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When is an NIF Style Deliberative Dialogue Appropriate?

As powerful as Deliberative Dialogue is, it is not the best tool for every situation. Daniel Yankelovich, with Viewpoint Learning, Inc., in his "The Traditional 'Expert Information' Model vs. The New 'Public Learning Model" concludes that the traditional model works only when there are no hard choices to be made. Nonetheless, he believes that where the problem definition and the solution is known, the locus of the decision is the leader. And, when the problem definition is know but the solution is unknown, then a collaboration between the leader and the citizens is appropriate. Finally, where both the problem definition and the solution are unknown, then the locus of decision is with the citizens. Thus, one needs to evaluate the situation as a policy maker to decide what model is most effective for this specific type of decision. Yankelovich asserts that while the participatory method may seem less efficient due to its longer public input and processing time, he believes that the end result in the appropriate cases will be reached more effectively and with greater longevity than the "quick fix".

New Models for Civic Engagement compares polls, focus groups, town meetings, hearings special interest advocacy (lobbying) and deliberative democracy in terms of their advantages and disadvantages in engaging the public and "heeding the public voice" in public policy decisions. The conclusion advocated is that for cities, deliberative methods hold promise because (1) raw and distorted opinion should not shape action, (2) lasting support for tough decisions depend on citizens working through tradeoffs and (3) trust-building is essential.

Many questions are difficult to wrestle with because of their scientific or technical complexity. Yankelovich addresses this some in the article mentioned above, but this issue is addressed more fully on the Citizens or Experts: Who Should We Listen To? page.

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