In my previous post I referred to a citizens’ assembly held in Southampton. Called Assembly South, this was one of two pilots (the other one was in Sheffield) organised by Democracy Matters – Democracy Matters – an alliance of university and civil society organisations led by Professor Matthew Flinders and funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.
The pilots were held in 2015 in response to growing evidence of democratic inequality associated with people’s social background, and a commitment to investigate ways of narrowing the gap.
The project also fitted in with the fact that most party manifestos in the 2015 General Election proposed a popular convention to examine constitutional issues. In its report on the pilots Democracy Matters says:
The Assemblies were the first attempt to put those ideas into practice. A citizens’ assembly is a group of citizens selected at random from the population (but ‘stratified’ to increase representativeness) to learn about, deliberate upon, and make recommendations in relation to a particular issue or set of issues.
The aim is to provide ordinary citizens with a chance to take part directly in decision-making and at the same time engage with the issues in a ‘thoughtful and engaged way’.
The report adds:
What we have found is that citizens’ assemblies offer a promising response to broader concerns regarding political disaffection and the withdrawal of certain sections of society from traditional forms of democratic expression.” And that “Citizens are ready, willing and able to take part in participatory and deliberative forms of democratic practice in relation to complex policy issues.
The full report can be accessed via the link above.