Citizens’ Assemblies are groups of residents (usually about 40-50 but can be higher) who come together to explore a specific topic. They learn, deliberate and make recommendations to the commissioning organisation (Council, NHS, Police, Housing Association etc).
Used to explore any socially complex issue, we have seen an increase in the UK for their use to tackle climate change, but they can also used to tackle issues such as hate crime, violence, or any complex and challenging social issue.
Each Citizen Assembly generally uses a sortition process to randomly select members of the public so that those who meet and deliberate look like those who will be affected by any future decisions. Assemblies are a fabulous way to better understand how an organisation might learn more about what a ‘mini public’ might think, and they seek recommendations from the process to enable them to act socially. Assembly members are able to make recommendations based on the learning facilitated through expert witnesses and community stakeholders.
Deliberation is the key word when using a Citizen Assembly as an engagement tool. Detailed deliberation enables the group to come to a collective decision with recommendations that are presented to the authority, organisation or community, who then respond with future actions to address the issue.
Our Citizens Assembly in Newham, London attracted the following comments from those involved.