A Citizens’ Assembly brings a democratic-lottery-selected, representative group of people together to deliberate and make policy decisions. Citizens' Assemblies have been used all around the world to deal with divisive and highly politicized issues.
Why hold a Citizens' Assembly?
Citizens' assemblies selected by lot have the following beneficial properties.
Randomly selecting participants gives every person an equal chance of being selected, regardless of age, gender, location or any other characteristic.
Hundreds of examples from around the world have shown that citizens’ assemblies work. Research shows that diverse groups of people are better decision-makers than homogenous groups.
People develop an informed, critical understanding of complex policy decisions, hearing from and questioning a variety of experts and stakeholders.
They increase the diversity of voices in the decision-making process, allowing very different people to find common ground by focusing on wider community needs.
They open up the space for change when tackling ‘wicked problems’ where interest or community groups are blocking progress. They give decision-makers increased confidence that they have broad public support for a proposal.
They are at the forefront of democratic innovation, citizen empowerment and engagement.
Using stratified random selection and a clear, open process reduces the influence of vested interests.
Assembly members work together to identify the pros, cons and trade-offs of policy options, giving high-quality public judgements backed by considered, easily understood reasons.
They increase the legitimacy of public policy-making by enabling a representative cross-section of people to inform the decision.
Examples Around the World
Below are examples of hundreds of citizens' assemblies conducted in America and abroad. Again and again, they demonstrate the benefits of informed public judgement.
The northern California city of Petaluma implemented a citizens’ assembly chosen by lot to recommend a plan for the future use of its municipal fairground– a contentious issue that had been plaguing the city for several years.
The assembly’s 80 lottery selected residents spent two months working to reach a consensus on how to mitigate climate pollution in Washington state.
The panel weighed expert testimony and made policy recommendations to guide the response to the pandemic.
Irish citizens came together to deliberate on divisive moral issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Other assemblies made recommendations on climate change and emission reduction policies.
The people of the United Kingdom came together to discuss climate change.