Bard College (Annandale, NY) July 5th-8th, 2022
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 focus on:Preparation (planning)
Recruitment (The Lottery)
Deliberation (& Moderation)
Outputs (Policy & Media)
The workshop fee is $500. We are offering 20 need-based full-fellowships which also include reimbursement for housing/travel. The workshop will bring 30 elected officials, public servants and community leaders to Bard College, NY for two days. Participants are responsible for housing and travel arrangements (more information here). We encourage participants to apply in groups of 2 or 3. Apply here and email [email protected] with any questions.
You will learn from the foremost experts from the U.S. and around the world (including Peter Macleod, David Van Reybrouck, Kyle Bozentko, Claudia Chwalisz) 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.
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.