Carnegie Mellon University

Program for Deliberative Democracy

Department of Philosophy

A Handbook for Deliberative Community Forums

Benjamin Barber once wrote that the dysfunction of democracy that we see at the national—and even state level—has caused us to return to the origins of democracy in the polis—because it is in the cities that we can get things done on a manageable scale. In this regard, cities are taking on the role once played by the states.

During the 2010s the Administration of Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto embraced the role of cities as leaders and endorsed a model of deliberative democracy to strengthen the community’s overall civic health:

“My administration actively encourages innovation in every area of governance, which includes how we engage with our community. We have found Deliberative Community Forums to be an excellent way of engaging residents, and they have become an important element of the way we pursue good government in Pittsburgh.

“The City of Pittsburgh has used Deliberative Community Forums to generate meaningful public engagement on a variety of topics. Using these protocols, residents helped us make a timely decision in the selection of a new Chief of Police. During our capital budgeting process, these forums helped us to better identify residents’ priorities. We also have had much success engaging residents on future policy directions and national initiatives by using the deliberative model to facilitate resident engagement with our Affordable Housing Task Force and our City’s adoption of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative.”

– Foreword to “A Handbook on Deliberative Community Forums”