A Public Voice 2019: Insights from Public Deliberations
Since 1991, A Public Voice has set out “to promote dialogue between policymakers and members of the deliberative public about the urgent problems facing the country.” This report summarizes the program held at the National Press Club on May 9, 2019. In his opening comments, John Dedrick proposed questions for the panel members to explore: “Can the public voice be heard by officials? What does it add that is not already available from public opinion surveys, reporting by organized interests, focus group research, and other expert studies?”
The panel discussion provided details of the benefits of public deliberation as a different kind of talk. This kind of talk is valuable in today’s divisive environment as citizens seek out constructive, respectful, civil dialogue. Members of the panel shared that during deliberative forums people from opposite ends of the political spectrum have been able to discover common ground. It was also noted that some legislators are interested in deliberative outcomes, so they know “what informed public judgment in their district or state looks like” and so they can “stay out in front of issues that are still emerging.” During its second phase, the discussion turned toward identifying critical public issues for the NIF network to address in the future.
The report concludes with remarks from David Mathews. He notes that conversations like deliberations and A Public Voice are important because they allow participants to explore “gray” areas. These gray areas hold the tensions that underlie the complex issues that communities face. It is by working within those gray areas that wicked problems can truly be addressed.