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THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS' PARLIAMENT AND THE FUTURE OF DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY ADDITIONAL CHAPTERS. ONLINE VERSION ONLY

ADDITIONAL CHAPTERS. ONLINE VERSION ONLY I.

THE DISCOURSE QUALITY INDEX APPROACH TO MEASURING DELIBERATION André Bächtiger Jürg Steiner, and John Gastil

II.

ACP COMMUNICATIONS CHALLENGES: THE WHOLE PICTURE Kathy Jones and Lyn Carson

III.

SPEAKING TOGETHER: GIVING VOICE TO COLLECTIVE IDENTITIES Andrea Felicetti, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp, and Lyn Carson

III.

ENGAGING DIFFERENCE THROUGH DIALOGUE: (ALMOST) IMAGINING A RACIALLY INCLUSIVE AUSTRALIA Katie Striley, Shannon Lawson, Laura Black, and John Gastil


THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS' PARLIAMENT AND THE FUTURE OF DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY ADDITIONAL CHAPTER. ONLINE VERSION ONLY

I ADDITIONAL CHAPTER. ONLINE VERSION ONLY THE DISCOURSE QUALITY INDEX APPROACH TO MEASURING DELIBERATION André Bächtiger Jürg Steiner, and John Gastil

Scholars share related but distinct conceptions of public deliberation. Our own understanding flows more directly from the work of German philosopher Jürgen Habermas.1 He argues that behind modern democracy lies a hypothetical “ideal speech situation,” in which two or more persons could infinitely question one another’s beliefs about the world until each perspective had been fully scrutinized, leaving only a limited set of valid statements on which to base one’s conclusions about an issue. We join those who have tried to use that hypothetical as a yardstick against which one can measure actual discourse.2 Our particular conception holds that deliberation has six components. First, arguments that deliberators make on a given issue must be justified with reasons that may also be supported by appropriate stories (evidence, experiences, etc.). Second, arguments must be framed in terms of the common good, which includes self-interested argument only so long as it is compatible with the common good. Third, arguments made by other deliberators must be considered and respected, even if not ultimately accepted. Fourth,


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deliberators must be willing to yield to the force of the better argument, should others make a more persuasive case for their views. Finally, to ensure that each viewpoint and set of arguments gets aired, all deliberators must have the opportunity to speak up in a free and unconstrained way. In principle, these five deliberative elements can be measured in an empirical way, but a sixth element may be impossible to measure, namely the truthfulness with which arguments are made.3 How do we get an empirical handle on the five measurable deliberative elements that in principle can be measured? How do we know whether the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) might reach or exceed the level of deliberation in an elected parliament? How does it compare to other innovative forms of public engagement, such as the Citizen Juries and Deliberative Polls conducted across the globe?4 This is precisely what we need to know if we want to investigate how variation in the level of deliberation can be explained in its antecedents and consequences.5 To answer these questions, the first two authors have worked with a larger research team to develop the Discourse Quality Index (DQI), a coding instrument designed to measure the level of deliberation in a public discussion or debate.6 Our research group and many colleagues have used the DQI both for the elite level of parliamentary debates and the discourse of ordinary citizens.7 We have not yet attempted such a comprehensive analysis of all the numerous discussions that took place at the ACP. Instead, in this chapter we have a more modest purpose— namely, to illustrate the mechanics and insights offered by the DQI by applying it to one of the ACP’s small table discussions. Thereby, we also want to show problems that may arise in using the DQI for this particular event.

The Discourse Quality Index Whereas some macro-level approaches make global assessments of an event like the ACP, the DQI considers the totality of a discussion but also undertakes a micro-level analysis of individual “speech acts.” Whenever a person speaks up, for a few words or an extended monologue, we count it as a single speech act. The DQI Codebook contains separate coding categories for each of the individual deliberative elements. On the listening dimension, for example each speech act receives one and only one of the following four codes: 1. The speaker ignores arguments and questions addressed to him or her by other participants.


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2. The speaker does not ignore arguments and questions addressed to him or her by other participants but distorts these arguments and questions. 3. The speaker does not ignore arguments and questions addressed to him or her by other participants and engages these arguments and questions in a correct and undistorted way. 4. No arguments and questions addressed to speaker Ensuring accuracy often requires coders to consider the overall context of the discussion. With regard to listening, for example, when a statistic mentioned by a previous speaker is not repeated accurately by the current speaker, this may constitute a significant distortion, or it may be an inadvertent and harmless error. Computerized category coding could not take account of such interpretive subtleties. To illustrate how the DQI’s method could apply to the ACP, the first two authors of this chapter conducted a sample analysis of a portion of the transcripts. We randomly chose one of the daily table discussions, and this happened to be Table 2 on Day 2 of the ACP. From this particular table-day, we chose to code the beginning, which constituted a relatively coherent set of exchanges.

Three Speech Acts on Public Education After an introductory exercise led by the table’s facilitator, the debate began in earnest when the facilitator asked how Australian democracy could be made better. The first sequence consisted of three speech acts on the topic of education. Donna spoke first: I think our local MPs [Members of Parliament], I mean we put them in, should do a little more, make themselves a little more available to the education of the children. In my era, we used to have them come around and introduce themselves. I don’t think that’s being done as much, it might be in some, but I don’t think overall it’s being done enough.

Argument and Justification What should be done with regard to education, according to Donna? Members of Parliament should concern themselves more with the education of children, but she gives no reason why this would help. Instead, she offers a personal story to support her claim. To code the


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level of argument and justification in this speech act, we choose among the corresponding categories: 1. The speaker does not present any arguments (asks, for example, merely for additional information). 2. The speaker only says that X should or should not be done, that it is a wonderful or a terrible idea, etc. But no reason is given for why X should or should not be done. 3. The speaker justifies only with illustrations why X should or should not be done. 4. The speaker gives a reason Y why X should or should not be done. But no linkage is made why Y will contribute to X. 5. The speaker gives a reason Y why X should or should not be done, and a linkage is made why Y will contribute to X. 6. The speaker gives at least two reasons why X should be done and for at least reasons a linkage is made with X. The speech act of Donna falls under category 3. In the initial Habermasian version of deliberation, stories such as hers went unrecognized; in recent years, however, there is increasing recognition that some stories may contribute to a deliberative atmosphere.8 They must be relevant, however, to the issue under discussion, and we do not think it does. She does not say how the visits of MPs helped the education of children. After all, one could also imagine that these visits merely disturbed the normal school day. Donna does not give any hints how the visits helped with her own education or the education of other children.

Common Good and Abstract Principles Moving on to the other deliberative elements, did Donna’s speech act refer to the common good? We must choose between two coding categories: (1) the speaker refers to benefits and costs for all groups represented in the experiment, or (2) the speaker does not refer to benefits and costs for all groups represented in the experiment. Code 1 is applied if a speaker considers the implications of a proposal for all groups represented in the experiment, which reveals a common good orientation. Donna, however, does not make any such references, so code 2 applies. Likewise, we also code her speech act as not referring to abstract principles, such as social justice, quality of life, and peace.


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According Respect With regard to respect, the DQI considers both signs of disrespect and positive indicators of respect. With regard to the first of these, a coder can give a speech act one of three codes: (1) the speaker uses foul language to attack other participants on a personal level, (2) the speaker uses foul language to attack the arguments of other participants but abstains from personal attacks, or (3) no foul language used. Donna does not use any explicitly disrespectful language, so her act gets code 3. Similarly, the coding of this speech act notes that Donna’s speaking turn did not use even moderately “explicit respectful language towards other participants and/or their arguments.”

Listening and Changing Views For listening, we used the coding categories shown earlier in this chapter. As first speaker in the debate, Donna had not yet to deal with arguments and questions addressed to her, so the null category (code 4) applies. Likewise, her starting position in the string of speech acts meant that she did not have the opportunity to change her views in response to others’ persuasive arguments. Thus, she gets the null coding (5) from these possible categories: 1. The speaker indicates a change of position. Gives as reason for change arguments heard during the experiment 2. The speaker indicates a change of position. Does not refer to arguments heard during the experiment 3. The speaker does not indicate a change of position. But does acknowledge the value of other positions heard during the experiment 4. The speaker does not indicate a change of position and does not acknowledge the value of other positions heard during the experiment. 5. As yet no other position articulated

Unconstrained Speech Finally, Donna could speak in an unconstrained way, which gives her code 2 for these categories:


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1. The speaker indicates verbally or by body language that he or she is constrained by the behavior of other participants (interruptions, private conversations, body language such as making faces, yawning, etc.). 2. The speaker can speak in an unconstrained way.

Coding Responses to the Initial Speech Act After Donna spoke, Jeremy asks, “Has anyone here emailed their local member and had a response?” Although Jeremy asks only a brief question, it constitutes a speech act and must be coded according to all categories of the DQI: Level of justification: 1 Common good: 2 Abstract principles: 2 Foul language: 3 Respectful language: 2 Listening: 3 Force of better argument: 5 Constraints: 2 This coding means that Jeremy did not take or change position, did not refer to the common good and abstract principles, used neither foul nor respectful language, did listen to the previous speaker without distortions, and could speak in an unconstrained way. Donna responds to Jeremy by saying, “I’ve emailed him and haven’t got an answer.” For this short answer, she gets exactly the same coding as for Jeremy.

Summary What is the overall deliberative quality of this short sequence on education? It is quite low. First of all, the level of participation is low with only two actors speaking up. Then the proposal under discussion is not justified and not even debated. There are no references to the common good or abstract principles, and no explicitly respectful language is used. The sequence is deliberative, however, in the sense that the actors can speak up in an unconstrained way, do not use foul language, and listen to each other.


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Speech Act Sequence 2: Bipartisanship and Ideology The next sequence in the debate is much longer and is introduced by Brad: Well one of the things that we thought was good was the House (of Representatives), sometimes you get a degree of bipartisanship of working together and it only seems to happen during crisis times so that would be good is if we could have a system where some of the best and brightest from both sides of politics tended to work more collaboratively. If we could encourage that somehow, get them to put the best and brightest in, rather than being always picking at each other for political reasons. If we can try and have them conversing in a way which tries to get a better idea rather than . . . Though the speech act is the longest yet, Brad’s words lack clarity about how to improve Australian democracy. Basically, he suggests that more bipartisanship among the best and brightest of both sides would better Australian democracy, so that with regard to justification we give him code 2. His summary coding reads as follows: Level of justification: 2 Common good: 2 Abstract principles: 2 Foul language: 3 Respectful language: 2 Listening: 4 Force of better argument: 5 Constraints: 2 We were somewhat hesitant about how to code Brad with regard to the common good. In referring to bipartisanship and collaboration of the best and brightest, he seems to have the common good of the whole country in mind, but he makes this claim only in a vague and implicit way. In order to stimulate further deliberative discussion, Brad should have said in an explicit way how his proposal serves the common good, so he gets code 2. For the other categories, our coding for Brad is straightforward and does not need comments. For the remainder of the paper we will mention only codes that are noteworthy one way or another. Donna responds to Brad by saying, “Tearing each other apart, yeah.” This speech act shows Donna listening to Brad without distorting what he said (code 3 for listening). She does


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not like that politicians tear each other apart and thus, given the context, supports bipartisanship but without giving any reason, so that she gets code 2 for level of justification. The following exchange then occurs: BRAD: Rather than tearing each other apart, work together to try and . . . DONNA: Yes, strengthen. BRAD: The thing is that they often have fixed ideas, fixed ideology, which are diametrically opposed. That era is slowly going now. We’ve got problems, we need to have people working together to get better solutions so the more they can do that the better. These three speech acts are very interactive, with Donna and Brad listening to each other without distorting what the other says (code 3 for listening for all three speech acts). They interrupt each other, which does not seem to bother them, so that we give code 2 for constraints for all three speech acts. Brad and Donna stick with their position that Australia needs more bipartisanship. At first, they still do not give any reason why more bipartisanship will be good for Australian democracy (thus code 2 for level of justification for the first two speech acts). In the last speech act, however, Brad begins to articulate as a reason that bipartisanship leads to better solutions, but he does not make a linkage between bipartisanship and better solutions (thus, code 4 for justification). Andrew then brings a new argument into the discussion: “As a follow on from that, we’re more likely to have a better democracy if MPs tend to affect the wishes of the electorate rather than the wishes of the party.” He clearly argues that democracy would be improved if MPs followed the wishes of the electorate, rather than their party, but he does not give a reason why this would work (code 2 for justification). To Andrew’s statement, Brad replies, “Yes, a good point,” and his speech act gets marked for its explicit respect toward other participants. (He gets code 1.) The discussion continues to be interactive with participants listening to each other respectfully and without distortions, and then this illuminating exchange occurs: FRANK: But I can’t see too, what’s wrong with a government, for example, just say treasury, now treasury’s an important job and law. Alright now if they haven’t got someone with that expertise why can’t they have somebody out like academic or something like that and say, we want you to look after that department?


