What Is a Lottery-Selected Panel?

This is a different kind of democratic process. A Lottery-Selected Panel brings together a group of everyday people to examine an important public issue. These are residents just like you, who are randomly selected but also reflective of the general public, in terms of age, gender, location, race, and other factors. They’re like a city in one room. These Panels are professionally facilitated and follow a structured process to ensure fairness and productivity. They are designed to reduce the influence of political bias and instead put the focus on collaborative problem solving and evidence. Academic research has shown that they handle complex policy questions effectively and fairly.

  • Inclusivity:  Proactive, invitation-based recruitment methods and accessibility-driven design bring entirely new voices to the table.
  • Representation: Lottery selection guarantees representation across a uniquely broad set of demographic diversities – “a city in one room.”
  • Integrity: Independent evaluation and oversight drives research-based process design and continuous improvement.
  • Collaboration: Skillfully moderated discussions ensure thorough comprehension of the issue, respectful exchange, and thoughtful decision-making. 
  • Empowerment: Panelists have full authority over their process and the support to impact real policy decisions.
  • Lottery selection ensures that all of us have a place in public decision making. Ten  thousand letters are mailed out to randomly selected residential addresses inviting residents to participate in the Panel. Of those who respond, a Panel is selected that represents the unique demographic characteristics of that community.
  • Additional Panelists who may not live at an address are selected via “golden tickets” provided to social service agencies.
  • For more clarity, see the info packet.
  • Boosts diversity in civic participation and increases access for historically marginalized groups.
  • Surfaces previously untapped ideas, and encourages effective policy co-production.
  • Promotes evidence-driven public discourse, and showcases a more cooperative politics.
  • Fosters ownership over public decision making and enhances mutual trust in governance.

Our processes strive for equality in three primary ways: 1) community members have an equal opportunity of being invited to serve; 2) Panelists reflect the exact demographic makeup of their communities; and 3) deliberation creates an inclusive environment in which everyone’s voice has the same weight.

While equality is a minimum guarantee of these processes, it is possible to integrate equity through selection targets, interactions with stakeholder groups, and in-process support for Panelists.

Although bias is a natural human condition, we strive for a process that minimizes unproductive political bias. The process follows an evidence-driven structure that fosters problem-solving that goes beyond partisanship. Our professional moderator teams are specifically trained to balance participation, manage power imbalances, and put Panelist autonomy first, assisting them to make their own informed decisions.

  • Deliberation involves carefully weighing different options, access to accurate, relevant, and diverse information, and participants finding common ground to reach shared recommendations.
    • Most processes start with an information gathering session: The Panel interviews dozens of experts and stakeholders, and conducts its own research on the topic at hand. With external support, Panelists filter information and conduct gaps analyses to ensure information is strong, reliable, and reflects many perspectives on the issue.
    • Then, they move into the deliberation phase: Panelists define decision-making criteria, consider potential policy options, and prioritize alternatives through extensive discussions over multiple days. Panelists spend most of their time in small groups with trained professional moderators. Meticulous process designs enable collaboration between iterative small and large groups.

Stakeholders and interest groups are vital to these processes, even though they do not sit on the Panel itself. Rather, a politically diverse selection of stakeholders sit on the Informational Advisory Committee, which provides introductory information to the Panel, an introductory slate of stakeholders to hear from, and a menu of potential additional stakeholders and experts to hear from. They have multiple other opportunities to interact with the process – for example, to offer feedback in public listening sessions and workshops.

