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IDEA is an established innovator in connecting citizens with their elected officials for deliberative, useful conversations. DEA’s flagship innovation is the Deliberative Town Hall. Initially developed via a National Science Foundation grant in 2006, the method has since been used with over 30 Members of Congress from both houses and parties, as well as by a congressional committee.

Watch IDEA's Deliberative Town Hall with the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress

After the 2018 publication of Politics With the People: Building a Directly Representative Democracy, IDEA created the Connecting to Congress initiative to further its research and support Members of Congress who want to engage deliberatively with their constituents. All IDEA’s Deliberative Town Halls are organized independently by its research team, at no cost to congressional offices.

In addition to online Deliberative Town Halls, a vertical form of deliberation, IDEA also uses other deliberation formats when appropriate, including citizen-to-citizen deliberative forums using the Every Voice Engaged online platform. For these “horizontal” deliberative forums, IDEA does similar representative recruitment of participants and then aggregates the small-group results in order to report back to policymakers. IDEA has conducted deliberative forum series for 4 Members of Congress: Senators Tillis and Crapo and Reps. Scanlon and Shalala.

Deliberative Town Halls and other deliberative forums have been shown to greatly increase trust in and approval of the participating Members, and to have real-world impact on lawmakers’ decision making. In the area of engagement, these town halls can be used to identify citizen’s deepest concerns around an issue and/or provide feedback on potential policies under consideration. Deliberative Town Halls can also be used to support accountability and oversight efforts by having citizens discuss how well a law or policy is accomplishing its legislative purpose and/or to recommend ideas for reform.

Find out more:

Full list of Members who have participated

Connecting to Congress One Pager