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DONNA: Like an assembly. FRANK: . . . but before they can . . . JEREMY: They do, they have secretaries. FRANK: . . . yeah, but why can’t they ask another, like an academic to act, someone that they want, but that person has to go before, because they have to go before the Senate committee and the Senate has to ask them questions to make sure their interest aren’t conflicting. In the last speech act, Frank repeats his argument that sometimes academics need to step in, but he offers now a reason why this would not be a problem since hearings in the Senate would make sure that there are no conflicts of interest. This linkage, however, is not further justified (so code 4 for justification). Andrew then says, “There’s one problem with that, you end up with a situation where you have somebody like [former US Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice who is not elected by the people, running the country.” With this speech act a new dynamic comes into play because Andrew is the first to object to what a previous actor proposes. Using the example of Condoleezza Rice, he objects to the idea that academics should be appointed to high-level political positions. He gives a reason for this position, namely that academics are not elected by the people, but does not justify the linkage (code 4 for justification). When Frank responds, “Yeah, true,” the categories concerning the force of the better argument come into play. Is Frank convinced by the argument of Andrew, and does he change his position with regard to academics in high political positions? It is not clear to what Frank is referring when he says “true.” Does he only acknowledge that Rice was not elected by the people, or does he go a step further in accepting the position of Andrew? This is another case where we do not give any code at all. The last noteworthy point comes shortly thereafter when Andrew comments on whether cabinet members are appointed by the Prime Minister. “That’s only the case in the Liberal party,” Andrew says. “Quite often, for example, [at] the state level, the caucus selects the government ministers.” In saying this, Andrew challenges the information given by Brad. The DQI does not have categories to take account of such differences on factual matters. For the further development of the index we have to think of how to add the epistemic dimension of information entering the discussion. How accurate is the information? How contested is the


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information? As noted at the outset, it will not be easy to find corresponding categories that will lead to reliable and valid coding.

Reflections and Aspirations We stop here and attempt a summary evaluation of the deliberative quality of this sequence. This is done in a new, “holistic” way: instead of simply aggregating all individual speech acts (as with the original version of the DQI), we perform a so-called “constitutive evaluation” by highlighting whether certain quality standards of the DQI are present or absent during the whole debate.9 Referring only to the small portion of the transcript we analyzed, we reach the following conclusions regarding the different aspects of deliberation coded in the DQI. On the positive side of the ledger, the discussion was deliberative in the sense that nobody complained about being constrained and that no foul language was used, and there were occasional instances where explicitly respectful language was used toward other participants. With regard to listening the discussion was also deliberative. There was not a single instance where someone ignored questions or arguments addressed to him or her. There was also no case where someone distorted what previous speakers had said. On the other hand, there were no speech acts in which someone in an explicit way referred to the common good or abstract principles, and with regard to the force of the better argument, there was only one disagreement about a proposal, and no side changed its position. More importantly, the lowest-rated deliberative component concerned how arguments were justified. There was not a single situation where a reason was linked in a coherent way to a conclusion. This low level of justification may have to do with the topic of this sequence of the discussion. How political positions should be filled goes into deep issues of democratic theory, and one can hardly expect that ordinary citizens are able to put forward well-justified arguments in this respect. For the interpretation of the level of justification, one has to take account of the complexity of issues such as these. In this chapter, we do not venture to say more than that. Without a comprehensive coding of multiple tables on multiple days, let alone the larger plenary sessions, we cannot make a broad estimate about the deliberative quality of the ACP as a whole. That said, if all the debates of the Australian Citizens’ Parliament could be coded in this way, one could test hypotheses about the


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antecedents and consequences of variation in the level of deliberation across different tables and different days. Here, we have endeavored only to show what such an analysis requires. We have had success in training coders and analyzing large bodies of data, but the ACP represents one of the largest full transcripts of citizen deliberation. It is our hope that our illustration might inspire such a project, which can be done efficiently only with careful training and, in all likelihood, multiple coders. In conclusion, we believe we have shown how the DQI method distinguishes itself from the other methods in this volume. Though we recognize the value of self-report survey data and simpler observational approaches, we believe the DQI provides a more objective and reliable measure. Crude computational approaches cannot begin to appreciate the complexity of discourse. Even reliable measures of speaking-turn distribution miss the point; as we hope to have shown, one’s speech can be constrained even when one gets the chance to talk. Finally, the intensively qualitative approaches to deliberation have great richness but do not have a reliable and efficient method for rendering judgments, particularly across diverse settings. Moreover, the DQI represents the only one of these approaches that focuses squarely on the core argumentative aspect of deliberation—the statement of justified arguments and their due consideration. Thus, it remains our hope that more researchers will adopt this method and produce the kind of comparative results that could transform our understanding of the quality of deliberation, its antecedents, and its consequences. Notes

1

Jürgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge, MA: MIT

Press, 1989). 2

Ortwin Renn, Thomas Webler, and Peter Wiedemann, eds., Fairness and Competence in

Citizen Participation: Evaluating Models for Environmental Discourse (Boston: Kluwer, 1995). 3

Jürg Steiner, “Truthfulness (Wahrhaftigkeit) in the Deliberative Model of Democracy” (paper

presented at the Oslo-Yale International Workshop on Epistemic Democracy in Practice, Yale University, New Haven, CT, October 20–22, 2011).


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On Citizen Juries, see Ned Crosby and Doug Nethercutt, “Citizens Juries: Creating a

Trustworthy Voice of the People,” in The Deliberative Democracy Handbook: Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the 21st Century, ed. John Gastil and Peter Levine (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 111–19. On Deliberative Polling, see James S. Fishkin, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). 5

On the cause and effect of deliberation in face-to-face groups, see Stephanie Burkhalter, John

Gastil, and Todd Kelshaw, “A Conceptual Definition and Theoretical Model of Public Deliberation in Small Face-to-Face Groups,” Communication Theory 12 (2002): 398–422. 6

Fishkin and his colleagues recognize the usefulness of this instrument, and we are now working

together coding with the DQI the debates of Europolis, a major Deliberative Poll, held in Brussels May 29–31, 2009. See Marlène Gerber, André Bächtiger, Susumu Shikano, Simon Reber, and Samuel Rohr, “How Deliberative Are Deliberative Opinion Polls? Measurement Tools and Evidence from Europolis” (paper presented at the workshop, Frontiers of Deliberation, European Consortium for Political Research Joint Sessions, St. Gallen, Switzerland, April 12–17, 2011). 7

Jürg Steiner, André Bächtiger, Markus Spörndli, and Marco R. Steenbergen, Deliberative

Politics in Action: Analysing Parliamentary Discourse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Jürg Steiner, The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy: Empirical Research and Normative Implications (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 8

Steiner, The Foundations of Deliberative Democracy, chap. 2.

9

Gerber et al. “How Deliberative Are Deliberative Opinion Polls?”


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THE AUSTRALIAN CITIZENS' PARLIAMENT AND THE FUTURE OF DELIBERATIVE DEMOCRACY ADDITIONAL CHAPTER. ONLINE VERSION ONLY

II ADDITIONAL CHAPTER. ONLINE VERSION ONLY ACP COMMUNICATIONS CHALLENGES: THE WHOLE PICTURE Kathy Jones and Lyn Carson

The Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) aimed to meet a number of criteria for good public deliberation. Representativeness was addressed through the use of random selection, and a carefully designed process aimed to achieve deliberation. The most challenging aim was to achieve political influence, which depends on the goodwill of risk-averse political elites and conflict-seeking media. For this reason, the ACP project team recognised that a clearly articulated, well-managed communications/public relations strategy was vital. In this chapter, we summarize the strategic approach taken to communications activities for the ACP, review the outcomes in the context of these objectives, evaluate the constraints, and detail the lessons learned.

ACP  Media  Strategy   With an event of this scale and national relevance, organizers wanted widespread exposure to ensure that people knew about the event and were talking about it. This outcome was


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achieved by the previous year’s 2020 Summit, which was chaired by the prime minister and received considerable media attention across the country, particularly in the mainstream media. However, the 2020 Summit generated a polarising and highly critical debate about the summit itself and, by default, the value of citizens’ input generally. The ACP aimed to create a kind of “meta-deliberation,” which Eike Rinke and his co-authors define as “a process whereby newspapers, online news outlets, and other mass media help the wider public understand and think through issues in at least a quasi-deliberative way.”1 Our communications approach recognised the media’s influence as a key stakeholder. Positive media coverage can amplify the success of a deliberative event or even overcome negativity from opponents. Conversely, lack of media coverage can silence ambitious deliberative experiments or even undermine them. Australia’s media landscape provides a range of alternatives for coverage—five mainstream television networks, three major newspaper companies, a range of radio networks, and independent outlets which tend to focus on discrete target audiences. Australian audiences are well served with both public and private broadcasters, in both radio and television. Not all outlets operate in all geographic markets and in this context, suburban and regional newspapers and radio stations were a key target to address the nationwide aspect of the ACP. Most media outlets have representatives in the nation’s capital, Canberra, so these representatives were particularly targeted during the main face-to-face component of the ACP. An analysis of the quantity and character of the print media coverage generated by the ACP can be found in chapter 20. However, strategic communications is about more than achieving media coverage. It is also about managing issues and perceptions, developing relationships, and creating communications opportunities outside the narrow cast of mainstream media. It requires a clear plan, and the focus and flexibility to shift gears and resources to change direction when events do not quite unfold as anticipated. One of the key aims of the ACP communications strategy was not just to attract and manage media interest, but also to strategically manage other stakeholder relationships, branding, and positioning, and to ensure that discussion about the ACP was not limited to the mainstream media.


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ACP communications strategy devised by the first author of this chapter had nine phases, which are described in Figure 5.1. Key messages, target audiences, issues and responses, and communications risks were identified for each phase. The communications activities of each phase built on the work and the relationships developed in the previous phases. The table below outlines the communications activities for each phase and compares the objectives with the outcomes. These need to be considered against the specific constraints of each phase.


