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The goal of deliberative democracy is to revitalize civic culture, improve the nature of public discourse, and generate the political will necessary to take effective action on pressing problems. While there exists a fairly substantial amount of literature on the desired features of a deliberative democracy, there is little empirical research on the practical feasibility of convening a large-scale public deliberative process.

This article describes a model of deliberative democracy which offers a practical opportunity for all citizens to participate, provides citizens extensive information about the nature of the policy problem, engages citizens in the same problem-solving context as elected officials, and uses rigorous methods. The practical feasibility of this model is assessed through four large-scale implementations, each addressing controversial and politically charged issues in cities ranging in population from 100,000 to 400,000. The conclusion from these trials is that it is possible to convene a large-scale public deliberative process that enables local governments to take effective action on previously intractable issues.