Democs (Deliberative Meeting Of CitizenS) is a conversation game developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) that helps small groups discuss public policy issues. No speakers or experts are needed as prepared cards contain all the necessary facts. It works best for six people over two hours, but it is flexible.
Democs help participants to take in information and to make that learning meaningful. The process involves a number of stages:
• The information on the topic is provided on playing cards which are dealt out in two rounds. Each time, people reflect on their cards and choose one or two that they feel are most important.
• They take turns to read them out, explaining why they chose them, and then place them on the table.
• Next they cluster the cards, with each group representing a key issue relating to the topic.
• Once they've voted on a range of responses or policy positions they try to create a response that everyone in the group can agree with.
• They then fill in a short form explaining the results of the discussion and send them back to the organisation running the Democs.
• Democs are usually open to anyone to participate.
• Sometimes particular representatives are sought out. For instance, the Human Genetics Commission, investigating over-the-counter genetic testing kits, was interested in the views of the general public and in those of members of their consultative panel.
Approximate time expense
• Individual sessions can take between 1-4 hours.
• Encourages people to form an opinion on complex topics
• Avoids the passivity that can come with experts lecturing people
• Provides a safe place that will appeal to inexperienced participants
• Can be used easily by any group of people, and does not need facilitation
• The game format helps people to enjoy themselves while they talk.
• Can work better with a facilitator
• The group is unlikely to reach a consensus
• The results are unlikely to be representative
• It is hard to feed the results of a Democs process into decision-making.
• Democs cannot deliver lengthy deliberation, direct decisions, tangible outcomes or a follow up in itself.
• Designed by the New Economics Foundation to provide some of the deliberation of Citizens' Juries and Deliberative Polls but for a wider use.
Democs was developed by NEF but can be used by anyone.
Image by Andrea in Amsterdam.
Involve or New Economics Foundation
Gather informed and considered opinions (deliberation)
Generate new ideas (innovation)
Create a shared vision amongst participants
Number of participants
Representatives of wider interest groups (stakeholders)
Level of awareness and interest
participants need information and cannot articulate their interests
participants know about some aspects/can roughly articulate some interest
Crime and justice
Culture and arts
Environment and climate change
Health and well-being
Housing and Planning
Science and technology
Limit search to...
... face to face processes
Level of involvement
Children and young people
Ethnic minority groups
Groups with low levels of literacy/confidence
People with learning difficulties