Figure O2.1. Summary of communication objectives, activities, constraints, and outcomes

Phase

Communications Objectives

Communications Activities

Constraints

Outcomes

Submission to ARC for grants funding

To develop support for the concept within academic community

Establish contact with University communications teams

Geographic

Contacts established at this phase were useful throughout the delivery of the ACP

Geography and resources – central coordination was required to maximise various University announcements

Minor coverage

Lack of funding – the invitation distribution process would have benefited from advertisements in local papers, though the result was outstanding

Nearly 3000 initial registrations of interest (well beyond the expected number—1500 undelivered, assume approx. 8,000 reached their target—so 34% response rate) —see Chapter 3 for exact figures

Not seen externally as newsworthy

No coverage

Further develop profile for newDemocracy with key influencers (including media)

Receipt of funding and establishment of project team

To inform interested stakeholders of the initiative

Invitations to participate to random selection of voters

To legitimise the process in the minds of those participating

Regional workshops with final attendees (plus some back up)

Establish standard branding to be used on stationery (regarding sponsoring universities, newDemocracy etc.) newDemocracy media release using Fred Chaney as spokesperson newDemocracy web page developed to provide information on the progress of the event

To mark the beginning of the process

University media release Media release to announce the delivery of the invitation, with Fred Chaney as spokesperson, issued nationally – focusing on regional and metropolitan newspapers Specially developed invitation distributed to over 9,000 randomly selected citizens Media release issued nationally with Fred Chaney as spokesperson – focusing on regional and metro newspapers


Launch of online forum

To focus on this event as innovative and world leading

Media release issued nationally with Fred Chaney as spokesperson – focusing on regional and metro newspapers

Not seen externally as newsworthy

Limited

Pre-event communications

To create excitement around in the lead-up to the event

Each Citizen Parliamentarian was contacted to see if they were interested/suitable to do local media interviews

A dedicated PR agency was used for this part of the Strategy

By far the most successful activity for media coverage

To create enough positive coverage to counterbalance any overtly negative coverage about the event or the process To negotiate for ‘alternative’ media coverage, such as social media and non commercial television coverage

A ‘doughnut’ media release was developed and sent to local and regional newspapers and a follow up call made A national media and stakeholder contact list was developed which included qualified media leads as well as those who had already run stories Establish contact with relevant MPs’ media officers

It was also successful in terms of helping to manage the risk of negative media coverage at the time of the ACP There was little interest from the major metropolitan outlets, with the exception of some columnists who had been part of newDemocracy’s relationship media strategy GetUp! [online political campaigners] published a blog of the proceedings ABC TV prepared a one-hour special covering the ACP

Invite all MPs to attend Identified potential spokespeople for the project (academics and former politicians, as well as the Citizen Parliamentarians themselves)

University of Western Sydney prepared a 30-second, 5-minute and 30-minute documentary on the ACP


Event media

To promote the concept of deliberative democracy by creating excitement around the event

A daily statement was issued to all on the stakeholder database highlighting the day’s activities (such as the opening by Senator John Faulkner and remarks from the joint chairs) A media desk was established at the event. Participants were encouraged to follow up their local media with assistance from the professionals on the media desk.

The media desk was not in the main corridor, so it was not top of mind as participants were moving between sessions. The area where the desk was located was not air conditioned, whichpresented a problem in the weekend’s heatwave conditions As the enormity of the Victorian bushfires emerged, the Canberra TV stations sent their crews to the scene of the fires in Victoria

Post-event communications

To highlight the success of the deliberative process and the outcomes of the deliberation

All Citizen Parliamentarians were asked to follow up with their local media and local MPs to report on outcomes Letters outlining the detail of the process and the outcomes were sent to all Australian Government Members of Parliament

Resourcing – follow up with the media was not centrally coordinated as financial constraints meant the PR agency was no longer involved

The daily bulletins gathered the most interest from radio outlets, which requested interviews with one of the cochairs. Interest was highest among ABC radio stations around the country, but commercial radio also took interviews ABC television and pay television stations also did interviews The Canberra based commercial network also did an initial story

Since the Prime Minister did not attend the final handover of the ACP recommendations (due to bushfires), there was little media coverage of the outcomes There was some local coverage of the outcomes from interviews with local ACP members; similarly, a number of local MPs and Citizen Parliamentarians linked up to identify opportunities for using the process with their constituents Specialist media also took an interest: education, political journals etc


Follow up – one year on (Feb 2010)

To highlight the learnings from the deliberative process To review progress on the recommendations To promote outcomes of the research

All Citizen Parliamentarians were contacted and asked to talk to their local media and share their stories with others through the newDemocracy website A ‘How to‘ guide (ACP Handbook) was published by newDemocracy and distributed to all participants and MPs as well as interested media (now available online)

Resourcing – media follow up was not centrally coordinated. Timing and funding

Positive feedback, in terms of stories about how the ACP had changed the way they thought about politics, was received from about 25% of Citizen Parliamentarians Parliament did not respond to the recommendations of the ACP, although a few MPs demonstrated interest in the process Academic participants published numerous articles and were nominated for an international award for the ACP


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Activities,  Constraints,  and  Outcomes   One of the major constraints to achieving our communications goals was geographic distance. As Australia is a vast continent, extensive coordination was required to create new relationships. Other constraints included limited resourcing (both from a time and a financial perspective), external factors (such as the impact of the Victorian bushfires and the heatwave across the East of Australia on the weekend of the event), and the perceived “newsworthiness” of the recommendations (which were considered neither revolutionary nor controversial, and were not championed by any mainstream politician). At each phase of the process, at least one media release and/or information sheet was issued by newDemocracy, acknowledging the other sponsors of the ACP and using the ACP chairperson, the Honourable Fred Chaney, and/or the co-Chair, Lowitja O’Donoghue, as the spokesperson. The list of nominated ACP spokespeople expanded as the event drew closer and also after the event, ensuring appropriate spokespeople were available for different target audiences. Target audiences included local MPs, key influencers in the media, the academic community, the Citizen Parliamentarians themselves, and communities more broadly. Given that media coverage in Australia is often very parochial, the targets were also divided geographically. Stakeholder lists for target audiences such as media, politics, and universities were continually expanded throughout the project. The newDemocracy Web site was also updated with new information at each phase. The communications strategy was driven by the newDemocracy members of the project team. Academic members of the project team coordinated communications with their own university media offices. Independent experts were co-opted by the project team to provide a broad range of advice on key communications elements such as targeted messaging for different stakeholders, the newDemocracy Web site, and the electronic interactivity around the lead-up to the event, as well as during the event. Varying levels of success were achieved at different stages of the project. For instance, the effort invested in stakeholder identification and engagement back at the grants-funding stage paid dividends, setting up relationships that were useful throughout the life of the project. The most successful outcomes were achieved in those stages where expert external advice was enlisted—specifically in the invitation phase (advice received from marketing


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specialists) and the pre-event phase (advice received from PR specialists). These phases had been identified in advance as crucial to the success of the project, which was why specialist assistance was recruited, albeit generally in a voluntary capacity (with the exception of the PR specialists). For example, developing a distinctive ACP brand and crafting invitations that received a positive response from potential participants were key elements in achieving the required number of participants. More than a third of the 9,000 invitees responded—an extraordinary response to a blind mail-out. Positioning the event correctly was an important step in encouraging participants to sign up to something they believed in and saw as important. As shown in Figure 5.1, the Citizens’ Parliamentarians believed so strongly in the event that many of them became ambassadors for the ACP, albeit often as champions for local ideas and issues. The fact that each electorate was represented by just one participant made it easier for local media to see them as legitimate representatives. The mainstream media focused on covering the bushfires, devoted little space to the ACP. Nationally, however, the ACP received coverage in local and specialist media. The least successful phase, in terms of outcomes achieved, was the post-event phase. The key obstacle here was the lack of resourcing. Media coverage was not polarised, which reflects the fact that few serving politicians were actively involved in the outcomes of the process.2 Social media was not included in our initial strategy because of the team’s limited expertise in this area and the lack of available resources. In hindsight, this should have been more of a focus, with social-media experts recruited from the earliest phases. The project’s online element—the Online Parliament—would have provided an excellent stepping-off point.

Lessons  Learned   A number of lessons about communications delivery can be learned from the ACP experience, and should be considered in the planning for future citizens’ parliaments or similar high-profile deliberative forums. As with any event, there were some issues over which we had no control. For example, the ACP took place on a weekend of unprecedented, catastrophic bushfires. Politicians were distracted, the media was distracted, and the dreadful loss of life and property meant participants


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were collectively grieving. The magnitude of this event, and its impact on many levels on the ACP, cannot be overstated. To focus on issues within our control, the first lesson was the importance of using wellknown, highly respected figures as the key spokespeople for the event. Our co-chairs spoke eloquently and, thanks to their reputations, they opened many doors for us. Other spokespeople should be chosen carefully and identified early. We had a matrix of spokespeople reflecting each target audience and broad geographic location. It was important that we had a geographically dispersed group of academics and that we capitalised on the time provided by our expert speakers. This gave us different types of stories for different media outlets. The list of spokespeople should include a geographically and demographically diverse group of the Citizen Parliamentarians themselves. Not all people are comfortable talking to the media, but about 10% of the group were very adept at the task. They were helped in the first instance by the dedicated PR agency, and then took up the task themselves. The stakeholder database (including media) needs to be prequalified before the event. In other words, we talked to all the people on our list, to ensure that spokespeople were available and that the media were provided with the stories that were of interest to them. This prequalification helped us during the event. We used the qualified stakeholder list as our basic distribution list for the daily bulletins, and referred to it to provide local interviewees. This approach was particularly attractive to radio broadcasters. The use of communications specialists was a key success factor. The specialist marketing advice we received was particularly useful in deciding the form and delivery of the invitations to the randomly selected database, which resulted in a very high response rate. Similarly, the specialist public-relations agency we hired was very successful in achieving our objectives for the pre-event phase. During the event phase, the bushfires resulted in limited media coverage. Resourcing for all the different elements of the communications task is a key element of all citizens’ parliaments, and also the most expensive. The ACP had limited communications resources, relying in many instances on volunteers, including people from outside the project team who freely gave their time and expertise because of a personal commitment to the cause of deliberative processes.


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Another lesson we learnt is that dedicated communications resources are required at each milestone event through the delivery process and on through the follow-up phases. A communications budget must be corralled from the project-delivery costs and should include enough funding for a public-relations agency to provide support at high-profile times in the delivery process—an effective way to manage the peaks and troughs of activity. Relying on mainstream and metropolitan media coverage carries a number of risks, including the possibility that the media may take an editorial position which undermines the credibility of the process. The damage this can cause was demonstrated in 2010, when the Australian prime minister floated the idea of using a citizens’ assembly to decide climate change issues during her election campaign.3 The concept drew adversarial political and editorial comment typical of a campaign environment. In order to manage these risks, it was important to provide local stories to local media (radio, TV, and press), which could create a groundswell of local interest around the Citizen Parliamentarians. This allowed us to use parochialism to our advantage, giving us a counterweight in the event that the mainstream coverage started to take a negative editorial position. Better funding would have enabled us to buy advertising or advertorials in key newspapers, and allowed us to develop and implement a thorough social-media campaign. These alternative communications activities would not only have helped with risk management, but would also have helped us to achieve our “influencing” communications objective in the constrained environment of the bushfires and heatwave, by keeping discussion alive in a different forum. “Influence” could still have been achieved in the post-event phase. The general media attitude to the event and the ACP concept was benign, almost patronising. Little traction was achieved with the members of Parliament who attended, partly because of the lack of media interest and partly because the government did not respond formally to the recommendations. A social-media campaign beyond the GetUp! blog would have been very useful at this point.4 Nevertheless, MPs and their Citizen Parliamentarians identified local opportunities which could have generated ongoing local interest. However, lack of resources and reliance on volunteers in the post-event period meant that these opportunities were not maximised. If possible, additional funding should also be allocated to this period.


