, and civic engagement.

The Center for Deliberative Democracy

Housed in the Department of Communication at Stanford University and established in 2003, the Center for Deliberative Democracy is devoted to research about democracy and public opinion obtained through Deliberative Polling. Developed by Professor James S. Fishkin, Deliberative Polling is a technique which combines deliberation in small group discussions with scientific random sampling to provide public consultation for public policy and for electoral issues.

The Center for Deliberative Polling

Housed in the Department of Government at the University of Texas at Austin, The Center for Deliberative Polling - like Stanford's Center for Deliberative Democracy - is devoted to research about democracy and public opinion obtained through Deliberative Polling.

The Center for Wise Democratic Processes

The Center assists communities in creating Wisdom Councils - randomly-selected, facilitated "juries," reflecting the larger diversity of the community - which engage in dialogue about the larger system and arrive at creative consensus on shared visions. These visions in turn serve to increase the quality of the dialogue among the larger community.

Civic Practices Network (CPN)
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CPN's website features an array of excellent resources for the "new citizenship movement." The Network shares a commitment to bringing practical methods for public problem solving into every community and institutional setting in the U.S.

The Deliberative Democracy Consortium
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The mission of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium is to bring together practitioners and researchers to support and foster the nascent, broad-based movement to promote and institutionalize deliberative democracy at all levels of governance in the United States and around the world.

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Demos was founded in 1999 as a national research and advocacy organization to help create a new long-term vision for American society. Demos works on two of the most urgent challenges facing the U.S. today: strengthening our democracy and creating more broadly shared prosperity. Demos conducts original research and builds networks of civic and economic reformers to help turn ideas into action.

Discovering Common Ground: Missouri Communities Deliberate

Sandra Hodge at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri directs this program, which promotes deliberation in Missouri primarily through National Issues Forums. Downloadable from Discovering Common Ground's website are three PowerPoint presentations about moderating, convening and recording deliberative public forums, and an 83-page manual titled Deliberation and Your Community: How to Convene and Moderate Local Public Forums Using Deliberative Decision-Making.

The Harwood Institute
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The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a non-profit institution which strives to be a catalyst for charting a different course for America's public life and politics.

The Jefferson Center

Since 1974, the Jefferson Center has conducted Citizen Juries at the local, state and national levels. In a Citizens Jury, a randomly selected, demographically representative panel of citizens, which serve as a microcosm of the public, meet to carefully examine an issue of public significance. At the end of their moderated hearings, the members present their recommendations to the public. The Citizens Jury process is a comprehensive tool that allows decision makers to hear thoughtful citizen input. Juries have addressed topics including national health care reform, budget priorities, environmental issues and local school district facility needs.

Kettering Foundation

The central question behind the foundation's research is currently this: What does it take to make democracy work as it should? The Kettering Foundation produces low-cost publications of interest to dialogue leaders. A few examples are: Making Choices Together: The Power of Public Deliberation; Community Leadership: Community Change through Public Action; and How the Community Works: Officeholder Perspectives on Democratic Self-Government and the Community. The Kettering Foundation spawned the National Issues Forums.

League of Women Voters

A nonprofit organization which promotes an open governmental system that is representative, accountable and responsive; that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision making; and that preserves public health and safety through gun control measures.

Loka Institute

The Loka Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making research, science and technology more responsive to democratically-decided social and environmental concerns.

The Moving Ideas Network

The Moving Ideas Network (MIN) (formerly the Electronic Policy Network) is dedicated to explaining and popularizing complex policy ideas to a broader audience. Their goal is to improve collaboration and dialogue between policy and grassroots organizations, and to promote their work to journalists and legislators. Moving Ideas posts the best ideas and resources from leading progressive research and advocacy institutions, and promotes high-quality websites and publishes original content.

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National Issues Forums Institute

NIFI is a nationwide network of educational and community organizations that deliberate about nationwide issues. NIFI publishes deliberation guides on such topics as Racial and Ethnic Tensions: What Should We Do?; Money and Politics: Who Owns Democracy?; and Violent Kids: Can We Change The Trend?

Home of the Policy Consensus Initiative and the National Policy Consensus Center. The Policy Consensus Initiative is a national nonprofit organization that works with states to promote collaboration to achieve more effective governance. The National Policy Consensus Center provides assistance to state leaders in addressing difficult policy issues using consensus-based governing models.

Public Agenda
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A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 1975 to help citizens understand critical policy issues so they can make more informed and thoughtful decisions and to help leaders understand the public's point of view on major policy issues.

San Diego Dialogue

In San Diego County, a group of American and Mexican businesspeople and community leaders convene regularly under the auspices of San Diego Dialogue, a project the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). These dialogues are so successful that once-intractable border and regional problems are now dealt with almost routinely. was founded in order to help journalists, policy makers and engaged citizens become better informed about innovative public policies.

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Study Circles Resource Center

SCRC promotes and supports study circles (small-group, democratic, peer-led deliberative dialogues on important social and political issues). Their website provides downloadable copies of many of their top-notch dialogue guides and other resources.

The Teledemocracy Action News + Network
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The website of the Global Democracy Movement TAN+N is primarily dedicated to the creative use of modern technologies (ICT) and face-to-face deliberative techniques in all forms that directly empower citizens to have authentic input into political systems at all levels of governance around the world.

The U.S. Consensus Council

In April 2003, legislation was introduced in Congress to establish the United States Consensus Council (USCC), which would serve the nation by promoting consensus-based solutions to important national legislative policy issues. The USCC would convene the stakeholders on a given issue and seek to build "win/win" agreements - those that reach the highest common denominator among the parties. On February 13, 2003, Congress approved $1 million in funding for the U.S. Consensus Council. The funding will be available once legislation to authorize the USCC passes Congress. On June 17, 2003, the Senate Government Affairs Committee unanimously approved S. 908, the U.S. Consensus Council Act of 2003. It now awaits action on the Senate floor. The initiative to create the United States Consensus Council has been organized and is staffed by Search for Common Ground, in coordination with Consensus Council, Inc. (North Dakota), the Western Consensus Council, the Montana Consensus Council, and the Policy Consensus Initiative.


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