This introduction to citizens’ assemblies and how they can empower breakthroughs in local democracy was co-hosted by the Berggruen Institute, Healthy Democracy, The American Public Trust, Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, Abundant Housing LA, and Public Access Democracy. This 90-minute online teach-in brought together advocates and experts on democratic theory and governance to introduce how democratic lotteries and citizen deliberation work and their relevance to LA’s biggest political challenges.
Citizens’ assemblies are gaining traction in democracies around the world because of their effectiveness in rebuilding public trust, solving complex policy issues, and depolarizing communities. Similar to the way juries are convened to deliberate on matters of justice, citizens’ assemblies bring together a representative group of citizens to carefully consider important policy matters. Such deliberative processes generated successful policy breakthroughs on controversial topics such as climate change, transitioning to renewable energy, marriage equality, and reproductive freedom, as well as local policy areas like housing, city planning, flood mitigation, and transportation. A citizens’ assembly is a representative cross-section of residents according to demographic criteria such as gender, race, ethnicity, and age. Assembly members meet to examine an important public issue in an environment designed to reduce the influence of political bias and instead put the focus on collaborative problem solving and evidence. They take testimony from experts and stakeholders and deliberate among themselves in a structured process, ensuring that all voices are heard.