Digital for deliberation

Catching the deliberative wave

Mauricio Mejia
4 min readApr 3, 2020


The OECD’s Innovative Citizen Participation area of work explores the paradigm changes underway towards a more inclusive governance. The idea is to better understand the new forms of deliberative, collaborative, and participatory decision making that are happening, analysing what works well and what doesn’t, and asking how democratic institutions might change in the longer term as a result. (See our first Participo post that explains the context).

The first report of this work stream focuses on the use of representative deliberative processes by public institutions. Catching the Deliberative Wave: Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions (June 2020), is the first international empirical comparative study that considers the workings of representative deliberative processes for public decision-making and discuss the case for their institutionalisation.

The report focuses on many aspects of deliberative processes, but acknowledges that this is the first building block for more in-depth research on deliberation for public policy making. One area for further research and discussion is the use of digital tools to enrich deliberative processes.

The current situation and the aftermath effects of COVID-19 will certainly impact the way we interact and we exercise our daily (and civic) activities. As we write, millions of people are physically isolated and trying to continue business as normal. We are adapting to new tools and methods to make the most out of working from home and maintaining social connections with our friends, colleagues, and families.

The coronavirus outbreak also affects the organisation of ongoing or soon-to-be-started deliberative processes. The French and British Citizens’ Assemblies on Climate, for example, are considering the use of digital conference tools to replace or supplement the physical meetings that are postponed until further notice.

Even longstanding traditional institutions like the European Parliament, the UK House of Commons and the Lebanese Parliament are considering the use of video tools and electronic voting applications to replace face-to-face parliamentary debate and meetings. Other organisations like political parties are also implementing digital tools to continue business as normal and could be an inspiration for our work.

We consider this a good time to open the discussion on the use of digital tools for deliberative processes, in collaboration with our colleagues working on digital government and public sector innovation.

Rather than replacing face-to-face with digital deliberation, we want to collect all the relevant evidence on how digital tools and practices can enhance and support in-person deliberative processes. Even if the focus will be given to the use of technology, the goal is to contribute to the general discussion and framework on deliberative processes for policy making. Said differently, digital tools are the means to an end, not an end in themselves.

Our next article will detail the questions we will explore in this Participo series. We will also be welcoming posts by external contributors who have been experimenting with or researching digital tools for deliberation — if you’d like to write, please contact us!

Are you a practitioner delivering a representative deliberative process fully or partially online? The OECD has put together this survey for practitioners about what they are doing, how, and why. Answers are publicly available from the moment they are submitted in this viewable Airtable database (except for the name, job title and email of the individual filling out the form).

This post is part of the Digital for Deliberation series. Read the other articles:

How can digital tools support deliberation? Join the conversation!

The series will focus on three overarching questions: (1) How can digital tools support representative deliberative processes? (2) What are the limits of using digital tools for representative deliberative processes? (3) In what other contexts could these learnings be applied?

Designing an online citizens’ assembly: A practitioner perspective

It may seem like designing the unthinkable. An online citizens’ assembly? One of the core elements of a citizens’ assembly is to create the space for people to meet face to face. That is where the magic of citizens’ assemblies lies. Why go online then? Marcin Gerwin offers some ideas.

Engineering for deliberative democracy

Just as the architecture of a meeting hall affects whose voice can be heard, the design of our digital tools provides and forecloses certain political possibilities. Jessica Feldman outlines where engineering decisions need to be made.

Designing text-based tools for digital deliberation

Ruth Shortall and Anatol Itten consider how understanding and measuring the influence of certain features on the quality of online text-based deliberations can help us make better design decisions.

Online deliberation: Opportunities and challenges

Lyn Carson in conversation with Graham Smith about transferring face-to-face deliberations to an online environment.

The digital participatory process that fed into the French Climate Assembly

The online contributions from the wider public on the Decidim platform enriched the work of the in-person assembly, writes Eloïse Gabadou.

Digital solutions can complement real world participation — but mustn’t exclude

After public meetings can resume, digital participation will likely grow as a complement to offline events. This will broaden citizen engagement — but we have to be careful it doesn’t freeze people out.

Digital parliaments: Adapting democratic institutions to 21st century realities

The coronavirus crisis should be a catalyst for institutionalising the use of digital tools in parliament, argues French MP Paula Forteza.

Public discussions on Covid-19 lockdown in Scotland

Reflections from government on the challenges of digital engagement by Niamh Webster.

Digital tools to open the judiciary: A perspective from Argentina

Pablo Hilaire writes that by promoting conscious uses of digital technologies in favour of open justice, we have learnt that to facilitate and promote deliberation and participation online, we need to put citizens at the centre, from the design to the collection of data and feedback.



Mauricio Mejia

Open Gov anc citizen participation @OECD // Mexican+French - following politics, democracy and tech news 🌵🌈 teaching @Sciencespo ex @paulafortez a@etalab