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Conclusion   The experience of the ACP provides an interesting case study of the challenges and strategies associated with this type of event. Our strategic approach was particularly useful not just for managing issues before they arose, but also for creating the structures and tools—such as central coordination and a comprehensive stakeholder database—that proved essential to our communications successes. Other key success factors included the use of high-profile people as spokespeople for the project, and the use of specialist resources, such as marketing and PR, at key times. The success of our communications approach was diluted by two key challenges. The first was a lack of resources—both in the budgetary and staffing sense—which limited the amount of communications activities carried out. More funding would have enabled additional approaches, such as advertising and a social-media campaign. The second challenge was the unprecedented heatwave that took place across eastern Australia on the weekend of the ACP, and the consequent serious bushfires which dominated the local, national, and international media over the weekend and for days afterwards. The scale of the bushfires in Victoria was catastrophic—more than 170 people killed, whole towns destroyed, and the Victorian community and bureaucracy are still reeling from the impact of the fires years later. The media responded as they should have, providing detailed reporting on the tragic events and sending their resources from all over the country to the scene of the fires. For example, crews from both SKY News and ABC television covered the first day of the proceedings, but the crews were sent to the bushfire area for the rest of the weekend. Similarly, the prime minister attended the scene of the devastation and was not able to receive the final recommendations from the Citizen Parliamentarians. Notes

1

See chapter 20 in The Australian Citizens’ Parliament and the Future of Deliberative

Democracy, the published book to which this online chapter is a supplement.


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See the chapter referenced in Note 1.

3

See Chapter 21 in the book referenced in Note 1.

4

GetUp! describes itself as “[a]n independent movement to build a progressive Australia and

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bring participation back into our democracy” and can be accessed via http://www.getup.org.au/ (accessed January 16, 2012). Its director, Simon Sheikh, attended the ACP and one of the regional meetings.


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III ADDITIONAL CHAPTER. ONLINE VERSION ONLY SPEAKING TOGETHER: GIVING VOICE TO COLLECTIVE IDENTITIES Andrea Felicetti, John Gastil, Janette Hartz-Karp, and Lyn Carson

The Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) has given us the opportunity to see whether deliberative democratic theory has meaning for the practicalities of public engagement. Early theories presumed the existence of a shared collective identity among those who come together to deliberate, and some research suggests that deliberation can, indeed, give rise to shared judgment, or at least a convergence of views and a more public-spirited self.1 But can deliberation give rise to collective identity and a truly collective voice that is more than a statistical generalization about a distribution of opinions? This chapter examines these questions by listening for how individual ACP participants referenced collective identities and used collective voices during their four days of deliberation at the ACP. Careful qualitative analysis of the event’s transcripts demonstrates how frequently and in what manner Citizen Parliamentarians (CPs) framed ideas and issues in terms of “collectives”—publics, communities, and political entities beyond themselves. To these general descriptions, we also add an analysis of what factors appeared to increase participants’ propensity to employ collective identities and voices.


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Conceptualizing  Collective  Identity  and  Voice   The concept of identity has multiple and changing meanings across history,2 but in this chapter, we rely on a particular conception of collective identity that traces back to German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. He wrote, I would like to reserve the expression collective identity for reference groups that are essential to the identity of their members, which are in a certain way “ascribed” to individuals, cannot be freely chosen by them, and which have a continuity that extends beyond the life-historical perspectives of their members.3 We focus on processes that allow people to activate this identity. Social identities are embedded in socio-political contexts,4 and there are degrees to which an individual can (or cannot) realize, understand, and acknowledge that he/she has a collective identity. In particular, there may exist certain deliberative democratic practices, such as the ACP, that help individuals access their wider collective identities. We analyze the concept of collective voice—as well as collective identity—because we assume the two are interconnected. Despite the fact that a collective identity may already be nascent, it takes a process of reflection and communication to recognize it. Thus, a voice that speaks in collective terms may be a means to—or a sign of—a shared identity. In short, a voice can express the cognition of an identity. When looking at transcripts of events like the ACP, one can see a collective voice when participants reference groups that belong to the public sphere, rather than the private sphere, or when comments share private experiences that empathize or identify with other participants in a conversation. Other times, a person can show a temporary group-based connection, for example as a fellow CP during the ACP, without direct reference to a broader shared identity. Though not expressing a fully collective voice, such statements likely contribute to the construction of public ties.

Why  Collective  Identity  and  Voice  Emerge   Applying these concepts to public life, and deliberation in particular, we start from an Aristotelian notion of zoon politikon and investigate the idea of individuals’ having an underlying ability to employ a collective voice, which emerges when people are given occasion to express it. This shared eagerness to connect makes individuals even more likely to discover


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collective identities and speak with a shared voice. Out of a desire to take political action, democratic citizens can go far beyond atomistic and individualistic patterns of behavior. Common identity can also be elicited through complaining about expectations that individuals feel entitled to as part of a group, but that the political system does not fulfill. One such frustrated desire is to live in a more accessible local community, in which politics connects with everyday experiences. Thus, the desire to be heard and become better informed about politics comes from this desire for a shared understanding and action on public problems.

An  Australian  Case  Study   Before looking at voice and identity at the ACP, we briefly consider the Australian context of this case study. We then provide more detail on our research method.

An  Individualistic  Cultural  Setting   Despite “mateship” being singled out as a distinctive feature of Australianness,5 social scientists have claimed that Australia is a typical case of very individualistic society that privileges individualism over solidarity.6 Given the stress on individual responsibility rather than collectivities and groupings, “the politics of ordinary people is grounded in pragmatic and commonsense individualism.”7 Australia has the second highest value on the individualism index employed by Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions analysis: Australia’s index score is 90 out of 100, second only to the United States’ 91. By comparison, a 51—near the index midpoint— represents the world average.8 Thus, Australia represents a most unlikely place for cultivating the collective dimensions of political life. Within this inhospitable cultural context, we can see what happens in terms of a collective voice and identity when people participate in the ACP. Will the event reaffirm the participants’ individualistic culture, or will they develop a different way of relating to others, for example, by identifying themselves and speaking of themselves in more collectivist terms? If we can find a collective voice and collective identity in a relatively short deliberative event in Australia, we argue that we may be able to find them elsewhere too.

Qualitative  Data  Analysis   The initial aim was to identify every instance in the transcripts of a form of collective expression, ranging from local to national to global collective identities. A team of readers, under


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the direction of the first author, went through the transcripts from every table and plenary discussion at the ACP and generated the initial set of instances. These were then subjected to a secondary analysis, which gleaned the most representative or illustratively distinctive instances of collective speech. The interpretations of those key excerpts appear in the main results section below. Given the sheer amount of evidentiary material gathered over the course of a four-day event, a qualitative analysis of the Parliament’s transcripts permits only minimal verbatim interactions. Nonetheless, the evidence presented here illustrates effectively what occurred at the ACP in terms of collective identity.

Examples  of  Collective  Identity  and  Voice  at  the  ACP   The deliberative sessions at the ACP have been described elsewhere in this book. Therefore, we turn immediately to the character of the deliberation at the ACP and present textual evidence of CPs’ talking in a collective voice. One feature of many CPs’ comments was so widespread that it could have been overlooked. CPs often chose to speak as “we” in reference to the full body of CPs and, less often, in reference to one’s particular discussion group. In the same sense that researchers saw a strong sense of “we” among participants in the 1996 National Issues Convention held in Austin, Texas,9 so did the ACP yield a similar general collective identification among its members. More remarkably, some CPs even reflected explicitly on their use of the collective pronoun:10 CP1: So, this is, “We” as a Citizens’ Parliament or this is, “We” as in individuals? CP2: As in a normal person, just like every other single person. CP3: “We the people.” CP4: Yeah, that’s how I understood it. Is that how everyone else understood it? CP1: That’s why I was asking, I wasn’t sure whether-CP4: I understood it to be, “We” individually and collectively. It’s the, “We” so it’s a collective . . . .


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Though the collective “we” was ubiquitous, what’s more important from our perspective is that CPs used a collective voice that reached beyond and outside the tightly-bonding ACP itself. In identifying themselves as members of a group, the CPs often conceived of their collective dimension as being articulated on three different levels: nation, state, and community. The first level of identification we consider was being “Australian.” Participants constantly referred to this level as the stronghold of their common identity. However, we noted that the CPs’ references to a common Australian identity were imbued with rhetoric. Unlike their debates on state and community, when it came to Australianness, instances of thoughtful discussions were rare. Instead, sentimental talk prevailed. However, when people addressed issues like becoming a republic (versus being part of the British monarchy), the level of debate on national identity skyrocketed: CP1: You must maintain [the monarchy] . . . . CP2: I reckon it’s our history. CP1: It’s our heritage. CP2: People try and chop off and just disassociate themselves from our history and it’s like, no we need to look back and love our history . . . . Interestingly, the rhetoric tones were occasionally instigated by enthusiastic facilitators, as in the excerpt below: FACILITATOR: I like not having the, you know, “God Save the Queen.” You know, I like having our own national anthem. I don’t know, I think Australia, it’s our name for 200 years . . . . The second level articulated was that of the state in which the CP lived. Although this level was employed to mark identity, it was usually perceived as a barrier to collaboration. According to the CPs, this was the level where legislation most needed to be improved if the political system was to avoid duplication and state redundancy: CP1: I’d say [I’d like to] to unify the country’s state laws so that interstate travel and dealings are seamless. So whether you live there, whether you just travel there, whether you’re dealing in business, that sort of stuff . . .


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CP2: Without jumping too far ahead, you know they are talking about cutting out the state parliament. . . . we’re in Australia, why not have Australian registration? Why not have Australian licenses? . . . The two excerpts below coming from different tables illustrate how similar ideas were raised throughout the discussion on States : CP1: . . . Occupational health and safety rules in every state are different, so it’s extremely difficult to operate around the country. It’s also difficult for individuals moving from state to state because you have to reregister yourself in each state . . . . CP2: . . . We probably need uniformity in some issues, like . . . our road rules, you drive from state to state, you don’t want to know about different road rules for each state. Health is something that affects the whole of Australia, not just our state . . . . Even in the midst of talking about the states and territories, the background assumption is that “we” are all Australians, even when setting different state laws. Thus, when CP2 in the aforementioned discussion says, “We probably need uniformity,” this speaker believes one nation needs one set of laws, but the assumption is that the ACP participants speak on behalf of their common nation, not as much their particular interests. Such an assumption goes unchallenged in many table discussions. When talking explicitly about common identity, one’s community—the local place that one came from or lived in—was the collective level that CPs addressed most often.11 With regard to the collective voice, CPs’ desire for more participatory opportunities was largely oriented towards this level. From the CPs’ conversations, it would appear that CPs expected their future forays into politics to take place largely at local community level. For example, consider the following excerpts respectively from day 1, 3 and 4: It’s also we have local government, cause that’s where people do make their first step into politics, or you can actually voice one particular concern, if it’s in where you live. You can often see somebody you know, or one of the pamphlets, so it’s a far more personal thing and therefore you feel it’s a more active vote, you feel that something is going to be done with people and issues in communities.


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... I’d also like to touch on the theme that seems to be coming up as a front runner there on almost all of those things is empowering the people, let me find the right wording, empowering the people to do something, empowering citizens to participate in politics through education, no sorry through community engagement. That’s been in the top five almost every time and that’s what we need to make sure we’re going to be doing when we get back and start the ball rolling now so in 30 years time it’s just something that happens naturally, something that will just become part of our life... Well I reckon then that the shot would be that you know we go back to our communities, we go back to our local newspapers, you go to the editor, explain the whole situation. I know I’ve got support back up at my place. The importance of community was highlighted by numerous CPs during the plenary session on day four (and empowerment through community engagement was among the final recommendations), for example: So out of this [the ACP] we’re looking to the future and we can see that we’ve developed proposals, but we’ve also learnt three other things from this experience and that is how to be involved in democracy, how to be participate in your community and we’ve gained energy and confidence to go out into the community and get involved. This deliberative process, it’s very special and I’d really commend to everyone around us to take this tool back to our community. Bring it to our community groups, bring it to our dialogue with our friends and our families because it does give you energy, it does give you empowerment, it engages you and it brings us to a greater understanding. Political and everyday life tended to intersect the most at the community or local level. At this level people had a better understanding of the issues and believed their voice could be heard more effectively. People also used community to claim their origin. However, generally, these claims were not expressed in a divisive way. Instead, one’s distinctiveness was intended as a means of fostering reciprocal understanding. In essence, the community level talk was more likely to perform a unifying function. At the ACP, collective voice was not only a background


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assumption for the ACP itself, but was also invoked in reference to local, state, and national identities.

