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. This can lead to concern among experts that public involvement in these issues is therefore impossible.

In recent years we have shown that effective dialogue with members of the public can be a simple and valuable process. We have enabled discussion on issues as complex as the disposal of nuclear waste and the ethics of advanced genetics.

How do we do it?

  1. We develop a customised 'discussion guide' that describes the issues as objectively as possible, and sets out the evidence in support of different opinions. We use plain English and pictures and diagrams wherever possible to communicate the issues clearly and concisely. We produce this information in both electronic and paper formats allowing participants to 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 to allow participants to explore interlinking issues and contradictory evidence.
  3. We provide briefing materials and instructions for those leading or facilitating discussions, including hints on how to help people focus, and either build a consensus or a range of conclusions.
  4. Finally we provide paper-based or online feedback forms on which groups or individuals can report their conclusions. These are then posted on a website so that all who participate can see what others are saying.

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

Further information

Case studies

For a demonstration of our techniques in action please see our project case studies. In particular:

Contact us

For further information about public debates and developing customised discussion guides, and to discuss your individual requirements please contact us.



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