A Citizens’ Assembly brings together people from all walks of life into one space, in person or online, to learn about, discuss, and deliberate on a topic, and then provide recommendations to their government and their fellow citizens.
Video: "Citizens, Assemble! Deliberative Democracy in 3 Minutes" from Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Washington, DC
Climate change is the most existential and divisive issue our country has ever faced.
And what are we doing about it? We're waiting for action from our legislators. It's a process that is too slow, divided, and inaccessible. Decisions are made behind closed doors, excluding the voices of those who will actually deal with the consequences. Democracy needs to work for all of us—but it doesn't include all of us.
This issue so often devolves into polarized arguments—environmentalists vs. big business, urban vs. rural, left vs right—and it harms us all. Climate change cannot be another “us versus them” issue, because it impacts us all. How can we ensure that decisions on this issue are inclusive, effective, and democratic? The answer is not just a new policy—it’s a new process.
So-called “Citizens' Assemblies*,” which have their roots in ancient Athenian democratic processes and various Indigenous decision-making practices, are making a comeback in modern democracies. We believe it's time to bring them back to help us all respond to this issue of our lifetimes. Their essence is to gather a group of people reflecting the diversity of the population and engage them in a process of learning, discussing, deliberating, and decision-making known as Deliberative Democracy, the result being a set of recommendations that stands as a Voice of the People.
(*Please note that “Citizens” is a term of art that has become connected with this type of process, and that we in no way intend to exclude non-citizens. Everyone is impacted by climate change, and everyone needs to be consulted about and involved in the solution!)