dialogue by design
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Public debates

There are some issues that deserve public discussion and debate before decisions are made. But such issues tend, by their nature, to be complex - and this can lead to experts saying that public discussion of them is therefore impossible.

We have disproved this. In recent years we have enabled discussion on issues as complex as the disposal of nuclear waste and the ethics of advanced genetics.

This is how we do it.

1. We develop a ‘discussion guide’ that describes the issues as objectively as possible and sets out the range of evidence in support of different opinions. We use language that communicates clearly and concisely, with pictures and diagrams to help wherever possible. We produce this information in several forms - paper, CD Rom and websites - so that people can use the medium with which they feel most comfortable.

2. We develop a sequence of questions carefully designed to draw people into the key issues without ‘leading’ their thinking, and which also allows them to explore related issues or contradictory evidence.

3. We provide briefing materials and instructions for those leading or facilitating discussions, and hints on how to help people focus what they believe and either build a consensus or a range of conclusions.

4. Finally we provide paper or online feedback forms on which groups or individuals can report their conclusions. These are then posted on a website so that all those who participate can see what others are saying.

The cumulative result of many individual and group opinions is a serious and reflective response to difficult issues.

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