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Author Biography

Dennis Chirawurah is the Director of the West Africa Resilience Innovation Lab and lecturer in the School of Medicine at the University of Development Studies Ghana.

James S. Fishkin is the Janet M. Peck Chair in International Communication, Professor of Communication and Political Science (by courtesy) and Director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University.

Abstract

This article poses the problem of public consultation in developing countries and applies a solution in Ghana as a test case. It describes the theoretical rationale for deliberative consultation with random samples, describes specific criteria for success, and then assesses an application under the challenging conditions of a developing country. It builds on notions of “deliberative democracy,” and shows how they can be practically realized in an African context through “Deliberative Polling” (DP). The challenge is that the context is one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest countries in Africa. Rather than consulting just stakeholders, or self-selected populations, or using conventional surveys, DP’s have the advantage of consulting random samples with deliberation in depth in confidential surveys so that the opinion changes can be evaluated at the individual level, free of social pressures for consensus. Is this practical in this context? A DP was conducted in Tamale, Ghana on issues of water, sanitation, hygiene and food security. Criteria for success for DPs that have been applied in highly developed countries are discussed and then applied in Ghana under challenging conditions.

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