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Abstract

Over the last few decades, deliberative minipublics have been used as inclusive and innovative practices to integrate traditional policy-making. Because of their policy-oriented aim, but also owing to the usually not legally-binding nature, some scholars have recently pointed out the importance of understanding how and to what extent they actually manage to influence the decisions of public authorities, especially when they deal with highly controversial issues, such as locally unwanted land use or ethic matters.

This article has the aim of offering a contribution in this direction, by presenting the findings of a comparative analysis of two deliberative processes promoted by public authorities to integrate decision-making in order to deal with highly controversial issues. The two processes had significantly different impacts on the final policies. The analysis, conducted by means of ethnographic and qualitative methods, has shown that how the minipublics were designed and how deliberation was put in practice were crucial aspects in determining the effective influence of the minipublics on policy decisions. In particular, the use of a strictly deliberative design on such contentious issues has proved to be counterproductive, because it has generated distortions and produced institutional conflicts, while the use of a hybrid path, although not free from problems, has proved to be a more effective solution.

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