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Frequently Asked Questions

Citizens' Juries have been conducted in Germany and the United States since the 1970s. Ned Crosby from the Jefferson Centre organised the first US Citizens' Juries and Peter Dienel from the University of Wuppertal in Germany, conducted "Planning Cells" around about the same time. "Planning Cells" and Citizens' Juries have many similarities: both use random selection, and both draw on typical citizens in-groups of 18-25. Crosby's juries were single juries of 12-24 people. Instead Dienel ran a number of Planning Cells at the same time or one after another, each with 25 citizens.

The Jefferson Centre randomly selected its group of participants from diverse backgrounds, "mirroring" the variety of people in the general population. Their job was to examine a "Charge" which was set beforehand. The Charge was a question about an issue like environmental risk, presidential elections, or euthanasia. The objective was to get feedback on the Charge, from ordinary citizens who became informed by questioning expert witnesses and discussing the issues.

The largest project that Professor Dienel conducted involved a total of 500 citizens, and examined new telecommunications technology. It had the same goal as the US Citizens' Juries: to hear the informed views of ordinary citizens. The German government has commissioned several series of Planning Cells, and made use of their recommendations.

Both the American and German models have since been applied throughout the world. The United Kingdom for example, has seen Youth Juries on the topics of television censorship and drug-taking. The first Australian Citizens' Jury was held in the early 1990s, conducted by Dr Lyn Carson, in northern New South Wales. Australian Citizens' Juries have tackled many issues since then, from the identification of local community needs in rural towns (e.g. in Wollondilly), to strategies for dealing with stormwater pollution in Bronte.