What is the Citizens’ Council?

The Citizens’ Council with DF

The Citizens’ Council as an application of the Dynamic Facilitation method is a participation process that was also developed by Jim Rough and is called “Wisdom Council Process” in the original English version. It is a simple, inexpensive and quick way to strengthen self-organization and ownership in the population.

Twelve to sixteen citizens are randomly selected based on the demography of a town or region, and they work together for one and a half days. Due to the random selection, the participants are “normal” people who have no special prior knowledge or qualifications.

In particular, they do not represent any interest groups, but bring simply their personal opinions. The participating people are motivated to discuss topics and concerns of their choice, usually on a specific issue, during these one and a half days. Due to the diverse composition of the group, it is highly likely that the discussion will focus on issues that affect many people in the community.

The Citizens’ Council compiles theories, views, ideas for solutions and recommendations on these topics. The content of the Citizens’ Council is neither guided nor controlled in any way. It is moderated with Dynamic Facilitation.

The participants themselves decide how many and which topics they will work on within the scope of the main question. The goal is to draft a joint statement, meaning that all participating persons (and not “only” the majority) stand behind the written statement.

The results of the Citizens’ Council are then presented and discussed at a public event, such as a Citizens’ Café. It is important to ensure that the right contact people are present, for example, from politics and administration. At the presentation, however, not only theories and solution ideas should be presented, but also the atmosphere of the Citizens’ Council, including the process and possible “aha” effects that led to a breakthrough.

After this event, all participants are called upon to reflect on the result for themselves and in their own environment and, if necessary, to draw conclusions, i.e., the political leaders, the administration, other institutions involved and, of course, the citizens themselves.

Citizens’ Councils with DF are also known as “Citizens’ Councils based on the Vorarlberg model. This Austrian state, they have been implemented since 2011 and are now firmly anchored in the state constitution as an instrument of citizen participation.

This application format is not only suitable for municipalities and civil society. As a “Wisdom Council Process”, this participation format can be used very well in companies, organizations and institutions. Also in these settings, participants are randomly selected from the employees of a company or department or from the membership of an institution, who then work together on challenging topics for one and a half days with Dynamic Facilitation.