A Review of “The Deliberative Democracy Handbook”

An excellent collection of case studies of public deliberation in the aim of influencing government decision-making.

The Deliberative Democracy Handbook:
Strategies for Effective Civic Engagement in the Twenty-First Century

John Gastil (Editor), Peter Levine (Editor)
ISBN: 978-0-7879-7661-3

John Gastil and Peter Levine have done important service for the academics and practitioners in the field of public participation in government decision-making. This 300 page text book provides 19 chapters of research into diverse contemporary demonstrations of deliberative democracy mostly within the U.S.A. but also some in-depth reviews of important European, Australian and Brazilian systems. An excellent variety of models are discussed including all levels of government decision-making from city planing to national policies. The research is presented by diverse authors with first hand experience. The writing is a good balance of academic rigour and perspective as well as practitioner friendly explanations and observations.

The only problem with this text is the use of “handbook” in the title. While the clearly written case studies are insightful for practitioners and the various practical suggestions found through out book could help inform a processes plan, they do not constitute the definition of handbook, which is supposed to be an easily referenced manual for implementing a system. For a real handbook in deliberative democracy try “The Community Planning Handbook” by Nick Wates which clearly written and structured to guide people in the practical implementation of community deliberation to direct local decision-making. You may also be interested in handbooks for specific participatory democracy systems such as the classic “Preferred Futuring”, the popular “Open Space Technology”, the proven “Consensus Conference” or the new and ultra-simple “Advanced Dotmocracy”.

Venezuelan Communal Councils – a new model for participatory democracy

I recently wrote and posted a complete article on Wikipedia describing Venezuelan Communal Councils. This new model of community based deliberative and participatory democracy is being intensively promoted accross Venezuela as the base of popular power in their effort towards demonstrating a new kind of “21st Century Socialism”.

In April 2006 the Venezuelan government passed The Law of Communal Councils (consejo comunales) which empowers citizens to assemble, deliberate and vote on the creation of neighbourhood development plans and to elect local spokespersons to oversee their implementation. Meetings regularly include 50 to 150 citizens and are often convened on a weekly basis.

Read the full article at

Also special thanks to Josh Lerner for his research and contributions.

I'll be inviting others to help revise the article and will add details as learn more from my research here in Cumanà, Venezuela.