In 2018, Council began a research project with the newDemocracy Foundation to learn more about 'deliberative democracy', what it means, how it is used around the world and the opportunities for new approaches to community engagement. Underpinning this work was a commitment to engage with a broader cross-section of our community about critical issues - to gain the expertise and opinions of community members who might not otherwise come forward and have a say.
Read more about our work with the newDemocracy Foundation.
In 2018, Council conducted a deliberative democracy process that we called a Community Solutions Panel to look at how Council prioritises its infrastructure spending and deliver their own recommendations. The intent was to undertake a bespoke jury-style process so that a group of randomly-selected local residents could be armed with time, free access to information, a clear authority and given the starting point of possible solutions (prepared by active interests and Council), to reach a shared, considered judgement - much like a jury would. The panel addressed a specific question and made a series of recommendations which were adopted by Council.
Following on from the success of Council's first Community Solutions Panel, Council began exploring the possibility of developing our own 'model' of deliberative democracy, one that could underpin how we engage with the community everyday. A group of randomly-selected local residents addressed the following question:
"How do we want to make democratic decisions in the Byron Shire that can be widely supported?" The recommendations from this panel have been adopted by Council and the Byron Model is currently under trial.
In 2019, work began on the development of a new 10 year tourism plan for the Byron Shire, called a Sustainable Visitation Strategy. A Community Solutions Panel was selected as part of the thorough and in-depth community engagement undertaken to help inform this strategy. They addressed the question:
"What actions can Council take to align visitor behaviour with community values?"