The Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy

A Handbook for Deliberative Community Forums

Benjamin Barber recently wrote that the dysfunction of democracy that we see at the national – and even state level – has caused us to return to the origins of democracy in the polis – because it is in the cities that we can get things done on a manageable scale. In this regard, cities are taking on the role once played by the states.

In Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto has embraced the role of cities as leaders and has endorsed a model of deliberative democracy to strengthen the community’s overall civic health:

“My administration actively encourages innovation in every area of governance, which includes how we engage with our community. We have found Deliberative Community Forums to be an excellent way of engaging residents, and they have become an important element of the way we pursue good government in Pittsburgh.
Deliberative Community Forums have been used to generate meaningful public engagement and to gather residents’ input about timely decisions (the selection of a new Chief of Police), regular municipal business (identifying priorities for the City’s capital budgeting process), future initiatives (facilitating resident engagement with our Affordable Housing Task Force), and the City’s involvement with national initiatives (Pittsburgh’s adoption of the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative).”

– Foreward to “A Handbook on Deliberative Community Forums”

2017 Budget Forum


Download pdf version of A Handbook for Deliberative Community Forums

The Hnadbook contains practical information on the process and how to implement it plus sevreal case studies.

Making Use of the Handbook

For more information about how the City of Pittsburgh uses Deliberative Community Forums, contact:
Community Affairs, Office of the Mayor, 412-255-2903 or email Sally Stadelman at


To learn how to bring Deliberative Community Forums to your community, contact:

Tim Dawson at the Art of Democracy by phone (412) 996-6014 or email at


Special Thanks

The City of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh's Center for Metropolitan Studies, National Conference on Citizenship, The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Carnegie Mellon's Metro21 Project and the Remaking Cities Institute




© Copyright 2016 Program for Deliberative Democracy; for more informatiom, contact Robert Cavalier at