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Jamie Billingham

Jamie Billingham's Public Library

22 Apr 14

""The public is very smart if you give it a chance," says Fishkin, 62, who has been conducting experiments in what he calls "deliberative democracy" for nearly 20 years now. "If people think their voice actually matters, they'll do the hard work, really study their briefing books, ask the experts smart questions and then make tough decisions. When they hear the experts disagreeing, they're forced to think for themselves. About 70% change their minds in the process." Fishkin has done this on several continents and in many countries, including the U.S. In Texas, he ran a deliberative-democracy process for a consortium of utilities, from 1996 to 2007, which gradually transformed the state from last to first in the use of wind power. "Over that time, the percentage of people — and these were stakeholders, utility customers — willing to pay more for wind went from 54% to 84%," he says. (He also ran a "National Issues Convention" for public television in 1996.)"

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