New forum supports conversations about complex issues

by Sir Peter Gluckman
Partcipants at the Koi Tū and Watercare workshops.

An announcement from Koi Tū Director Sir Peter Gluckman

I am delighted to announce that Koi Tū will launch the Koi Tū Forum in April – a place for constructive dialogue about complex issues, one which will foster citizen engagement in decision-making for Aotearoa New Zealand’s future.

Nations globally are grappling with the challenges of conducting complex conversations on matters of national importance, and New Zealand is no different in this regard. There is growing concern about how we resolve issues that need non-partisan discussion and resolution, without further exacerbating social tensions.

Existing government processes struggle to address complex issues such as inequality, climate change, and ecological degradation, while the fast pace of modern life fosters expectations for rapid solutions that democratic processes often can’t meet.

The short-term focus of electoral cycles tends to prioritise simplistic solutions over long-term challenges.

Meanwhile, public discussion, from social media to parliament, does not foster an understanding of different viewpoints, or of the full range of factors that need consideration. As such, discussions can often become polarised, making it impossible to find consensus.

To counter this, we intend to develop the Forum as a national centre for deliberative approaches that enable citizens to come together and find points of common ground.

The Forum builds on our track record of democratic innovation. Koi Tū delivered New Zealand’s first citizens’ assembly on the next source of Auckland’s water for Watercare. Our work received international recognition, winning the planning award at the IAP2 Australasia Core Values Awards, recognising best practice citizen participation and engagement. We’ve also led citizens’ forums and digital engagement processes on the future of transport for the Ministry of Transport and Auckland Council.

Now it is the time for us to scale up our services to address wider issues of concern to our nation.

Dr Anne Bardsley, Koi Tū Forum Director

The forum, led by Koi Tū deputy director Dr Anne Bardsley is committed to making public engagement more inclusive, informed and constructive. Our approach is based on a concept known as deliberative democracy, which connects citizens more directly to decision-making processes. We will use both in-person methods such as citizens’ assemblies and deliberative forums, and recently developed advanced digital processes.

The Forum will have two arms – a service arm led by Dr Bardsley, focusing on the practical applications of deliberative democracy, selecting the appropriate approach and designing deliberative processes, convening and facilitating in-person forums and using digital tools.

The academic arm, headed by Dr Tatjana Buklijas will build new insights and contribute to international understanding on how to strengthen democracy, provide educational and training opportunities, supervise senior undergraduate and graduate students of democratic innovation and organise public seminars and conferences.

Dr Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal will provide strategic transcultural advice, allowing the forum to support organisations, communities, iwi, and local and central government to make evidence-informed decisions on complex, challenging issues.

We are working with our chair Bridget Coates to appoint a diverse reference panel of 20 knowledgeable New Zealanders to ensure we select topics that are aligned with long-term public good.

While we will work on a service-fee recovery basis where possible, we welcome philanthropic support for this endeavour so we can respond to public interest questions. Please contact Bridget at

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