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”.