New York City September 14th-15th, 2023
What will I learn/gain from the experience?This workshop will bring OSUN scholars from around the world together with U.S. based public servants and civic engagement specialists in the United States. Working with key deliberative democracy practitioners and city officials who have run deliberative processes, cohorts from various US localities will join the workshop in order to workshop their ideas.
OSUN scholars will either join as participants and, depending on their level of expertise, also co-facilitators of workshops, presenting their experiences with deliberative/participatory democracy.
The programs goal is two-fold:
1) strengthen a network of democracy innovation/deliberative/participatory democracy specialists within the Open Society University Network.
2) Enable a space for participants from various backgrounds to workshop their plans for increased citizen engagement
You will learn the nuts and bolts of an assembly, and will join an alumni network to connect you with further expertise and resources to plan and implement tangible projects.The workshop will include:Preparation (planning)
Recruitment (The Lottery)
Deliberation (& Moderation)
Outputs (Policy & Media)
LogisticsThere are two types of participants for this workshop: OSUN Faculty and the broader public (cohorts from around the United States who are working to advocate for or run citizens' assemblies in their localities). The workshop will bring around 30 elected officials, public servants and community leaders to NYC for two days. We encourage participants to apply in groups of 2 or 3.
OSUN Faculty should apply here
Non-OSUN members should apply here
and email [email protected] with any questions.
Who will lead the workshops?
You will learn from the foremost experts from the U.S. and around the world regarding their experiences in using random selection and deliberative methods. They will provide you with both the broad political framework and practical considerations needed to design and implement a CA.
CAs have helped move the needle on tough policy issues in Ireland (abortion and marriage equality), Canada (electoral reform and public transportation planning), and have become permanent in Belgium, Oregon and Paris.
A Deeper Dive
What makes this different from an opinion poll?
A CA, unlike a political poll, meets with the help of experts and trained facilitators for an extended period of time (at the very least several days) and can thus help de-escalate heated ideological divisions and help citizens see all sides of an issue. These settings are conducive to citizen learning about complex issues, and help reduce the impact of misinformation and depolarization.
The results from CAs and other lottery-based bodies have been positive. Decisions produced tend to include full nuances of the debate preceding them and often lead to novel solutions. Experience of political responsibility in CAs has been shown to awaken people’s civic sensibilities and collective intelligence: they begin to view issues from the perspective of a collective long-term interest, above their own short-term interest. This makes compromise possible, and allows for hard choices around trade-offs such as:
1. raising taxes
2. making decisions around policing/community safety
3. planning for mitigation/adaptation around climate change
What policy issues are well-suited for a citizens' assembly?
Iain Walker of the New Democracy Foundation (Australia), which has run dozens of assemblies, has stated that the best topics for CAs are those that pass the headline test: are participants 30 second opinions likely to change after sitting with the topic for 30 hours? Topics that are well-suited to CAs are thus those that involve thinking through tough trade-offs: including taxes, public safety/crime, and planning. Learn more here.
What are the core aspects of the Citizens' Assembly process?
Here are the three core aspects of any effective citizens' assembly:
I: Random Selection: the citizens are chosen by lottery.
II: Good Debate: the citizens hear and deliberate with experts, interest groups and witnesses on the issue.
III: Citizen Power: the citizens freely, honestly and sincerely discuss an issue that is (more or less) in their purview of power to decide on or make recommendations for
In Canada, the organization MASS LBP has been offering Reference Panels as a service to help governments, public utilities and corporations make better decisions for over a decade. They also offer invaluable practical guides on the resources section of their website:
In the US, Healthy Democracy is based in Oregon and has pioneered the use of lottery-based deliberation around ballot initiatives.
The Sortition Foundation, with bases in the UK & Australia is a hub for knowledge about lottery based systems.
The OECD has published reports providing in-depth comparisons and an analysis of best-practices here.
In Europe, the Federation for Innovation in Democracy has led the charge in helping governments establish and institutionalized forms of deliberative democracy.
Participedia is a global network and crowdsourcing platform for researchers, policymakers and practitioners interested in public participation and democratic innovations
The blog Equality by Lot offers the most thorough ongoing round-up of discussion and information on lottery based democratic innovations activity around the world.