Forces  Promoting  Collective  Identity   Through looking at the transcripts of the ACP, three elements appeared to bolster the rise of a collective identity and collective voice at this event. These included deliberative context, the national relevance and distinctiveness of the event, and the nature of the issue being addressed. At the end of this section, we also consider what unifying discourse the ACP avoided in regard to Indigenous Australians.

The  Deliberative  Context   Deliberation at small tables allowed the CPs to discover a surprising commonality in their views as well as opportunities to clarify divergent positions. Below is an intervention in which one CP explains his best moment during the ACP: For me, it’s a moment but one I thought is repeated every time you have these round tables, it’s a visual thing, it’s the amount of nodding that’s going on. People just nodding, like lots of nodding, assent you know, and how it’s even sort of spilled over into like last night on the bus and having a drink with people . . . Everyone’s agreeing with each other but also disagreeing, not disagreeing but trying to find common ground, and I think that’s been quite defining for me, the lack of that adversarial thing and lack of conflict. The ACP’s deliberative approach fostered respectful interaction, as shown, for example, by the following passage, in which another CP explains one of the best moments for her: CP1: Yeah, I think what someone else said but when we had the opportunity to be heard and put our view forward and have people listen respectfully and it was all done in a very pleasant sort of atmosphere. That was probably one of the things. CP2: It demonstrated a lot of good will in that listening and sharing . . . . Or as evidenced at another table: CP1: . . . we’re learning from each other, so it’s not having one person tell you what to do.


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In sum, the deliberative structure of the ACP itself provided a fertile ground for the emergence of collective identity and voice. Working together to solve a common problem through respectful discourse promoted a shared identification among the CPs.

Exceptional  Event   In addition to the deliberative context, the exceptional nature of the national event may have promoted the emergence of a collective voice and identity. Initiatives like the ACP—that allow people to summon information, spend time understanding others’ viewpoints, analyze the issues and select priorities, which would then be heard by politicians—are a rarity in everyday people’s political experience. This fact may have induced a level of enthusiasm that is not typical of citizens’ everyday political experience, and that may have promoted a great openness towards fellow citizens, bolstering the CPs’ willingness to embrace common identities. In other words, the very fact of being part of such a particular national assembly may have favored the rise of a common voice, more coherent and powerful than what usually happens in everyday life. The following comments from different tables and days show how some of the participants perceived the ACP as a unique occasion for having a say and sharing their political experience with fellow citizens from all over the country: CP1: It’s not about an individual, it’s about Australians. CP2: Listening to other people’s opinions . . . put together is also makes it easier for you to then come up with your own opinions, rather than say it like, when a politician just speaks for you . . . . CP3: I think just this continuous work-shopping around as I call it, kitchen table. I feel comfortable in this setting. I love it, it’s great. You can be heard, you can listen to anybody at any time and you can put up an argument. I will add though . . . The plenary session on day four also hosted many remarks in this sense, one is reported below: ...the other reflection that I’ve had just in talking with different people is just the power that comes from being heard, being understood, not judged and not criticised and that is a very, very powerful dynamic. That’s something I want to personally take back into my world, to my family, to my community and to the organisations that I’m involved in.


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A  Unifying  Issue  for  Discussion,  and  the  “The  People”  versus  “Politicians”  Dynamic   The final factor that likely increased the sense of collective identity and voice was the nature of the topic at hand. Political reforms are not always or necessarily divisive subjects, and this may have been particularly true in the case of the ACP, in which the CPs were invited to respond to a very generic question (“How can the Australian political system be strengthened to serve us better?”). A subject like this may have left the deliberators with numerous issues upon which consensus could be found. It should be remembered that no one required the CPs to address any specific issue—an option that is not always available outside the ACP, for example in those forums in which only very specific problems have to be addressed. Moreover, the outcome of the ACP’s deliberation was not as difficult as, for example, the production of a piece of legislation, or material to be submitted to an electorate’s judgment. This meant far less pressure on the CPs. In short, the fact that the CPs could focus on less divisive matters, leaving behind the hardest topics, and the fact that there was virtually no external accountability could have favored a more open approach in comparing and exchanging opinions. In our view, working together on generic political matters that allowed for common ground enabled citizens to cooperate as members of the same group, against an out-group that was made of other people: in particular, politicians. In other words, an evident in-group and outgroup trend took place at the ACP. A number of discussions showed the tendency towards idealization and categorization of groups.12 The following excerpt reports a CP talking about the quality of their deliberations relative to their prior expectations: ... we have all had a say whether we are right, whether we are wrong or whether our ideas have gone up there. But to get 150 people, and to get those from all of us, to get it all channelled down to just a few ideas or a few proposals. That’s just absolutely fantastic the way it has been done. Their deliberation felt surprising because their prior expectations came from observing more conventional political discourse. As this table’s conversation continues, the tone of the discussion changes dramatically: CP1: Thanks that’s nice and how different. The thing that makes you think of is how different it looks to the real parliament on the floor and yelling [laughter] and booing . . . .


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[…] CP4: I don’t even like my kids to watch it because it just seems a bad waste. CP5: Yeah, exactly. CP2: It’s their mode of conduct I think in the end. CP3: And it seems very personal. CP3: Yeah, because there’s no respect. CP2: Definitely. […] CP2: Well we’ve got a parliament that can’t show respect so what do we expect. CP6: This is an interesting point. These guys treat each other poorly, they’re rude to each other, they use each other . . . but we didn’t choose them, the parties chose those people. We didn’t choose them; we didn’t choose them, that’s the funny thing. These dynamics can be explained to a certain extent as an attempt at self-enhancement made by the in-group. In particular, while the CPs speak of themselves almost exclusively in a positive manner, the opposite is true with regard to politicians. The CPs did not reject the representative political system unequivocally; rather, they criticized a particular aspect of it—the political system’s insensitivity to the public voice. In other discussions, whereas CPs appreciated voting as a fundamental feature of a democratic political system, they harshly criticized it when it was perceived to be little more than a tool to legitimize the political class. Nevertheless, CPs acknowledged the complexity of the political task, and some gave examples of admirable politicians (albeit to highlight their distinctiveness from other politicians). In particular, CPs appreciated those politicians who operated closest to the community that elected them—those perceived as being more connected to the people. That said, in the main politicians were referred to in negative terms. For example: CP1: I find with our member or in general, it’s a one way thing. If I want something I need to ask him or I need to ask any local member but I think they need to come out in the community more often and get involved . . . .


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CP1: . . . Not just at election time but whenever there’s something on. CP2: Instead of hiding in their office all the time, or going out onto a building site. Whereas in-group self enhancement might have been at work here, it was more likely an expression of dissatisfaction with politicians and, as in the following quote, citizens’ feelings of powerlessness: FACILITATOR: Do you feel empowered? CP1: No. CP2: Absolutely not. And again that’s due to my ignorance where only now am I acutely aware of what’s going around, being a home owner and living in a council group seeing the corruption and that that’s going on and going hey I want to know how he got to that point, how we can do something else about it. And the fact of being asked to participate in this, I’ve suddenly had to go, oh damn, now I have to learn. So, but not before that, what empowerment have we got? We’re just a subservient people that elect them into power and then we just have to sit back and accept whatever decisions they make for us. CP3: Do you feel that you get jerked around a bit, when an election is coming up too, because the media sort of thing . . . Despite numerous quotes such as these, in terms of CPs’ orientations towards the overall political system, CPs acquired a greater appreciation of the existing political system by the close of their deliberations. The CPs’ “sense of identity” might have extended beyond that of the group “to the very system they were charged with improving.”

Indigenous  Australians:  Including  a  Potential  Out-­‐group   Besides politicians there was another potential out-group that CPs often mentioned: Indigenous Australians or the Aboriginal people.13 The CPs’ stance towards this out-group was very different from the one held towards politicians. In fact, CPs tended to see Indigenous Australians as victims of the system, though there were some exceptions (e.g., “They’ve got to stand and then you’ve got to be voted in so it’s not a lack of us offering


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them opportunities it’s a lack of them having initiative to do it”). Other discussions reflected more equivocal views: CP1: Where I’m coming from with what Mark said is I understand that the Indigenous society have specific needs. We all have specific needs. Our needs need to be met accordingly and appropriately. Why can’t we all just be Australian? CP2: A blended nation. Well we are, aren’t we? CP1: We’re the second most multi-cultural country in the world. CP2: We’re a very blended nation and I feel the disadvantaged whether they be white Australians, Asian Australians, Indigenous people, the really disadvantaged people of all community, they should be all treated equally in respect of resources and what we can give them to help them. CP1: And be respected and given the same opportunities, everybody . . . CP2: They are disadvantaged. There are some really disadvantaged Indigenous communities and we have to acknowledge that. These considerations were aligned with the CPs’ general appreciation of the concept of “equality” for all citizens. Indigenous Australians, disregarded for such a long period in Australian history, must now have their claims heard. In this instance, the “good” in-group and “bad” out-group comparison did not enhance the image of CPs in the same way as with politicians. Instead, through a shared understanding and respect for Indigenous Australians, CPs in-group thinking led to higher satisfaction and self-enhanced identity, an example being represented by the excerpt below: CP1: . . . Why in this discussion have we got to discriminate between different types of groups? We’re talking about Australians . . . . […] CP2: Not Aboriginal Australians, but all Australians . . . Reflection on the relationship on the role of Indigenous people in the broader Australian community represented at the ACP raised throughout the deliberation. Below two instances from different groups:


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CP1: ... the Indigenous gentleman, when he was talking about the viewpoint from the Indigenous population and who is the ‘we’. I mean that had a really powerful message for me and looking at who’s going to gain and who’s going to lose. CP1: Well, for me the “We” as an Australian, has to include recognition of Indigenous people as the First People of Australia and I don’t think Australia can move ahead without that occurring and for me it has to be at either constitutional level, it has to be at the highest level of the land . . . . In this instance, the in-group tended to objectify an out-group in order to include it. Symbolically speaking, politicians were isolated and Indigenous Australians integrated.

