Citizen Assemblies

Citizen Assemblies evaluate major policy topics and help make significant political decisions.

Assemblies represent ambitious investments in civic infrastructure, where everyday citizens* consider some of the most difficult and complex public policy topics in our society.

Citizen Assemblies are larger in scope and in size than other forms of lottery-based deliberations, usually composed of 50 to 150 everyday citizens. They are larger than our Citizen Review Panels or Citizens’ Initiative Review, but they follow very similar principles and processes – just scaled up. They are frequently convened in Europe, where they have been convened by cities (as in Gdansk, Poland), by regions (as in East Belgium), by legislatures (as in Ireland), or by the president (as in France).

Each panel is randomly selected to reflect a microcosm of the public – in terms of age, ethnicity, political party, geography, gender, and other factors. This gives its resulting report an inherent legitimacy that other large public meetings may lack. Its larger size makes it even more representative of the public than other deliberative formats – albeit at higher cost and complexity.

Assemblies begin by gathering evidence through a variety of means – research, Q&As with experts, or workshops with staff. The Assembly decides on the principles and criteria it will use to make its decisions, and then considers a wide variety of policy alternatives. The Assembly’s final result is a recommended course of action, presented directly to decision makers.

(* We use “citizen” broadly in this context: a member of the public engaged in decision making. Whether members of a particular Assembly must be “residents,” “legal residents,” “legal citizens,” “registered voters,” etc. varies depending on context, and is a decision made by each Assembly’s convening agency or steering committee.)

Projects

2020 Oregon Citizen Assembly Pilot on COVID-19 Recovery

In July–August 2020, Healthy Democracy is convening Oregon's first-ever online Citizen Assembly, as a pilot project in partnership with Oregon's Kitchen Table at Portland State Univ.

Questions?

Want to explore hosting a Citizen Assembly in your city, county, or state? We’d love to hear from you.