The ACT government believes that the current ACT CTP scheme can be improved. It decided to pilot a Citizens’ jury to consider this issue with the community and other key stakeholders and develop a scheme that best meets the needs of all road users. Geoff Atkins was invited to be part of the jury as an expert adviser and in this article, he shares his experience with the profession.
‘Deliberative democracy’ is, according to Wikipedia, a process where decisions are made based on careful deliberation rather than an aggregation of votes (sounds like what a lot of actuaries do).
The government of the ACT is in the middle of a pilot project using a Citizen’s Jury to consider reforms to its Compulsory Third Party insurance scheme. Peter McCarthy and I have been fortunate to be engaged to assist with the process, and have been enjoying a fascinating experience. You can learn more about the Citizen’s Jury via this video and the Yoursay website.
The jury consists of 50 volunteers, broadly representative of the demographics of the ACT population. The deliberation process is very carefully structured and managed by professional facilitators who are completely responsible for process but at the same time are completely content-free.
So what are some of the experiences that have struck me?
Fast and slow: I thought the process would move very slowly. In some ways this has been true, but on the other hand it is impressive to see how the jury has picked up very technical information and progressed with their thinking. After four days of intense deliberation the jury has issued a report setting out what the objectives of a reformed CTP scheme should be.
Critical thinking: The facilitators did some early training on critical thinking skills, and it is amazing how powerful this has been. Their questioning and analysis of information has certainly cut through a lot of ‘vested interests’.
The need for scrupulous objectivity: As an expert adviser, I felt from the very first conversations an imperative to be very careful to take a balanced and objective position. I could explain how things work and why others hold particular views or preferences, but felt it was incumbent on me to keep my own opinions out of it. Objectivity is, of course, in the eye of the beholder and in trying to provide the ‘colour and movement’ that the jury was after I may well have shown my prejudices.
Appetite for knowledge: Many individual jury members, and as a ‘collective mind’, showed a voracious appetite for knowledge and a surprising ability to absorb that knowledge and relate it to the task at hand.
Managing the lobbying process: The jury is supported by a ‘stakeholder reference group’ with representatives of insurers, legal profession, government, medical and health consumers as well as the two actuarial advisers. All stakeholders have had the opportunity to present written and oral material to the jury, including a ‘witness’ process where invited people presented and answered questions on different themes. The facilitators have (so far) been effective in handling this process so that the jury can hear all relevant views but can come to its own considered conclusions.
What’s next? We are half way through the process. The jury meets again for two days in March 2018 to choose one of four alternative models that are being developed by the reference group. After that it is over to the government.
It is obvious from my experience so far that two key requirements for success of the process are:
- A clear and strong mandate from the government for the Citizen’s Jury to do its work; and
- Ultimately, follow through by the government on its promise to implement what the jury recommends.
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