Conclusion   Through analysis of the transcripts of the ACP, we explored the rise in collective voice and identity that took place during the workings of a deliberative assembly. This phenomenon was particularly surprising given the individualistic nature of Australian society. Beyond identification with the ACP itself, three levels of the collective dimension were discerned—nation, state, and community. Australianness clearly emerged as an important source of shared identity. References to Australia, however, were often entangled in rhetorical disputes about the nation itself. In many instances, CPs also identified themselves with their state. Moreover, people often referred to the state as the political level where a great deal of legislative work is needed. The CPs claimed that, even if states are useful to safeguard differences among various areas of the country and address regional problems, they also appear as a burden to collaboration among different areas of Australia. Finally, the community level most frequently received explicit invocation, and it was where CPs directed most of their hopes for an improvement of the quality of their political lives, especially in terms of meaningful public participation. Three factors appeared to stimulate the rise of a collective voice and identity during the ACP. The deliberative context provided a structure and norms that promoted collaboration and a collective identification with the process itself that naturally spilled over into other shared identities. The exceptional nature of the event further reinforced the sense that the CPs all had something unique in common, the chance to work but also speak together—another push toward


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drawing on preexisting collective identities. Finally, the less adversarial nature of the topic permitted the public to stand against politicians rather than dividing within itself. Though CPs often told stories invoking their more local identities, the main in-group they identified with included the whole body of CPs and, by extension, the Australian people. Their shared identity was enhanced further through idealization and categorization of two groups— Indigenous Australians and elected politicians. Progressively, CPs manifested an appreciation of Indigenous people, and strove to include the protection of the rights of minorities in general into the final document to be presented before the Australian Parliament. In doing so, the CPs further cemented their own collective identity by way of inclusive discourse. Such a result is encouraging for those concerned with deliberation’s ability to maintain an inclusive spirit even when, numerically, a disadvantaged potential out-group lacks sufficient numbers to have a strong voice in a body. Quite the opposite occurred with regard to the political class, which, with few exceptions, was repeatedly criticized, and this raises a challenge for deliberative processes. Though many public officials deserve criticism for anti-deliberative actions and policies, it remains necessary to work effectively with governments that choose to establish processes like the ACP.14 Even the most radical reform approaches use citizen deliberation to complement, rather than replace, electoral politics.15 In conclusion, given the individualistic character of the Australian cultural terrain, it is likely that collective expressions like those seen at the ACP occur regularly in deliberative forums across the globe. If future research shows this to be accurate, then deliberative democracy may well help nurture the collective dimensions of political life. Notes

1

David Mathews, Politics for People: Finding a Responsible Public Voice (Chicago: University

of Illinois Press, 1994); James S. Fishkin, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Mark E. Warren, “Can Participatory Democracy Produce Better Selves? Psychological Dimensions of Habermas’s


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Discursive Model of Democracy,” Political Psychology 14 (1993): 209–34; John Gastil, E. Pierre Deess, Philip Weiser, and Cindy Simmons, The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010). 2

Judith A. Howard, “Social Psychology of Identities,” Annual Review of Sociology 26 (2000):

367–93, 367. 3

Jürgen Habermas, Communication and the Evolution of Society (Boston, MA: Beacon Press,

1979), 108. 4

Howard, “Social Psychology of Identities,” 369.

5

Duncan Macgregor, Andrew Leigh, and David Madden, Imagining Australia: Ideas for Our

Future (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2004), 18–19. However, the concept of “mateship” seems to be predominantly tied just to social relations among males rather than the whole society (Bob Pease and Keith Pringle, A Man’s World? Changing Men’s Practices in a Globalized World (London: Zed Books, 2001), 191). 6

Dennis Altman, 51st State? (Melbourne: Scribe Short Publications, 2007), 56.

7

Judith Brett and Anthony Moran, Ordinary People’s Politics: Australians Talk about Life,

Politics and the Future of Their Country (Melbourne: Pluto Press Australia, 2006), 326. 8

Geert Hofstede, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (New York: McGraw-Hill,

1997); Geert Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations across Nations (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2001). 9

Roderick Hart and Sharon Jarvis, “We the People: The Contours of Lay Political Discourse,” in

The Poll With a Human Face: The National Issues Convention Experiment in Political


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Communication, ed. Maxwell McCombs and Amy Reynolds (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1999), 59–84. Note that the ACP small discussion groups were randomly shuffled each day— and interspersed with full plenary sessions—to foster a broader collective identification with the full body of CPs. 10

Unless otherwise specified excerpts reported together belong to discussions taking place at one

table. 11

This was partially due to the repeated act of storytelling based on everyday life experience as a

means of sharing knowledge. 12

According to Symbolic Convergence Theory, identifying outsiders, as well as sharing

fantasies, stories, and jokes, are all clear sign of a process of creation of a common identity. Ernst G. Bormann, John F. Cragan, and Donald C. Shields, “Three Decades of Developing, Grounding, and Using Symbolic Convergence Theory,” Communication Yearbook 25 (2001): 271–313. 13

In recognizing Indigenous Australians as vulnerable victims of settlers’ racist oppression—

William Tyler, “Postmodernity and the Aboriginal Condition: The Cultural Dilemmas of Contemporary Policy,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology 29 (1994): 321–42, 327; Kathleen Butler-McIlwraith, “Representing Indigeneity: The Possibilities of Australian Sociology,” Journal of Sociology 42 (2006): 369–81—Australians have usually depicted Aboriginal culture has a monolithic entity, almost romantically attached to its own values: Steven Thiele, “Taking a Sociological Approach to Europeanness (Whiteness) and Aboriginality (Blackness),” Australian Journal of Anthropology 2 (1991): 179–201; Emma Kowal and Yin


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Paradies, “Ambivalent Helpers and Unhealthy Choices: Public Health Practitioners’ Narratives of Indigenous Ill-health,” Social Science & Medicine 60 (2005): 1374–75. 14

John Gastil, Political Communication and Deliberation (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008).

See also Tina Nabathci and Cynthia Farrar, Bridging the Gap between Public Officials and the Public: A Report of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (Washington, DC: Deliberative Democracy Consortium, 2011). 15

Bruce Ackerman and James S. Fishkin, Deliberation Day (New Haven, CT: Yale University

Press, 2004); John Gastil, Democracy in Small Groups: Participation, Decision-making and Communication (Philadelphia: New Society, 1993); Ethan J. Leib, Deliberative Democracy in America: A Proposal for a Popular Branch of Government (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004); Kevin O’Leary, Saving Democracy: A Plan for Real Representation in America (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006).


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IV ADDITIONAL CHAPTER. ONLINE VERSION ONLY ENGAGING DIFFERENCE THROUGH DIALOGUE: (ALMOST) IMAGINING A RACIALLY INCLUSIVE AUSTRALIA Katie Striley, Shannon Lawson, Laura Black, and John Gastil

Public deliberations like the Australian Citizens’ Parliament (ACP) are ideal places for transcending racial tensions, because deliberative discussion frameworks commonly invite dialogue.1 Nevertheless, important differences exist between the two concepts, and convening a deliberation does not necessarily cause dialogue to occur. Though it can be articulated in a variety of ways, public deliberation always concerns working together on a public issue to reach some kind of decision or recommendation. By contrast, dialogue is more about how we understand ourselves and others than about policy choices or decisions. It requires being profoundly open to others while maintaining one’s own sense of identity.2 Dialogue requires the courage to face one’s assumptions, the ability to remain open for true engagement with difference, which risks a sometimes unexpected personal transformation.3 Skeptics have questioned the ability of deliberative discussion frameworks like the ACP to trigger a genuine, dialogic engagement with minority perspectives.4 Formulated as a “difference critique” of deliberative theory, this view holds that ostensibly deliberative events


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unconsciously rely on dominant power structures, privilege majority groups, and obscure fundamental social, cultural, and economic differences among deliberators. When deliberation places too much emphasis on consensus and the common good, it creates a false image of one public, rather than a plurality of diverse publics. Too often, however, this debate has existed on a theoretical plane, and the most compelling examples of failure occur at public events that bear only a passing resemblance to deliberative ideals, let alone the standards of public dialogue.5 The ACP proves a useful case study because based on the results shown in other chapters of this volume, it appeared sufficiently deliberative, had at least a modest level of equality in speaking turns, and employed a multimethod design that welcomed at least some differences of opinion. That said, could the ACP’s deliberation become more dialogic when that more personally demanding form of talk became necessary? In this chapter, we examine how well the ACP fared when the issue of race and Aboriginal Australians’ political rights and identity emerged on Day 2. We begin by reviewing the context of this issue, then look carefully at how the small-group table discussions handled this issue once it arose. What did discussions about race look like at the ACP? What were the challenges to engaging in racial dialogue? Were CPs trying to create a space of racial inclusivity? In answering these questions, we show numerous challenges to effective dialogue, but we also glimpse more genuine moments of dialogic engagement.

Who  Is  “We”  at  the  ACP?   When a discussion of race emerged during a plenary session on Day 2 of the ACP, it came as no surprise to those who had designed the event. Though the ACP focused on politics and government more broadly, the organizers had made certain that the final 150 Citizen Parliamentarians (CPs) included Indigenous Australians.6 Organizers had also named a distinguished Aboriginal Australian, Lowitja O’Donoghue, as one of the two co-chairs of the ACP, and organizers included an Aboriginal activist in the main plenary panels on Day 2. It was this panelist, Mark Yettica-Paulson, founding member of the National Indigenous Youth Movement of Australia, who challenged CPs to dialogue about racial inclusion. Mark began his presentation with a hypothetical story: Imagine for a moment that . . . Brazil is going to take over Australia. Therefore everything that we know to exist the way we are, who we are as people now comes under


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the sovereignty of Brazil. So our communication, our language now becomes Brazilian, our lifestyle, our food, the way we interact, the family structure, the societal structures, everything we do in terms of our leisure all takes a different turn. The social systems, the political systems all change to reflect that of Brazil. Now for some of you, you might say, “Cool Rio Carnivale sounds nice to me.” But once the samba has finished and the feasting is finished you start to say, “Wait a second, what happened to our way of life? What happened to the way that we wanted to do things? What happened to our lifestyle?” Imagine then for a moment they say to us, “Okay we’re not going to be complete bastards, we’re not going to impose complete Portuguese language on everyone. You can speak in Portuguese, Italian, or Spanish.” And how much of us, how many of us would say, “Cool non problema, noti problema. Italiano sepre bellissimo.” . . . Well how many of us? What would be your response, your natural response to a Brazilian takeover of Australia? For those unfamiliar with the Australian context, Mark’s analogy intended to bring to the front of deliberators’ minds the nation’s history of racial oppression and prejudice.7 Overtly discriminatory practices carried on well into the twentieth century. From the 1910s–1970s, hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal children were taken from their parents; they became known as the stolen generation, and the rationale for their removal is still contested.8 Laws such as the Aboriginal Provisional Act of 1913, which governed employment practices and limited Aboriginal movement, caused major social and cultural upheaval.9 The Australian government denied suffrage to Aboriginals until 1967.10 Even today, Aboriginal Australians experience higher levels of illness, poverty, unemployment, and imprisonment than the non-Indigenous majority.11 Rhetoric often constructs these disparities as individual shortcomings, rather than structural disadvantages, thereby reinforcing negative perceptions of Aboriginal Australians.12 Mark invited participants to dialogue about race on three levels. First, he asked participants to consider, “Who is we?” In other words, what does it mean to be Australian and who is included and excluded in this definition? Second, he requested that participants critically assess the story of Australia’s past. Finally, he urged participants to imagine what an appropriate relationship with Indigenous Australia might look like in regards to recognition and government participation.


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Before we look at how the ACP participants responded to these comments, two larger facts merit noting. First, Mark’s comments produced a surge in discussion of this issue, and it crystallized into the single most important recommendation that did not come directly from the Online Parliament—the call to “recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples in the Constitution.” Second, on Days 3–4 of the ACP, there occurred powerful moments in which both white and Aboriginal Australian CPs explicitly embraced an inclusive conception of national identity. Those felicitous outcomes, however, need not obscure the difficulty that the CPs had with this issue. To see the range of reactions at the table discussions on Day 2, we analyzed the discourse in all forty conversations about race that occurred on that day.13 In our analysis, we address several themes that emerged during deliberants’ discussions, challenges that impeded racial dialogue, and hopeful moments that demonstrated the potential for racial dialogue and some deliberants’ desire to address racial tensions. Finally, we will end with some suggestions for better blending the distinct imperatives of deliberation and dialogue.

Challenges  to  Dialogue   In deliberants’ responses to Mark, we identified five themes that challenged CPs’ abilities to engage in dialogue about race. The overarching hindrance was that many of the small table discussions (hereafter called “groups”) created a clear dichotomy between “us” (non-Indigenous Australians) and “them” (Aboriginal Australians). Other conversations trivialized Mark’s speech, exchanged stereotypes, and flashed anger and the desire to exist separately from Aboriginals. Still other group discussions exhibited colorblind rhetoric aimed at integrating indigenous Australians or advocated a more forced assimilation into non-Indigenous society. One or more of these challenges to dialogue in thirty-eight of the forty conversations we analyzed.

