Public Deliberation

To deliberate is to weigh the costs and consequences of a variety of possible actions to an issue of importance by interested citizens.



The Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service partners with the Kettering Foundation, a national foundation located in Dayton, Ohio, to offer training and facilitation in public deliberation on issues of importance to Wisconsin communities. Kettering promotes a nation-wide model for public deliberation in partnership with National Issues Forums ( According to Kettering, "Public deliberation is one name for the way we weigh together various approaches to solving problems and find courses of action consistent with what is valuable to the whole community."

Public deliberation is more than simply raising and discussing important issues in a public setting. Genuine public deliberation is a thoughtful public process by which citizens learn from one another and make decisions together about real policy matters. As the Kettering Foundation’s president, David Matthews, puts it:

In weighing—together—the costs and benefits of various approaches to solving problems, people become aware of the differences in the way others see those costs and benefits. That enables them to find courses of action that are consistent with what is valuable to the community as a whole.

                             WIPPS Director Eric Giordano leading a NIF style public deliberation

This form of public dialogue is not far removed from what some members of society, including elected officials, routinely do every day. However, constructive dialogue in today’s political climate is frequently drowned out by uncivil discourse in the television media, radio, and the blogosphere. Advocates of deliberation seek to grow the practice to include more people, including politicians, so that the routine of public deliberation becomes a true public practice.

While public deliberation will not address or solve all community problems (nor erase fundamental conflicts in values), it remains an essential ingredient to furthering healthy democratic practices by offering an avenue for citizens to become involved in public decision- making. It also offers a vehicle for citizens to learn more about complex issues and the real trade-offs that different approaches to community problems entail.

The Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service is pleased to share this model which we hope will be of value to you in your personal and professional lives.

Kettering Foundation website