- The "jury" is made up of people who are usually selected "at random" from a local or national population, with the selection process open to outside scrutiny.
- The jurors cross-question expert "witnesses" — persons they have called to provide different perspectives on the topic — and collectively produce a summary of their conclusions, typically in a short report.
- The whole process is supervised by an oversight or advisory panel composed of a range of people with relevant knowledge and a possible interest in the outcome. They take no direct part in facilitating the citizens' jury. Members of this group subsequently decide whether to respond to, or act on, elements of this report.
The term "citizens' jury" was coined in the late 1980s by the Jefferson Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They had developed the process in 1974 as a "citizens' committee", but decided to create and trademark the new name in order to protect the process from commercialization. The practice of citizens' juries has thus been tightly regulated in the US. Virtually the same process was created in Germany in the early 1970s; American "inventor" Ned Crosby and German "inventor" Peter Dienel said that they did not learn of each other's work until 1985. In Britain, the process spread rapidly because of a publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research in 1994. Outside the US and Germany, citizens' juries have been conducted in many different ways, with many different objectives, and with varying degrees of success.
As with much PAR, there is a great deal of controversy over what constitutes good practice or professionalism in the area of public consultation. Lacking the methodological self-regulation that exists in some areas of PAR, or the legal sanctions available to the owners of the citizens' jury brand in the US, consultation practitioners elsewhere are free to use almost whatever label they wish, without being limited to the approach taken by those who invented the particular tool. Conversely, many people have used all three elements above, yet called their processes by another name: community x-change, consensus conferences, citizen's councils, deliberative focus groups or, most commonly, citizens' panels. The participants' roles once a jury has taken place vary from nothing to being asked to help bring about the recommendations they have made.
A people's jury, is an institution used by a democratically elected body to resolve a divisive issue, in order to reach a consensus. People's jury is used as a synonym to citizen's jury. An example, which occurred in Oxfordshire in the late 1990s, was the use of a people's jury to resolve where to site a waste recycling plant. A group of twelve people was selected as though they were going to belong to a legal jury. They were then taken on a guided tour of the county and introduced to experts in various fields. After they had been given the opportunity to perform sufficient research, they were asked to choose the site to use.
Whilst the idea of people's juries has been hailed as being of great benefit in a democracy, it has also been pointed out that the jury's vote is not likely to be representative of the views of the population in general. It is argued that because a people's jury is making an informed judgement, it is unlike a referendum, where the views of the most uninformed or ill-informed people carry equal weight.
- De Schutter, Olivier (March 2011). "Report: Agroecology and the right to food". www.srfood.org. Retrieved 2020-07-02.
- Robin Clarke; Ruth Rennie; Clare Delap; Vicki Coombe (30 November 2000). "People's Juries in Social Inclusion Partnerships: A Pilot Project". The Scottish Government. Development Department Research Programme. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
- PLA Notes 40: Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Empowerment. IIED. 2001. ISBN 978-1-84369-284-3.
- Tom Wakeford (2002). "Citizens Juries: a radical alternative for social research". Social Research Update 37. Department of Sociology, University of Surrey. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
- The jury is out: How far can participatory projects go towards reclaiming democracy? (2008)
- http://www.excludedvoices.org Examples of citizens' juries on the governance of food and agricultural research in West Africa, South Asia and Andean Altiplano
- Open access analysis of citizens' juries (2002)
- BBC Today Programme Citizens' Jury
- Peter Dienel's Planungszelle
- Glasgow People's Jury: A Blueprint For Local Decision-Making
- Film about the UK GM Jury
- The locals know what they need
- Deliberative Democracy and Citizen Empowerment
- An academic review of citizen's juries, published in the journal Social Research Update