long and careful consideration or discussion.
Deliberation is a process of thoughtfully weighing options

What Is Deliberation?

The discovery of a shared direction,
guided by what we value most.

Deliberation is an unbiased kind of talking that starts where the problem starts—with your experience of it. It’s not a bunch of abstract backroom negotiations, but real, genuine, human struggles of which we are a part.

Unlike debate, or lecture, or an airing of grievances, deliberation asks us to begin with what we hold most dear and share our personal experiences with a given issue. It’s not about reaching agreement or seeing eye-to-eye. It’s about looking at the costs and consequences of possible solutions to daunting problems, and finding out what we, as a people, will or will not accept as a solution.

We must listen to one another, explore the unbiased facts, test ideas, weigh options and balance tradeoffs to find where our various interests overlap—where purposes can be joined towards a shared future.

Why Deliberate?

Studies show that the patient practice of deliberation leads to change.

Perhaps you want to do more than vote. More than sign a petition or send an email. Because you’ve realized that no one person, no single group has the answer to society’s toughest problems. Deliberation is a way to act together with your community to better understand and deal with problems more directly.

A two- to three-hour session in a thoughtful people-to-people setting, with ground rules that encourage deep dives into the facts, and a thorough examination of several possible solutions can result in clear reasons for a recommended action.

Instead of asking your leaders, “What are you going to do for me?” the question becomes, “Here are our investigations and recommendations. How will you apply these to the problem?”

Continued practice makes us stronger. The more we get together and talk, the more we establish a shared future in which we have control.

How To Deliberate?

For deliberation to
deliberative groups need
to support their efforts.

The NIF Framework is essential to the deliberative process. This framework ensures a careful, nonpartisan way of presenting alternative solutions to your group and welcoming their different views. Designed to produce a rich investigation into what your group is thinking about an issue, the Framework helps you arrive together at what is acceptable and what is not.

Contact the people in the NIF Network who regularly hold forums for deliberation. Ask how you can be involved as a volunteer or participant.

Click here to view a variety of downloadable resources about moderating and convening deliberative forums.

When you decide to join a forum, this is your study guide. The material in our Issue Guides is not handed down from on high, but springs from the concerns of citizens. A problem is set forth with unbiased facts, useful research, and a list of various solutions. That’s where we begin.