Trivialization   One group paid scant attention to Mark’s speech, and proceeded to trivialize his comments. Initially, it might appear that this group is praising Mark, but deeper consideration reveals a lack of serious engagement in his invitation to dialogue about race: ABE: Has anybody got any comment to make about Mark? CANDICE: The what? ABE: The black fella in other words.


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RAYLENE: Remark about him? Absolutely beautiful. ABE: Well I think we should say so. I thought so too. I would say to the black man in the black shirt, he made a black and white case for more understanding. I thought he was terrific. OWEN: It was very entertaining, it was concise. The group remarked on superficial elements of Mark’s speech and focused on a personal evaluation of Mark, rather than critically engaging his ideas. Toward the end of their discussion, Raylene revealed that Abe was asleep during Mark’s presentation and Abe conceded that he was “not very sympathetic to Indigenous peoples.” Candice and Abe reflected on the group discussion about Aboriginal issues. Candice admitted, “I’m not getting any value out of it,” and Abe agreed, “No, I’m not either.”

Stereotyping   Ten of the conversations focused on negative stereotypes of Aboriginals, including stories of Aboriginal drug and alcohol abuse. For instance, one female CP related this account of an agricultural show in a country town: Every Aboriginal child that lived within so many radius got something like fifty dollars from the government for them to go to the show and I reckon 90 percent of those cheques went over the bar at the local pub. This is the sort of thing we’re talking about, you know. At another table, a female CP said, “They generally go down and get their alcohol and then they’re down in creek beds and they’re drunk.” To that, another woman responded, “That’s a common problem in the cities with them, too.” Even language showing sympathy for Aboriginal Australians drew equally bright lines of difference between them and the non-Indigenous population. For instance, one female CP told a story that drew on stereotypes while constructing a narrative of victimhood: There was one beautiful Aboriginal girl, she was just lovely, and she was doing really well [in school] but was starting to have a lot of absenteeism . . . . So I met with the mother . . . . I just said, “Tell me the story,” and I just sat there for hours just listening to this woman. She was so beautiful in a suburban home in Gungahlin . . . [that] looked like my Gran’s home or my Mum’s home, it was a very normal home. But so she just sat, and she told me how she was a part of the Stolen Generation. When she left she was eighteen,


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and she met a young man who was also from the Stolen and . . . she became pregnant. She had these children . . . . She’s often very drunk and she was using drugs . . . , same with her son, [who] was in jail. So now she was caring for this next generation, and she was just sort of going, “I don’t know what to do.” . . . They don’t even look Aboriginal, yeah. But you go home to their grandmother, [and] their grandmother’s full-blood. You know they’re still Aboriginal. In sum, this narrative holds that the struggling student—this “beautiful, young girl”—was a victim of an inescapable Aboriginal-Australian legacy handed down from her grandmother. Thus, Indigenous people might look just like white Australians and live in similar homes, but their story is not our story.

Anger  and  Resentment   The next category encompasses three strong emotional responses, all oriented toward pushing “them” away. Resentment, anger, and righteous indignation act as means of rejecting Mark’s call for creating an inclusive system. For some non-Indigenous Australians, Mark’s appeal appeared to threaten their identities as good citizens. As this excerpt shows, some expressed resentment toward Aboriginal Australians: My daughter is a school teacher, right, and she’s taught in the Northern Territory for six years. . . . There were 250 Aborigines, and there were six white people—a nurse and teachers. They . . . threatened to rape one young female teacher, they stoned their classes, they planted the community in a muck [colloq.: “a mess”]. [My daughter] . . . packed the stuff up [and left]. She was too scared, but she’s had all that experience. Now when she came back to Newcastle, there was a job advertised wholly and solely for an Indigenous teacher—someone that understood the culture, which she did. They still haven’t placed that job. They wouldn’t even give her an interview because she wasn’t Indigenous, regardless of the fact that she’s taught in the Northern Territory and understood the children. Several CPs echoed this resentment toward a group that, as these CPs saw it, were capable of savage behavior yet received special privileges. As one CP later commented, “They have a whole new set of rights and freedoms that we actually don’t have.” Another female CP used more bitter language:


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I get really sick of the Aboriginal race. . . . It’s just they get so much free stuff more than any other—any other thing in Australia and yet it’s still, “It’s poor me, they took this, poor me, I haven’t got this, poor me my kids were taken,” and probably got a better life than what they would have had. Another female CP resented the insinuation that non-Indigenous Australians “have to feel bad about what has happened to the Aboriginals.” Lamenting what she called her “white guilt,” she said, I mean, that’s happened in the past and the whole world clearly isn’t in the 1800s anymore. It wasn’t good, but it happened. . . . we all still feel so guilty about it and I don’t know exactly how to say, I feel we need to get on with things and not keep looking back all the time to say, “Oh, look what bastards we were.” When conversations recentered themselves on the ACP’s focal issue of political governmental reform, concerns arose about what one CP called an “antidemocratic” tendency toward “reverse discrimination” in ensuring Aboriginal representation in the Parliament. Another table took up this issue in earnest: FACILITATOR: How do we say recognize and include minorities while at the same time not dividing our society? ALBERT: [W]ould that start up a racist, why don’t you include Muslims, why don’t you include Chinese? SHAUN: I don’t think they just deserve an automatic five seats. They would have to go to represent themselves into a party and get voted into all, it goes right through the political system to get that seat. It doesn’t matter how many get in then. It doesn’t have to be five or, it can be 100% . . . . it doesn’t matter as long as they actually go the whole process. GERRY: There’s going to be a problem with the Constitution if we gave extra proportional rights to a minority group. How does that fit with our Constitution? The facilitator’s question illustrated the push and pull between wanting to recognize Aboriginals and yet wanting to avoid division. Rather than critically evaluating why Aboriginal Australians are excluded from government and seeking dialogic understanding of the Indigenous experience, this group flatly insisted that Aboriginals should receive no special treatment in the electoral process.14


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Colorblindness  and  Assimilation   An alternative approach opted for a “colorblindness” that made even a brief dialogue on race appear unnecessary. Colorblindness suggests that markers of diversity, such as skin color, are not salient to lived experiences. Deliberation’s orientation toward consensus, unity of opinion, and a single imagined “public” may lend itself toward such an approach.15 As Katherine Cramer Walsh concluded after an extensive study of public forums on race, it is imperative to attend to both similarity and differences when discussing that subject.16 Many CPs, however, were reluctant to do so. As one female CP said, “As far as I’m concerned if you live in Australia, you’re an Australian, whatever color you are—green, whatever.” Another exchange shows one CP maintaining this view, even though an interjection highlights a key point of difference: PETE: It’s quite difficult because there are so many stories and we have all come from everywhere, so maybe we should think, what are our similarities? We’re humans and we’re here. ANDY: At some point, our forbears migrated here and— PETE: At some point, humans came to Australia, and they’ve kept coming ever since. So we’re human, and we’re here. Even when Andy attempted to articulate differences between Aboriginal and white Australians, Pete cut him off and reemphasized the shared humanity in all people. Other CPs acknowledged differences but thought this a deficiency—an unnecessary lingering on the road to a colorblind society. These CPs insisted that Aboriginals must assimilate into white Australian society. One frustrated male CP, for instance, noted Indigenous Australians’ “refusal” to conform: Many attempts have been made to assimilate these Aboriginal people into society, but they’ve rejected everything. . . . “No, we’re going back to our old ways.” And they’d quite happily go and live in the bush. . . . They were given opportunities for education. They had school of the air, Flying Doctors, everything given to them—food, clothing, and they reject the whole thing. In sum, comments like this and others too numerous to include showed a strong first reaction from many of the ACP table discussions against beginning even a brief dialogue on race


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and inclusion. Reframing or rejecting the issue made it possible to move on to the many other potential focal topics on Day 2, which each of these tables did.

Sparks  of  Dialogue   Although a majority of the forty Day 2 conversations on race made dialogue more difficult, some CPs appeared ready, willing, or even eager to enter into open dialogue about race.17 That said, we observed several failed attempts to engage in dialogue. At one table, the discussion initially focused on stereotypes and blaming, but then the facilitator offered the group a new perspective: Do you think if we went through the process of creating a new identity as Australian people that took into account Australia’s First People and used a deliberative process . . . that people might be in favor again of creating a new identity like a new flag . . . ? To this, a female CP responded, “I’m sure, but I have to say that I think you’re leading the argument.” She chastised the ACP facilitator, who was pledged to neutrality, for being biased. Our view is that in this instance, the facilitator was attempting to broaden the CPs’ perspectives. Too often, when speakers implicitly affirm the status quo, their objectivity is applauded, but the same audience will berate them as biased when they introduce a marginalized or alternative viewpoint.18 Another instance of failed dialogue occurred when Alison self-disclosed that her stepbrother is Aboriginal. This led to the following exchange: JANELLE: We Australians are losing our identity because we’re told to bend to all of the ethnic groups and cultures that come into Australia, so Australians generally feel that they are under threat of losing their identity. ALISON: I know that’s your opinion, but I don’t feel that way. . . . I don’t find that I’m losing my Australianism at all. I actually think it’s a fantastic thing—that we can provide assistance to people who are actually less fortunate than us. . . . All I’m saying, as an individual, I don’t feel that I’m at all compromised by others. IAN: My parents are teachers and a few years ago they were told they weren’t able to have Christmas celebrations with their class at school. Christmas is part of our culture. JANELLE: We are a Christian, English-speaking country. Our roots are, this is our heritage.


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ALISON: But then we go to the Aboriginals, before it settles. I think the best thing is to say, is that what we’re learning from this, and we’re educating ourselves on the areas that we didn’t know before, so education is a good key to everything. FACILITATOR: Does anyone else want to have a go? Do you guys want to say something? ROBERT: About what? FACILITATOR: The question. ROBERT: It’s pretty convoluted. With the facilitator’s blessing, the conversation then shifted away from the Aboriginal issues that Alison had tried to raise. Recalling that the ACP had made a special effort to ensure that its stratified random sample included Aboriginal Australians, those Indigenous CPs proved critical to dialogue. In each of the three conversations that achieved a modicum of dialogue on race, an Aboriginal participant was present. At one table, Pam began the conversation suggesting a colorblind strategy: “Why can’t we all just be Australians?” She asserted that Aboriginal Australians should not be treated differently because they would waste any gifts they received. Her table mates then engaged in a dialogue on the subject: MIKE: They’re a people of themselves. Why should they take on our values, they want to believe in themselves. ANTONY: I think we could give them the space and time to stand on their own two feet. I think that’s a bit simplistic, but we haven’t done that. And what I’ve heard— there’s a lot of things came up that were dangerous—but what we’ve . . . thrown money at them. We have said, “I want you to be what I am.” And it goes back to the analogy, if Brazil came in and did that to us how would we feel? How would we react? Where would we be? We need to give them time and space. Antony acknowledged both similarity and difference and helped Pam understand that assimilation is not the answer. By recalling Mark’s speech, Antony personalized the argument and put Pam in the shoes of an Aboriginal Australian. Fewer than ten minutes later, Pam acknowledged the merit in Antony’s view when she said, “Yeah, it’s got to be, maybe a cultural exchange. Because we can teach them our culture” and “they can teach us their culture.” She


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then asked, “Would it be possible and appropriate to have an Indigenous class during primary school education?” The other dialogic moments showed similar transformations in perspective, and we highlight one other example from later in the ACP to underscore the limitations that deliberative events like this place on open-ended dialogue. On Day 3, the small table groups were given thirty minutes to do something that would help them “think about what is most important.” In that narrow window, this prompted a novel act by a facilitator whom organizers had already seen step outside the formal and informal norms of the event. She invited her group to exit the Old Parliament building and visit the Aboriginal Tent Embassy nearby. Though later reprimanded for too strongly leading the group in a particular direction, the act had a significant impact on many of that table’s members. As one CP declared in reflecting on the Embassy visit, “I thought it was a unique experience. It certainly has changed my thinking.” Another said it “opened a new line of thinking for me,” and one suggested that all ACP participants should make such a trip “earlier in the process.” Frustrated event organizers, however, requested that the facilitator resign at that point. Her table mates, however, took the view that this act represented a productive complement to the more formal discussion procedures that dominated the ACP’s agenda. In effect, they asked for a process that front-loaded dialogue before moving on to the more policy-oriented work of deliberation.19 As one male CP said to the facilitator, “I disagree that you influenced us. We are all free-minded people. You supplied a framework, this entire workshop is a framework and that was a valuable framework for me to reflect on some powerful issues.” He then applauded the facilitator’s actions and suggested that the ACP adopt activities like this in the future. He said, “[W]e’ve just had a moment of heart rather than this workshop which is focusing on mind and thought so it’s a very helpful intercession that we’ve just had. . . . it would be really useful for the process to encompass activities that stop us thinking and encourage us to feel.”

