The COVID-19 Irish Citizens’ Online Forum was established to trial a large-scale nationwide debate in Ireland between policymakers, government, experts and citizens. The aim was to trial a platform for public-expert consultation and to offer a space for the public to engage in discussion around future steps to be taken during and after the COVID-19 crisis. It is also a potential new platform for public consultation more generally.
The forum was facilitated via the FUSE stakeholder engagement platform delivered by the SFI ADAPT Research Centre. FUSE enables an interaction based on evidence provided by experts and allows the open and transparent exchange of ideas, meaningful dialogue and discussion of experiences. This form of public dialogue is preferred by the OECD in the place of traditional public consultation which can often be dominated by interests rather than the public at large. This form of consultation should enable policymakers to better listen to citizens, understand the problems and design more effective policies to tackle them. As the expert presentations are available on the platform, FUSE also functions as an official “information point” for the policy issues and thus assists in fighting widespread disinformation.
This project draws on extensive experience in the use of citizen participation mechanisms (e.g. citizen assemblies) from a team from the FuJo and ADAPT research centres at DCU and leveraged a partnership with the SFI public engagement team around Science Week and RTÉ to foster greater public awareness and engagement with the issues.
The overall aims of the project were:
● Piloting a platform for public-expert consultations,
● Testing procedures for moderating discussions;
● Evaluating the quality of discussions; and
● Identifying best-practices for future development
You can read the full report here.