Looking in from the outside: how randomly invited - but not selected - citizens think about a mini-public

Sophie Devillers, Julien Vrydagh, Didier Caluwaerts, Min Reuchamps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Deliberative minipublics are often critiqued for being disconnected with mass democracy. This is problematic from the perspective of legitimacy. If ordinary citizens are not aware of the existence of minipublics, how can citizens consent to the process and outcomes of these processes? One possible design innovation is to widen the pool of citizens randomly invited to take part in minipublics. While not all invited individuals will be selected to join minipublics, inviting a large pool of people, at the very least, may trigger their curiosity to closely observe and scrutinise the debates and recommendations of their fellow citizens.
Our article examines the viability of this design feature using the case study of the citizen panel ‘Make Your Brussels – Mobility’. We focus on a group of 336 people who accepted the invitation to participate in the citizen panel but were not among the 40 people selected to participate. We have two major findings. First, despite their initial interest in taking part in a minipublic, these citizens did not follow up on their interest in the minipublic. Second, these citizens do not perceive citizen panels as capable of delivering consensual outcomes. We conclude the article by drawing out implications for deliberative practice, especially in enhancing the legitimacy of minipublics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-159
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Deliberative Democracy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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