Conclusion   As this incident makes plain, the ACP was built principally for deliberation—not dialogue. Moreover, its broad charge to consider ways of improving Australian politics and government invited dozens of potential recommendations, which left little time for an in-depth examination—let alone a full-fledged dialogue—on any one topic. The net result was that when


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a dialogue-worthy subject emerged on Day 2, most small groups declined to open up their conversations to a risk-taking, open-hearted dialogue. Many groups resisted the dialogic moment created by Mark’s plenary speech by trivializing racial issues, stereotyping Indigenous Australians, reacting with resentment and anger, and/or using colorblind rhetoric to gloss over racial differences. In spite of the event’s structural limitations and many CPs’ resistance to dialogue, however, such talk did occur in a few of the conversations. Furthermore, it is worth noting that during the closing ceremony on Day 4, one Aboriginal CP described his feeling of inclusion at the ACP. He said, “We need to embrace the Citizens’ Parliament because the idea is, I heard about a ‘we’ and an ‘us.’ If I’m sitting here, which I am, then I think I’m becoming a part of the ‘us’.” Ultimately, Indigenous concerns appeared in the ACP’s final recommendations, in spite of their absence from the original set of Online Parliament proposals. Such an outcome likely reflected the robustness and simple duration of the ACP, which had a full four days to churn through the issues and emotions raised in the first few hours of discussion. Overall, the ACP experience underscores the plain fact that difference matters, and one cannot take for granted that open-minded dialogue will occur in even well-designed deliberative events. For those designing such activities, as well as those scholars studying the critical antecedents of dialogue and deliberation, we offer these insights into the critical factors supporting dialogue in the midst of deliberative processes. First and foremost, we observed that the presence of Aboriginal participants fostered several dialogic moments. Conversations between Aboriginals and non-Indigenous Australians tended to focus more on respecting diversity. No participants at cross-race tables called upon negative racial stereotypes or expressed hostility or resentment about Aboriginal rights. Therefore, future deliberations should consider the pros and cons of having a minority voice present at all tables. This format would allow participants to look upon the face of “them” and interrogate difficult questions about race and identity together. Put in more abstract theoretical terms, there may be times when evenly balancing participant viewpoints and experiences takes precedence of statistically representative sampling. Second, some CPs were willing to enter into dialogue, but needed guidance to do so. As one female CP said, “As a non-Indigenous Australian, I believe Australian society needs to be guided in this. . . . They need to be helped to understand.” The inclusion of Lowitja O’Donoghue


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as co-chair and Mark Yettica-Paulson as a key panelist helped serve this function, but down at the level of small-group discussions, there was a role for the facilitator to play. Facilitators should be trained (and encouraged) to prompt engagement with difference, particularly when a group pushes itself toward premature consensus, rather than pushing for group consensus.20 Meanwhile, the public process itself must have the flexibility to recognize the need for dialogue and adjust its schedule accordingly—either in advance or, when unexpected dialogic needs arise, in the course of the event itself. At a minimum, this requires a multi-day process, but a specifically dialogic procedure should be ready at hand.21 One CP who sensed time passing too quickly at the ACP put it this way: “We could only talk about things that we thought we knew about. . . . We don’t know a lot now” but we now “know a little bit more than . . . half an hour ago.” In the end, we acknowledge that no process will have enough time to do all that is necessary for a complete dialogic and deliberative process. By keeping the event’s scope manageably narrow, providing multiple days for discussion, including a diverse set of participants, and empowering facilitators to spark dialogue, a process will improve its chances of engaging in rich dialogue. The ACP was not, on balance, a success at generating such talk in individual group discussions, even if as a collective, it gave clear recognition to Indigenous concerns in its final report to Parliament. The point of this chapter has been to study the ACP to learn what can go wrong, and how we can do better. In this regard, we believe that the ACP was an unqualified success. Notes

1

Laura W. Black, “Deliberation, Storytelling, and Dialogic Moments,” Communication Theory

18 (2008): 93–116.   2

Martin Buber, I and Thou, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Scribner, 1958).


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See Rob Anderson, Leslie A. Baxter, and Kenneth N. Cissna, eds., Dialogue: Theorizing Difference in Communication Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2004), for a comprehensive overview of dialogic theory.   3

W. Barnett Pearce and Stephen W. Littlejohn, Moral Conflict: When Social Worlds Collide

(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997), 8.   4

Lynn M. Sanders, “Against Deliberation,” Political Theory 25 (1997): 347–76; Iris Marion

Young, “Communication and the Other: Beyond Deliberative Democracy,” in Democracy and Difference: Contesting the Boundaries of the Political, ed. Seyla Benhabib (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 120–35; Mark Lawrence McPhail, “Race and the (Im)possibility of Dialogue,” in Anderson, Baxter, and Cissna, Dialogue, 209–24.   5

Tali Mendelberg and John Oleske, “Race and Public Deliberation,” Political Communication 17 (2000): 169–91; Christopher F. Karpowitz and Jane Mansbridge, “Disagreement and Consensus: The Importance of Dynamic Updating in Public Deliberation,” in The Deliberative Democracy Handbook: Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-first Century, ed. John Gastil and Peter Levine (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2005), 237–53. In their survey interviews of juries, Andrea Hickerson and John Gastil, “Assessing the Difference Critique of Deliberation: Gender, Emotion, and the Jury Experience,” Communication Theory 18 (2008): 281–303, found evidence contrary to the difference critique. 6 We use the term Aboriginal in its broadest sense to denote the early inhabitants of Australia and thus desire to include Torres Strait Islanders where appropriate. We are aware of the terminological minefield that such labels traverse, particularly the danger of essentializing. We use the term in the interest of clarity while fully acknowledging the complexities of the many peoples subsumed under the term. We use the term non-Indigenous to denote primarily the descendants of European colonists whereby white is not always sufficient as it seems to reduce the discussion to skin color while overshadowing the complexities of race.


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Kay  Anderson  and  Colin  Perrin,  “How  Race  Became  Everything:  Australia  and  Polygenism,”  Ethnic  and  

Racial  Studies  31  (2008):  962–90;  Kay Anderson and Colin Perrin, “‘The Miserablest People in the

World’: Race, Humanism and the Australian Aborigine,” Australian Journal of Anthropology 18 (2007):18–39; Scott A. Reid, Helen N. Gunter, and Joanne R. Smith, “Aboriginal Selfdeterminism in Australia: The Effects of Minority-majority Collective Guilt and Compensation Attitudes,” Human Communication Research 31 (2005): 189–211; David Mellor, Di Bretherton, and Lucy Firth, “Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australia: The Dilemma of Apologies, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation,” Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 13 (2007): 11–36; Raja Jayaraman, “Inclusion and Exclusion: An Analysis of the Australian Immigration History and Ethnic Relations,” Journal of Popular Culture 34, no.1 (2000): 135–55.   8

Tony Barta, “Sorry, and Not Sorry, in Australia: How the Apology to the Stolen Generations

Buried a History of Genocide,” Journal of Genocide Research 10 (2008): 201–14; Olivia Guntarik, “Resistance Narratives: A Comparative Account of Indigenous Sites of Dissent,” Narrative Inquiry 19 (2009): 306–27; Mellor, Bretherton, and Firth, “Aboriginal and NonAboriginal Australia”; Lorenzo Veracini, “A Prehistory of Australia’s History Wars: The Evolution of Aboriginal History during the 1970s–1980s,” Australian Journal of Politics and History 52 (2006): 439–54.   9

Martha Augoustinos, Keith Tuffin, and Mark Rapley, “Genocide or a Failure to Gel? Racism,

History and Nationalism in Australian Talk,” Discourse & Society 10 (1999): 351–78; Julia Martinez and Claire Lowrie, “Colonial Constructions of Masculinity: Transforming Aboriginal Australian Men into ‘Houseboys,’” Gender & History 21 (2009): 305–23.   10

Russell McGregor, “Another Nation: Aboriginal Activism in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s,” Australian Historical Studies 40 (2009): 343–60.


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Augoustinos, Tuffin, and Rapley, “Genocide or a Failure”; Mellor, Bretherton, and Firth,

“Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australia.”   12

Augoustinos, Tuffin, and Rapley, “Genocide or a Failure.”  

13

For an overview of our basic research approach, see James Paul Gee, An Introduction to

Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2010). 14

This viewpoint willfully assumes an unraced reality and refuses to acknowledge that

generations of minorities have been socialized into systems of inequality. See Allan G. Johnson, Privilege, Power, and Difference, 2nd ed. (Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill, 2006).   15

Jane J. Mansbridge, Janette Hartz-Karp, Matthew Amengual, and John Gastil, “Norms of

Deliberation: An Inductive Study,” Journal of Public Deliberation 2, no. 1 (2006): art. 7, accessed January 11, 2012, http://services.bepress.com/jpd/vol2/iss1/art7; Sanders, “Against Deliberation”; Young, “Communication and the Other”; Nurit Guttman, “Bringing the Mountain to the Public: Dilemmas and Contradictions in the Procedures of Public Deliberation Initiatives That Aim to Get ‘Ordinary Citizens’ to Deliberate Policy Issues,” Communication Theory 17 (2007): 411–38.   16

Katherine Cramer Walsh, Talking About Race: Community Dialogues and the Politics of

Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).   17

The more optimistic theorists argue that dialogue about race is possible so long as participants

emphasize otherness and new understandings. Stanley Deetz and Jennifer Simpson, “Critical Organizational Dialogue: Open Formation and the Demand of ‘Otherness,’” in Anderson, Baxter, and Cissna, Dialogue, 141–58; Jennifer L. Simpson, “The Color-blind Double-bind: Whiteness and the (Im)possibility of Dialogue,” Communication Theory 18 (2008): 139–59.  


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Howard S. Becker, “Whose Side Are We On?” Social Problems 14 (1967): 239–48.  

19

This is precisely the sequencing suggested in Stephanie Burkhalter, John Gastil, and Todd

17

Kelshaw, “A Conceptual Definition and Theoretical Model of Public Deliberation in Small Faceto-face Groups,” Communication Theory 12 (2002): 398–422. 20

Shawn Spano, “Theory and Practice in Public Dialogue: A Case Study in Facilitating

Community Transformation,” in Facilitating Group Communication in Context: Innovations and Applications with Natural Groups, ed. Lawrence Frey (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2006), 271–98. 21

Pearce and Littlejohn, Moral Conflict, provide many examples of dialogic procedures, and one

can also find current resources easily at the Web site of the National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation, accessed January 11, 2012, http://ncdd.org/.


The Australian Citizens' Parliament and the future of Deliberative Democracy