What is a Citizens Assembly?

Citizens’ assemblies, (also known as mini-publics and citizens’ juries) bring together a diverse group of between 20 and 150 members of the public to consider a particular topic and produce a set of recommendations. The members, chosen through a form of civic lottery, reflect the diversity of the local population and can be viewed as a mini version of the wider public. 

Why use Citizens Assemblies?

The legitimacy of citizens assemblies and juries comes from both their randomised participation and from their ability to produce well considered informed recommendations. This means that they are different from most other forms of public consultation, which generally asks self-selecting members of the public to respond to pre-determined policy options based on little information. 

Consultation may help test public opinion on a specific issue. We believe that opinion is often misinformed, based on limited personal experience and easily manipulated. Or the respondents may have predetermined or strongly held views, which is why they respond. Through going further we can help identify the authentic, informed priorities of everyday citizens, based on meeting other citizens, considering different perspectives, and talking issues through in depth.

They are an example of deliberative democracy in action, as opposed to representative or participatory democracy

Key feature of deliberative process

Before we begin there is an important design phase. Working with the commissioners and an independent advisory group we agree who needs to be involved, the evidence that needs to be heard, and build commitment to act on the results. The advisory group meets alongside but separately from the citizens’ deliberations. 

The stratified recruitment process (usually called sortition) and structure of the sessions ensures that the participants much better reflect the diversity of the local population than a standard consultation.

Citizens assemblies and juries generally meet over 30 hours (or 5 to 6days) to enable participants to dig deeply into complex issues.  Following best practice learnt over many years, in an informal and relaxed setting we support members to share knowledge, expertise and opinions.

They will hear from a wide range of perspectives. Commentators (also known as expert witnesses) are the specialists called to provide different perspectives on the topic being considered. The commentators are then closely questioned to draw out all the information needed to make informed judgements. 

The group of citizens considers what they have learnt and agree on a set of recommendations for change. Those recommendations are delivered to policy makers, officials and politicians. All recommendations, given in their own words, are ranked through anonymised voting.

These deliberative processes produce deeply insightful results that would not be achieved through a consultation, focus group or survey. In addition, the process nearly always produces a group of enthusiastic motivated citizens interested in taking action.

How Shared Future can help

With over 30 citizen assemblies’ completed, we can help you enact deliberative processes when you want to engage with citizens and communities

Find out more

Catch up on our latest stories, resources and events

News & Stories

Read our Latest Stories

Resources

Read our resources

Events & Workshops

Find out more

Subscribe to our Mailing List

Join the Shared Future community and keep updated on the latest news, activities and our work

Subscribe