Citizen Juries: Getting to the Best and Fairest Idea

In October 2020, the Smart Cities Research Institute hosted Nicholas Gruen from Lateral Economics, a policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on our economy, society and innovation. Nicholas discussed how Swinburne University of Technology and, indeed, the wider Australian community, could benefit from Citizen Juries. 

While people are familiar with the concept of a jury in a legal sense, Citizen Juries are less well-known. They consist of randomly selected people, representative of the demographics in an area, that come together to reach a collective decision or recommendation on a policy issue through informed deliberation. This concept aligns well with the iHUB (insert hyperlink?): a smart decision support platform for applied urban research, synthesis and engagement. 

Nicholas explained that Citizen Juries embody the dynamic of unitary democracy. The benefits are that the majority of jurors feel the process is fair and helps inform them on the issues. Participants often comment on the benefits of discussing ideas with ordinary people to assist in paving the best way forward.

After Nicholas explored how Citizen Juries could provide much needed ‘equality of speech’ for all aspects of society, attendees were divided into break-out groups to discuss potential biases people bring to decision making by discussing 6 imaginary possible members of a Citizen Jury; they also examined how Citizen Juries could be formed to make them fair and discussed issues around the demographics and diversity of Citizen Jury members. 

The event proved a lively, thought-provoking and stimulating initial exploration of the enormous potential of Citizen Juries. A further session to continue the discussion will be planned for the near future. 

MPavilion 2019

In November 2019 we hosted a series of panel sessions at MPavilion — Data in Urban Environments’ exploring the future of data use in our urban environments. The panels were recorded in the below videos.

Designing Better Lives

Designing Better Lives

Our panel discusses how co-design and data visualisation can help citizens participate in the development of our future cities.

Steering our Cities Towards ‘Zero’

Steering our Cities Towards ‘Zero’

Our panel explores the changing landscape of urban mobility, the challenges facing our cities and opportunities that will shape the future directions of urban transport.

Densification and Future Decision-Making for Housing

Densification and Future Decision-Making for Housing

Our panel discusses the challenges, incentives and enabling equity for individuals and society in densification.

Trees — Rooting for a Smart City?

Trees — Rooting for a Smart City?

Our panel discusses the role of trees in cities as living natural assets.

Associate Members launch

In February 2019 our director, Professor Mark Burry AO, launched a new thought leadership series with an invited lecture by Nicholas Gruen (policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on economy, society and innovation).

The forum also saw the launch of our Associate Members program. Over 50 associates gathered to discuss our four research programs, bringing their diverse backgrounds and skills to showcase transdisciplinary collaborations and opportunities. Attendees were invited to meet the associates to investigate possible future partnerships to tackle the challenges of a digitalised urban future, working together with federal, state and local government, industry and service providers, and professional practice.

Professor Mark Burry launches the research associates program.

Professor Mark Burry AO launches the Associate Members program

At the inaugural event in our Thought Leadership series, Professor Mark Burry AO launched the institute's Associate Members.

MTalk: Digital Media and Social Innovation

In November 2018 we hosted Carlo Ratti (architect, engineer and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab) and Professor Rob Adams AM (city design director at City of Melbourne) for the MTalk “Digital Media and Social Innovation” at MPavilion. The pair held an informed discussion on the impact of the technological revolution on architecture, engineering and city planning. Associate Professor Jeni Paay was the MC for this event.

MPavilion 2018

In a bid to find new ways to get citizens involved in urban design and focus our activity on real-world challenges, we partnered with the MIT Senseable City Lab to workshop Melbourne's future urban infrastructure in the session “Reimagining Urban Infrastructure for Smart Cities”.

Over 30 Swinburne PhD and master students took part in a week-long workshop during October 2018 with MIT staff. It culminated in the opportunity to pitch ideas to city officials, partners and other interested parties at MPavilion in the Melbourne CBD.

Read more about how the MIT Senseable City Lab and our institute collaborate

Read more about this topic via this news article

Our collaboration with MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab at MPavilion

Our collaboration with MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab at MPavilion

We partnered with MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab to workshop future urban infrastructure ideas, pitching the final ideas to a panel of government and industry experts.

Smart Cities Research Forum

October 2018 heralded the first Smart Cities Week in Australia. We partnered with organisers of the Sydney event to hold a Research Forum as the inaugrual national gathering of smart cities researchers, government and industry.

The forum had over 50 participants from diverse backgrounds who worked to build researcher-practitioner collaboration across Australia and New Zealand and beyond. The forum involved diving into critical research needs for advancing and accelerating the smart cities movement.

Public lectures

Being Human in a Smart City‌‌ lecture

We hosted a public lecture at Engineers Australia in November 2019, featuring Professor Margot Brereton (Professor of Engineering and Interaction Design at Queensland University of Technology) exploring the future of smart cities from the dual perspectives of engineering and human interaction.

Watch the webinar here.

Nicholas Gruen lecture

In February 2019 our director, Professor Mark Burry AO, launched a new thought leadership series with an invited lecture by Nicholas Gruen (policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on economy, society and innovation). 

Nicholas explored the landscape of the private and the shared within the scope of digital collaboration in the 21st century. Examining how this digital collaboration is resulting in a rapid development of open source software while in the ‘analogue’ world the public good of our social fabric is coming under immense pressure, the lecture sought to find new ways of understanding these things to help create the world we would like to see. 

The Public Goods of the 21st Century by Nicholas Gruen

The Public Goods of the 21st Century by Nicholas Gruen

Our inaugural thought leadership series began with a lecture from Nicholas Gruen — policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on economy, society and innovation.

Contact the Smart Cities Research Institute

If your organisation would like to collaborate with us to solve a complex problem, or you simply want to contact our team, get in touch by calling +61 3 9214 5177 or emailing

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