California Speaks

I’m proud to be a member of the board of AmericaSpeaks, which organizes very large deliberative town meetings, facilitated by technology, in which groups of citizens discuss pressing social issues and reach decisions. The organization is busy with numerous projects. One of the recent ones was “CaliforniaSpeaks,” a simultaneous discussion of health care reform that involved 3,500 citizens in eight California cities. This short evaluation of the event is interesting because it is written by a tough-minded and independent scholar, Taeku Lee from Berkeley, and it appears on the World Bank’s blog for civic participation. (The very idea that the Bank has a blog, let alone a blog on democratic engagement, may shake some stereotypes.) Lee finds that participants–representative of California citizens–held highly sophisticated discussions of health reform and came to have more trust in politics and more political engagement.