  • Around the world, governments are employing Lottery-Selected Panels – often called Citizens’ Juries or Citizens’ Assemblies – to put people at the center of governance. See OECD graphics
  • Healthy Democracy has designed and convened panels in five U.S. states and three countries since 2008. We are best known for Oregon’s Citizens’ Initiative Review (CIR), which is one of the most researched deliberative processes in the world and was one of the first modern lottery-selected processes institutionalized in government.
  • Lottery-Selected Panels offer an innovative way of getting new voices to engage in the public decision making process. While everyone has an equal chance of receiving an invitation to join, self-selection alone tends to privilege voices with the most access. Panels almost always accompany many other public engagement opportunities in which any community member can make their voice heard – for example, public forums and open surveys. Any member of the community who wants to participate in decision-making related to the policy area is encouraged to be involved! 
  • If someone isn’t selected for the Citizen Panel but still wants to participate, we will livestream, and, like all members of the public, you are welcome to visit the Panel in person as an observer. Check our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or blog for more information as the Panel moves forward. If you are not selected, your notification email will also include more information on ways to stay involved.
  • Selection Process 
    • As explained above, the selection process  brings new and diverse voices into the public decision making process.
  • Inclusivity and Accessibility
    • Since randomly selected Panels include folks from many walks of life, universal accessibility is emphasized. Panelists are paid a stipend and reimbursed for transportation, childcare, and eldercare. Both the in-room process and out-of-room logistics seek to accommodate Panelists’ specific needs, providing support services such as translation and assistive technology and adapting to differential learning styles. In online processes, transportation and child/eldercare reimbursements are joined by technology and hot-spot internet access, as needed.
  • Stakeholders involvement
    • As explained above, they aren’t absent from the process but they do not lead it nor are they the loudest voices in the conversation. 
  • Panel Autonomy
    • Although it only offers recommendations, the Review Panel is treated more like a council, commission, or other decision-making body than a typical advisory committee. Staff serve the Panel in supportive, rather than directive, roles. 
  • Evidence Driven
    • The Panel gathers an unusually wide range of evidence. In addition to stakeholders, the Panel hears from staff and non-staff expert presenters, has ample time to review documents and question all presenters, and may call its own presenters. It may also receive other public engagement inputs – including survey data, listening sessions, walking tours, etc. – or hold open public workshops. DeliberativeThe Panel engages in lengthy deliberations around basic values and principles, before delving into any policy solutions. These discussions seek mutual understanding and shared goals, but they do not force consensus. As with the rest of the Review, they are professionally moderated and follow a detailed process design established in advance, while remaining flexible to the Panel’s needs.
  • Built-In Feedback Loops
    • The Panel engages in multiple in-depth feedback loops with technical staff, to review proposed policies in detail and work with staff to apply its principles.
  • Outcomes
    • The Panel’s output is therefore substantial, including both: criteria on which it believes any decision should rest, and detailed, approval-ready policy proposals (or a review of existing proposals).

We don’t want to only hear from the loudest, most active voices, we want to hear from people from all walks of life. There is also growing awareness that diverse groups make better decisions. When you give a diverse group of people access to quality, balanced information, sufficient time, and skilled facilitators, they can find common ground and make sound recommendations on even the most complex policy issues. Everyday people in our members’ projects have weighed in intelligently on the financial plans of large cities, the location of a new hospital, and how to deal with nuclear waste.

As stated on the invitation mailer, the Panel would be held either in-person or online and would be determined based upon the responses to the public health questions included in the mailer. The majority of respondents were available to meet in person, so we are moving forward with that option. In-person processes have also been found to result in higher quality deliberation for the following reasons:

  • With the Petaluma project needing such a substantial amount of time, our experience is that folks are generally better able to concentrate and work together for longer periods in-person. 
  • Process design elements take longer in online processes. One hour of in-person time is not equal to one hour of online time. That just means less of everything for online processes: less information, less deliberation, and less detail in the Panel’s reports.
  • In-person Panels create a better atmosphere for group-cohesion, empathy-building, and collaboration. Similarly, a Moderator’s ability to work towards these goals is heightened in in-person Panels.
  • In-person processes remove more accessibility barriers to full participation for those who are in the room. There is less of a technical imbalance and learning curve. In our experience, about 10-20% of Panelists have needed either loaner laptops or loaner hotspots, and about the same percentage have needed substantial and repeated one-on-one coaching to successfully engage in online deliberation. In our experience, the accessibility barriers inherent in using technology online outweigh the physical barriers of coming to a venue.

There are many barriers to participating in traditional public engagement. We recognize that while we’ve tried to reduce as many of these barriers as we can, it’s always a work in progress. Accessibility and high-quality deliberation are sometimes in tension with one another and we’ve tried to strike a balance between the two. For a City-level project with this many hours spent in deliberation and the majority of respondents being available to meet in person, we are confident that an in-person Panel is the strongest option.

Although the Panel’s primary deliverables will be completed with the release of its Final Report, we recognize that mid-2022 will only fall part way along the larger decision-making process on the future of the Fairgrounds. Accordingly, an additional 15 hours ensures that the Panel can continue to speak on behalf of its own recommendations, not mediated by staff or others, for the duration of the decision-making process. Moreover, it ensures that the Panel can continue to respond to further developments later in 2022, right up until final decisions are made.

These additional hours will be completed over the course of several to-be-determined sessions between the release of the Panel’s Final Report and the Council’s final decision on the Fairgrounds property.

Although the decision for how these hours will be used will be left to the Panel’s Process Subcommittee and Policy Impact Subcommittee, we can imagine these hours being used in the following ways:

  • By the full Panel, to provide further clarity or detail to its recommendations as the policy conversation develops.
  • By the full Panel, to review key questions, policy alternatives, and/or other topics, which surface after the Final Report is released.
  • By the Subcommittees, to conduct further public outreach, speak directly to decision makers, and/or provide the City further engagement advice stemming from the Panel’s experience.

All decisions related to the use of these 15 hours will be made by the Panel’s Process Subcommittee and Policy Impact Subcommittee. The scheduling of these hours will be completed collaboratively by the Panel with assistance from Healthy Democracy Staff.