Trialling rapid online deliberation to inform public policy

Trialling rapid online deliberation to inform public policy

A partnership of 4 organisations - Traverse, Ada Lovelace Institute, Involve and Bang the Table – trialled a new model of rapid, online deliberation that would enable citizens to feed in to the development of policy for moving out of lockdown.

The objectives were to do inclusive, public, deliberative engagement, online, as rapidly as the policy developing in response to COVID-19 during lockdown. As well as gathering evidence that could inform policy-making, they wanted to test how successfully public deliberation could be carried out online, asynchronously, and under shorter timescales than typical deliberation.

This is a summary. You can read the full report on the Traverse website.

What they did

28 members of the public were recruited from two different locations (urban and rural) to conduct deliberative online discussions around COVID-19 strategies over a 3-week period.

A 90-minute session was held in each week of the project where one or two subject experts spoke for 10 minutes. The remainder of the time was used to answer questions from participants. During these sessions, participants used the Zoom chat function to ask questions.

Online tools such as Zoom (for video calls) and EngagementHQ (an online engagement platform) were used to bring members of the public and subject experts together. Participants could also download digital documents to read in their own time and recordings of the sessions were made available afterwards.

What worked well

It was relatively inclusive, with members of the public recruited from urban and rural locations and reflecting national demographics.

There were good quality conversations between participants. It felt like a very different process, but still a deliberative one.

The online experience worked well and the off-the-shelf tools were inexpensive to set up and easy to use.

What they’d do differently

  • Circulate presentations in advance of plenaries, to allow participants more time to review, while recognising that not everyone will choose to do so and still covering it in the sessions.
  • Dedicate more resource to responding to participant questions on the online platform.
  • Create short videos with information about the subject matter, quizzes and other simple activities to check understanding.
  • Integrate the features of EngagementHQ and Zoom more closely to give participants a more seamless technical experience.
  • Did not have the resources to involve anyone who wasn't already online.


Traverse Ltd (2020) #LockDownDebate: Rapid online deliberation on contact tracing

website link

Last Updated: 19 April 2023