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Some Initial Thoughts on Research Questions

IF’s ongoing experience with public discussion has provided us with many lessons learned about what works for our facilitators and our participants in discussing conceptual policy possibilities.

As practitioners in the deliberative field, these lessons learned inform our facilitative instincts and occasionally add to our “tool kits”. Even though we tend to focus on the discussion side of the ledger we have come to appreciate that there are many social and behavioral science issues that have great relevance to our work.

The time may come when those interested in research of deliberative discussion issues may ask us what types of questions might be worth investigating from the practitioner’s perspective. Those questions might be worth some prior internal exploration. Here are some of the questions that flow from my discussion experiences:

  • What can we know about time issues in deliberative discussion (length of individual discussion sessions, intervals between sessions, and length of series of discussions)?
  • What can be done to better prepare citizens for open-minded and open-ended conceptual discussion (is there a general level or tone that works for most people or is it a matter of tailoring the discussion to the participants)?
  • What are the main “presentation” factors in reports, working papers, and other “starting point” materials that help a conceptual discussion (including matters of new media, customized and interactive material, and the level and tone of such material)?
  • What can we know and account for in discussant disposition (accounting for gaps between reason and belief, opinions and facts, and civic responsibilities and group loyalties)?

There are certainly many other deliberative questions that social and behavioral science could shed light on. Some answers on the issues raised above would help this practitioner sort out “what works”.