Journal article

Abstract: This paper explores theoretical and practical distinctions between individual citizens (‘citizens’) and organized groups ('stakeholder representatives' or ‘stakeholders’ for short) in public participation processes convened by government as part of policy development. Distinctions between ‘citizen’ and ‘stakeholder’ involvement are commonplace in government discourse and practice; public involvement practitioners also sometimes rely on this distinction in designing processes and recruiting for them. Recognizing the complexity of the distinction, we examine both normative and practical reasons why practitioners may lean toward—or away from—recruiting citizens, stakeholders, or both to take part in deliberations, and how citizen and stakeholder roles can be separated or combined within a process. The article draws on a 2012 Canadian-Australian workshop of deliberation researchers and practitioners to identify key challenges and understandings associated with the categories of stakeholder and citizen and their application, and hopes to continue this conversation with the researcher-practitioner community.


David Kahane Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta,
Kristjana Loptson Doctoral student, Department of Political Science, University of Alberta,
Jade Herriman Research Principal, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney,
Max Hardy Director, Twyfords Consulting, Australia,

Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 9: Iss. 2, Article 2. Available at:

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