Does the Meeting Style Matter? The Effects of Exposure to Participatory and Deliberative School Board Meetings
By Jonathan E. Collins, Brown University
Would public meetings incite more civic engagement if they were structured in ways that are simply more engaging? I addressed this question by conducting an original survey with an oversample of racial and ethnic minorities and individuals from low-income households. The survey featured a randomized experiment in which each study participant was shown a short clip of an actual school board meeting that was (1) a standard meeting with no public participation, (2) a meeting with public participation, or (3) a meeting with deliberation (public participation followed by a reasoned response from the school board). The experience of viewing the more participatory and deliberative school board meetings led to increased trust in local officials and a stronger willingness to attend school board meetings in the future. This study has significant implications for civic engagement, local politics, and public school governance.