TLDR: Stakeholder and Citizen Roles in Public Deliberation


Kahane, David; Loptson, Kristjana; Herriman, Jade; and Hardy, Max (2013) “Stakeholder and Citizen Roles in Public Deliberation,”

Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 9: Iss. 2, Article 2.

Available at: Journal of Public Deliberation

Through their research Kahane et al. provide a map that demonstrates the relationship between ‘stakeholder’ and ‘citizen’ engagement spaces and public deliberation.  With a particular focus on “deliberative public involvement exercises convened by governments as part of policy development” (p. 1), the authors describe “stakeholders” as representatives “of a formally constituted group or organization that has or is thought to have a collective interest” (p. 5), and “citizens” as “functional members of a democratic society by virtue of living within it and being affected by it” (p. 8).

The authors suggest reasons for and against involving stakeholders and citizens, both as separate groups and as a hybrid, and caution practitioners to consider the aforementioned configurations.  One of the observations offered by Kahane et al. to support this caution is that stakeholders are often less likely to adjust their perspectives, given that they feel a responsibility to the group they represent and are more aware of history and policies, as compared to a citizen. Citizens, on the other hand, as individuals are more prone to adjusting their perspective. The authors explore various configurations of stakeholder and citizen participation and suggest that “[w]hen citizens and stakeholder representatives deliberate separately, this also forgoes potentially powerful forms of learning and transformation” (p. 24).  By using several Canadian examples, the authors’ analysis reveals the complexities of public engagement arguing for practitioners to recognize the possible challenges of bringing citizen and stakeholders into the same deliberative space.

As a conclusion to the article, the authors offer questions to assist practitioners in mapping deliberative processes involving stakeholders and citizens. Here is a sample (p. 27-28):

  1. If citizens are to deliberate, with stakeholders contributing as experts and witnesses, how could stakeholders also be engaged in ‘endorsing’ the balance of the overall process or even just of its informational elements?
  2. If stakeholders are to engage in extended duration advisory and decision-making roles how are issues around diversity of representation being addressed?
  3. If there are to be separate, phased deliberative activities for citizens and stakeholders will commitment be given by conveners about how each input relates to others or has influence relative to others?

Submitted by: J. Dyck, IAP2 Canada Research Committee

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