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Deliberative methods

We deliver high quality deliberative and participatory research processes that enable participants to get to grips with often complex and technical information in exploring and articulating their views. This is achieved via public dialogue, deliberative workshops and citizen's assemblies.

Deliberative research focuses on uncovering attitudes after citizens have been provided with impartial evidence and ‘good conditions’ to discuss the issue(s) in question (versus traditional methods that seek to understand current viewpoints). It is particularly valuable for providing insight into public attitudes to policy problems that are contested, complex or uncertain.

Traditional deliberative processes have three core components:

deliberative research

Deliberation can both build support for and lend democratic legitimacy to subsequent policy decisions.  It therefore sits within a broader research context of democratic innovation and the exploration and understanding of forms of direct democracy.

There has been an upturn in the last decade in the use of deliberation to support to enhance democracy and improve policy making.  To find out more about how it is being used across the world, we can recommend this OECD report.

There are a range of formats and designs for deliberation and these vary in a number of significant ways that have implications for the purpose of the exercise, the quality of insight, the nature of the output and cost.  We can adapt across these designs as well as offer you advice on the most appropriate way to answer your questions.

Citizen Role

Mode (e.g.)






Decision -making


Mini Publics

Citizen’s Assemblies


One off



From 30-300+ people

Purposive sampling to random probability 

deliberative method table

At NatCen, we help policy makers engage citizens on important issues and ensure a diverse range of inputs and thinking into policy development and implementation.  We also adopt the principles of deliberative democracy into social research in the exploration of public attitudes.

The Centre for Deliberative Research is actively developing the evidence base for deliberative methods, not just for public participation in policy making, but also as a research method in its own right, adding to the toolkit of social scientists to answer pressing societal questions. 

We approach our work with innovation, delivering the UK’s first and largest Deliberative Poll completely online in 2019 and a second in 2020. These events offered a blueprint for moving our research and citizen engagement online over the pandemic and positioned us as sector leaders with others seeking to do the same.