Deliberative innovations: Using ‘mini-publics’ to improve participation and deliberation at the Scottish Parliament

Oliver Escobar, Stephen Elstub

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


This paper introduces a range of democratic innovations known as‘mini-publics’ and outlines key features, how they work, and how they may improve opportunities for citizens to contribute to parliamentary deliberation.The idea of mini-publics was first proposed four decades ago by political scientist Robert Dahl(1989). Inspired by democratic ideals and social science principles, Dahl envisioned an innovative mechanism for involving citizens in dealing with public issues. He called it ‘minipopulus’: an assembly of citizens, demographically representative of the larger population, brought together to learn and deliberate on a topic in order to inform public opinion and decision-making.A growing number of democratic innovations have flourished around the world based on this idea(see Elstub 2014; Grönlundet al 2014; Elstub and Escobar forthcoming), from Citizens’ Juries, to Planning Cells, Consensus Conferences, Deliberative Polls and Citizens’ Assemblies(see Table 1). Mini-publics have been used to deal with topics ranging from constitutional and electoral reform, to controversial science and technology, and myriad social issues (e.g. health, justice, planning, sectarianism).
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCitizen Participation Network website
Commissioning bodyScottish Parliament: Commission on Parliamentary Reform
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


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