SCC-CIVIC-PG Track B: Improving Service and Resource Distribution Programs through Public Deliberation

Project: Research project

Project Details


Government-provided services and resources in communities all too often prove insufficient, inefficient, and inequitable, yet public agencies have difficulty giving a voice to underserved community members in their decision-making processes. Led by academic researchers in collaboration with civic leaders in Lexington, Kentucky, this project will assess a new model for cost-effective public involvement in service and resource decisions using the theme of greater educational equity in Lexington as its focus. Civic leaders in Lexington have identified educational equity as a topic of importance in their city in self-studies. This complex issue extends into questions about housing, transportation, job opportunities, and more. By focusing on a cluster of related resource and service challenges, this study will consider whether deliberative community engagement changes how community members think about themselves, civic associations, and their local government. The project has the potential to offer evidence that more equitable and inclusive public engagement can improve the quality of service and resource decisions made by local governments. The project objective is to establish a new process for discovering a local community’s greatest challenges and working together to devise customized solutions. Beyond the specific issue of greater educational equity in Lexington, the project team hopes to demonstrate that these methods could be used across the country to help underserved populations have more voice in local decision-making while also increasing government legitimacy.Deliberative democratic theory has focused on rarefied processes that involve tremendous costs and float far above the on-the-ground realities of local governance. This project will fill gaps in the public deliberation literature concerning cost-effective methods for achieving high levels of inclusion, deliberative quality, and long-term outcomes. The researchers will test hypotheses regarding: 1) successful recruitment of diverse participants in deliberation; 2) the interaction of communication mode and facilitation method to ensure robust deliberation; and 3) the multifaceted impact of government responsiveness on civic self-confidence, trust in government and civic associations, and future participation in public consultations and engagements. Stage 1 funding will lay the groundwork for a randomized control trial to test these hypotheses in Stage 2. A large sample of deliberative groups will be recruited to meet in one of six modes in a 2 x 3 design that contrasts a passive versus targeted facilitation style in three communication modes—in-person meetings, online video chats, and asynchronous online engagement. Data will consist of direct observation, transcripts, and surveys. This project is in response to the Civic Innovation Challenge program—Track B. Bridging the gap between essential resources and services & community needs—and is a collaboration between NSF, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Energy.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date10/1/223/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $49,457.00


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