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AmericaSpeaks was a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization that operated from 1995 to 2014. Its mission was to engage citizens in discussing and influencing public decisions and serve as a counterweight to special interest groups.[1][2] It introduced the concept of the "21st Century Town Meeting", a format that attempted to take the traditional New England town meeting to a larger scale through the use of modern technology.[2] Widely cited as an example of deliberative democracy, its methodology relied on mini-publics, defined as "the randomized selection of citizens to discuss public matters in small groups",[3] as well as large-group intervention (LGI) to influence organizational change.[4] It applied the concept of expert publics, recognizing that members of the general public can develop knowledge and expertise through their own experience of an issue or problem.[5] At the same time, the organization worked closely with policymakers to define the scope and choices to be discussed, arguing that the data collected would be directly relevant and more likely to influence outcomes.[6]

The group was founded as a nonpartisan nonprofit organization by activist and author Carolyn Lukensmeyer.[1][7] When its closure was announced in 2014, AmericaSpeaks claimed that it had engaged 180,000 people across 150 projects.[8] Forums organized by AmericaSpeaks included "Our Budget, Our Economy" (2010), a public deliberation about the national debt involving 3,000 people in 19 communities across the United States.[9] In 2007, AmericaSpeaks worked with city government officials to conduct a series of town meetings on rebuilding New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, involving citizens who had been displaced via telecasts and online.[10] In Chicago, AmericaSpeaks worked with the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (NIPC) to facilitate discussions around its Common Ground planning process.[11] Other projects included bringing together 4,500 stakeholders to discuss the redevelopment of ground zero in New York City.[4][1]



Critics of AmericaSpeaks have pointed out the biases inherent in how specific topics were presented to forum participants; the lack of transparency in how decisions were made; and skepticism that the time and effort invested by participants would not matter in the end.[12]

See also



  1. ^ a b c Polletta, Francesca (May 20, 2021). "Four Publics, Partners, and the Promise of Dialogue". Inventing Ties That Bind. University of Chicago Press; Chicago Scholarship Online. doi:10.7208/chicago/9780226734347.003.0004.
  2. ^ a b Lukensmeyer, Carolyn J.; Brigham, Steven (March 2005). "Taking Democracy to Scale: Large Scale Interventions-for Citizens". The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science. 41 (1): 47–60. doi:10.1177/0021886304272656.
  3. ^ Šaradín, P.; Soukop, M.; Zapletalová, M.; Zogata-Kusz, A.; Ganowicz, E. (2023). "Democratic Innovations in Three Countries". Challenging Citizens: Democratic Innovations at the Local Level. Central and Eastern European Perspectives on International Relations. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 37–51. doi:10.1007/978-3-031-43674-1_4. ISBN 978-3-031-43673-4.
  4. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Management Theory. Vol. 1. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. 2013. p. 425. ISBN 9781412997829.
  5. ^ Lees-Marshment, Jennifer (2015). "Collecting Public Input". The Ministry of Public Input. Palgrave Studies in Political Leadership. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 87–113. doi:10.1057/9781137017789_4. ISBN 978-1-349-43719-1.
  6. ^ Lees-Marshment, Jennifer (2015). The Ministry of Public Input. Palgrave Studies in Political Leadership. London: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 114–138. doi:10.1057/9781137017789_5.
  7. ^ Gross, Thomas (2014). "[REVIEW] Bringing Citizen Voices to the Table: A Guide for Public Managers". Gestalt Review. 18 (1): 65–69. doi:10.5325/gestaltreview.18.1.0065 – via EBSCOHost.
  8. ^ "AmericaSpeaks Closes Down | Participedia". Archived from the original on 2017-05-23. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  9. ^ Levy, Dena; Orr, Susan (January 2014). "Balancing the Books: Analyzing the Impact of a Federal Budget Deliberative Simulation on Student Learning and Opinion". Journal of Political Science Education. 10 (1): 62–80. doi:10.1080/15512169.2013.859084 – via EBSCOHost.
  10. ^ D'Agostino, Maria J.; Kloby, Katherine (2011). "Building Community Capacity to Engage Government: Reflections of Nonprofit Leaders on Post-Katrina New Orleans". Administration & Society. 43 (7). doi:10.1177/0095399711413733.
  11. ^ Ramasubramanian, L (2010). "Chicagoland's Search for Common Ground". Geographic Information Science and Public Participation. Advances in Geographic Information Science. Berlin; Heidelberg: Springer. pp. 105–118. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-75401-5_7. ISBN 978-3-540-75400-8.
  12. ^ Gastil, John; Knobloch, Katherine R. (2020). "A Political Life Transformed". Hope for Democracy: How Citizens Can Bring Reason Back into Politics. Oxford Academic. pp. 7–16. doi:10.1093/oso/9780190084523.003.0002. ISBN 978-0-19-008452-3.

Further reading