Singapore has adopted a new approach to include citizens in policymaking, learning from a successful South Australian scheme.
The Ministry of Health and the Institute of Policy Studies are running a ‘Citizens’ Jury’ that will ask ordinary citizens to debate solutions and give their verdict to the government.
Over four Saturdays, 75 citizens will listen to expert views in a courtroom format and get access to data on the diabetes epidemic in Singapore.
Jurors will write their recommendations in a report at the end, and the Ministry must provide responses to these recommendations. Recommendations, “where feasible”, will be piloted, according to the Ministry.
South Australia pioneered this model, setting aside budget that citizens could spend on solutions. Singapore has not revealed whether there will be any budget for the Citizens Jury to allocate.
This is Singapore’s second use of the system. The Ministry of Social and Family Development last year trained public servants in how to design and run the country’s first citizens’ jury.
“The Ministry of Social and Family Development ran a citizen jury last year on what the government can do to support people having stronger relationships,” Aaron Maniam, a former senior Singaporean civil servant, and citizen engagement expert, told GovInsider.
“It’s encouraging because it means that the government is making sure that it listens to a wider range of perspectives and is able to hopefully use those perspectives and incorporate them into policy,” he added.
The system has also been used in North America, Maniam said. The Jefferson Centre is using the citizens’ jury process to discuss climate change, while in Canada, the approach has been used to decide on online voting.
In Australia, Canada, United States, the jury members have been randomly selected, whereas Singapore is asking anyone with an interest to apply online.