Appreciative and Contestatory Inquiry in Deliberative Forums: Can Group Hugs be Dangerous?

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The project of deliberative democracy is increasingly pursued through designed mini-publics. But exactly how they are designed proves crucial in determining whether or not mini-publics can deliver on their promise. This article explores the role of appreciative inquiry – a version of deliberative design that is gaining ground. In this approach, participants are primed to develop an ‘appreciative gaze’ by focusing the discussion on what already works well in the system and imagining possibilities for building on these strengths. It is distinguished from contestatatory approaches in that argumentative, blame-seeking and deficit-oriented forms of discourse are considered counter-productive to the process. We argue against a one-sided emphasis on appreciative inquiry, which must be balanced with more contestatory forms. Focusing on appreciative approaches to deliberation at the expense of contestation obstructs the ability of a group to deliberate properly and secure crucial deliberative outcomes. Our analysis is grounded in the case of the first Australia's Citizens’ Parliament
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Policy Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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