GeoDeliberation Project

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The GeoDeliberation Project is proud to host the Community Issue Review: An online facilitation strategy for collective decision-making

This strategy includes three parts. The first involves utilizing a small representative group of the community to review materials to create a briefing of the issue. The second part allows for the briefing to be used to engage others in providing informed feedback on the issue. The third and final portion is a process for integrating feedback into the final outcome in order for collective decision-making to take place.

1) Process to create an informational statement: The Community Issue Review (CIR) is a process developed by the GeoDeliberation Project that guides a group of panelists through a multi-day public review process of an issue relevant to the community.

The CIR is an online adaptation of an established method for facilitating face-to-face community conversations that has been used in a variety of applications over the last 30 years and has been adopted in to Oregon State Law to inform voters about statewide ballot initiatives.

The process invites a group of panelists that are either randomly or strategically selected, to review an issue in-depth similar to how a jury would review a court case. Panelists will be given accesses to relevant documents, hear presentations from subject matter experts from diverse viewpoints, and engage in Q&A with experts to develop a deep understanding of the issue.

The CIR has been designed to be a fair and in-depth review resulting in a citizens' statement. The outcome of the review is not to determine innocence or guilt, but rather to create a citizen-generated informational briefing of the issue. Ten statements summarize the issue and why it is important to the community, five statements are the strongest arguments in favor of the issue and five statements are the strongest arguments against the issue.

2) Informed engagement process: The statement is then shared with the larger community as a way to brief them about the issue, and is linked to the original documents and summary statements by subject matter experts within the online system as seen in Figure 1 below. The larger community is then asked to share their informed opinion about the issue.

3) Collective decision-making process: This process is flexible depending on the context under which the decision-making will take place, but for a truly collective process all those that provided feedback will be informed how their options were incorporated into decision-making.  (see the live version of the citizens' statement in figure here:

Requirements for each process:  Our goal is to create a process that is structured, yet flexible enough to accommodate a variety of community decision-making processes. The first phase of the process begins with selecting panelists to create a statement, loading the online system with appropriate documents to provide a well-rounded background, and inviting experts to help answer questions that arise about the issue.

The second phase requires that the statement be linked back to the original information documents and engage the larger community in sharing opinions that are for and against the issue, these may be divided into themes. The third phase involves a transparent plan for incorporating feedback into the final decision on the issue.

About our research team

Researchers from the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University have partnered with the State College Borough government as part of a collaborative NSF funded project: "Geodeliberation: Enabling Democratic Decision-Making in Local Communities Through Place-Based Deliberative Dialogues."

The project will analyze and facilitate civic engagement and spatial decision-making in a community planning context. We will investigate current geodeliberative concepts and practices, develop software tools to support geo-referenced online discussions linked to issues, values, and alternative actions, and then assess tool use and changes in beliefs, expectations, and practices. The project is co-led by Dr. Guoray Cai and Dr. Jack Carroll.

We are currently conducting fieldwork in State College (with the Borough government and various citizen stakeholders) to describe current deliberative practices, resources, obstacles, and opportunities, and then use this ethnographic material to guide the design, installation, appropriation, use, and assessment of computational tools for geo-deliberation.

GeoDeliberator is a geographic decision-support tool, is based on Web 2.0 technology and implemented in AJAX technology. We demonstrate the utility of GeoDeliberator through a simulated scenario where users on a university campus deliberate on the alternative courses of actions available for building a smoke-free campus.  

Three-minute video introduction to our project: