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Citizens' Assemblies are a form of deliberative democracy, wherein citizens create well-informed recommendations for public administration bodies, thereby facilitating public involvement in decision-making processes. CAs are organized at various levels, including cities, regions, states, the European Union, and a successful pilot global citizens' assembly has also been conducted.

What are Citizens' Assemblies, and what is their purpose?

Citizens' Assemblies (CAs) are commonly used to address issues that have reached an impasse and face challenges in gathering unified political and public support. Members of the Citizens' Assembly are selected by lot, considering demographic criteria such as age, gender, place of residence, social status, or their connection to the discussed issue. This creates a temporary microcosm of the relevant community, which holds legitimacy in the eyes of the public. The CA's role is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of a specific problem or dilemma, engage in discussions on various solutions, evaluate the respective pros and cons, and ultimately reach well-considered decisions through mutual consensus.

Citizens' Assemblies possess a unique ability to engage individuals who may not typically participate in the majority of participatory events. By involving a diverse group of citizens, experts, and stakeholders in the process, they serve as an effective tool for fostering informed public discourse. This characteristic contributes to their popularity across the political spectrum. The global appeal of this decision-making tool is rapidly increasing, with the OECD reporting on over 600 processes, and new assemblies being organized almost daily from Mexico to Malawi.

What topics are suitable for Citizens' Assemblies?

One of the primary benefits of seeking recommendations from CAs is the ability to align with citizens' expectations and gather public support for the implementation of selected solutions.

When city leaders opt to utilize citizens' assemblies to obtain recommendations for addressing community dilemmas, it is essential to identify priority issues and precisely formulate the question to be addressed during the assembly. At this stage, holding a meeting with external experts and representatives from non-governmental organizations is advisable, as their role is to collaboratively determine the topic. The overarching goal is to secure widespread public endorsement for the chosen issue.

For the legitimacy of the process, before initiating it, the administrative body organizing the CA (led by the city, region, or state) must publicly express political support for the solutions emerging from the process that will have substantial backing from the members of the CA. For instance, Polish mayors commit to implementing recommendations that gather more than 85% support from assembly members, with typical support falling within the range of 80-90%. In the event of obstacles to implementation, the city management commits to providing clear reasons for the non-implementation of the recommendations.

CAs are employed globally to address various subject areas. It is evident that certain topics are more suited to resolution at the national or EU level due to jurisdictional powers. These topics include:

  • Climate change and specific issues related to both mitigation and adaptation
  • City development
  • Food self-sufficiency and safety
  • Healthcare
  • Care for the elderly
  • Integration at schools
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Greenery and biodiversity
  • Clean air
  • The role of the given state in the world
  • Taxes
  • Amendments to the constitution (at the state level)
  • The future of the EU

It is crucial to formulate the task for the CA as a specific dilemma that participants can emotionally connect with, while also sparking a desire in them to find a solution. If the question to be resolved is too broad or overly complex, it is preferable to break down the problem into individual parts and organize a series of CAs on that specific topic. For instance, the climate crisis, impacting a wide range of life areas, serves as an example. Another guideline for selecting a suitable topic is when a city (region, state) has developed a specific strategy in a given area but struggles to gather sufficient public support for implementing certain parts. These areas are suitable candidates to be addressed through Citizens' Assemblies.

Examples from abroad - Citizens' Assemblies at the city level:

Citizens' Assemblies at the state level: 

  • Armenia (2023): The future of Armenia
  • Austria (coming 2023): Transport concept for the Eastern region
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina (2022): Eliminating discrimination in the country's/local political and electoral environment
  • Chile (2021): Pensions and healthcare
  • Germany (2022): Consequences of the use of artificial intelligence
  • Ireland (2023): Conservation of biodiversity in Ireland
  • Montenegro (2021): Tackling corruption in healthcare and the public sector
  • Poland (2022): Pathways out of energy poverty

Marcin Gerwin - expert on Citizens' Assemblies


Course of Action


The public authority will decide to organize a CA on a specific topic and establish the conditions under which the CA recommendations will carry political weight for the city administration. It will allocate the necessary funding to cover the costs related to organizing and facilitating citizen participation in the CA, as well as for promoting and communicating the chosen topic to the public.

Selection of the Coordination Team

The independent Coordination Team is selected in a transparent process, typically through a public contract that clearly outlines the required skills, experience, and areas of responsibility. This team operates independently and oversees the entire Citizens' Assembly process. They design the CA program to allow for the presentation of diverse perspectives on solving the given problem and create suitable conditions for discussion, leading to the formulation of recommendations for local governments. It is crucial that the timeline for the process duration allows enough time for the complexity of the problem being addressed.

The responsibilities of the Coordination Team include:

  • Designing the structure of the CA and compiling the Book of Rules, which clearly outlines all roles, procedures, rules, ethical principles, and details of the methodology. It also includes the governing structure of the CA and its oversight bodies.
  • Assisting in defining the topic to make it manageable within the allocated time and financial constraints.
  • Developing a website containing all necessary information about the CA for the public and participants.
  • Inviting experts to contribute their insights.
  • Defining the criteria for participant selection.
  • Ensuring that citizens are approached and randomly selected.
  • Providing facilitation throughout the negotiation phase.
  • Managing the overall course of the CA.

Appointment of the Monitoring Team

The Monitoring Team is responsible for overseeing the entire CA process and ensuring adherence to the principles outlined in the Book of Rules, a publicly available comprehensive document. Another responsibility of the Monitoring Team is to ensure that the expert viewpoints submitted cover the broadest possible scientific spectrum.

If the Monitoring Team identifies significant breaches of the rules and the Coordination Team is unwilling to address them, the members of the Monitoring Team may escalate the matter to the OECD and request arbitration.

Reaching out to the Public

In the initial phase, communication with the public commonly begins through letters, where it is crucial to outline the process's structure, the financial reward for participating in the CA, and the support from local government. In regions where heightened political and social mistrust is anticipated, additional approaches such as home visits or increased distribution of letters may be suitable. Another strategy is to engage representatives from minority or specific social groups to communicate the CA participation within the community, aiding in overcoming initial mistrust.

In addition to sending letters, it is advisable to supplement the effort with a public appearance by a key politician from the local government. This involves communicating the organization of the CA both through online platforms and directly in the city area, utilizing posters or banners to inform the public about the upcoming CA and the political support for its outcomes. As previously mentioned, securing a publicly expressed support of the local administration is crucial for a high-quality CA process. Ideally, before the process begins, the public authority should announce the conditions under which it will implement recommendations, e.g. specifying the required percentage of support from CA members for each recommendation. Additionally, it should clarify how any obstacles to implementation will be communicated. Residents can register online or by phone.

Participant Selection Process

The selection of participants involves dividing registered male and female citizens into groups based on predetermined criteria such as age, education, gender, geography, etc. Using an electronic lottery system with an algorithm employing simulated annealing, groups are formed, and the final composition of the Citizens' Assembly is randomly selected from these groups. A program developed by the Sortition Foundation or a website created by the Panelot team can be employed for the draw.

Best practices recommend a minimum of 50 members for the CA (with an additional 10 as reserves). For a city with a population of one million, around 100 members are recommended. On a national scale, the suggested number corresponds to the quantity of elected representatives in parliament. These numbers are chosen to ensure both sufficient diversity within the group and the necessary legitimacy.

Citizens' Assembly Event

The Coordination Team, in collaboration with the public authority, oversees the seamless execution of the event. The venue and schedule are established, and CA members receive financial compensation for their involvement in the process. Additionally, participant comfort is prioritized by selecting a venue that is wheelchair accessible, and childcare is provided upon request.

1. Education Phase (public)

  • The city office/public authority introduces the process with a diagnostics of the addressed issue.
  • Members receive orientation on their roles and agree on rules for non-violent communication.
  • The Coordination Team selects experts from the academic community, ensuring a representation of diverse professional perspectives on how to solve the issue.
  • Experts and stakeholders (NGOs, institutions, church, etc.) deliver brief presentations on the issue and potential solutions. Optionally, they can provide additional materials for CA members to study.
  • All materials must remain publicly accessible throughout the process.
  • Allowing for additional meetings with experts is recommended, as participants often express interest in such sessions.

2. Negotiation Phase (closed)

In this phase, discussions occur, and concrete recommendations are formulated. Discussions take various forms, including small groups without a facilitator, facilitated groups, and plenary sessions. To ensure open communication and prevent the dominance of a single influential participant, individual members rotate within the groups. Facilitators assist the groups in developing recommendations while maintaining neutrality and refraining from evaluating proposals. Each group includes "fact checkers" responsible for addressing technical questions from assembly members, providing necessary information upon request, and enhancing the effectiveness of recommendation development.
Before transitioning to the next phase, conducting a preliminary vote is advisable. This allows CA members to assess the clarity of their recommendations and gauge the level of support within the entire assembly. This preliminary vote serves as a crucial guide for further refining and advancing the recommendations.

3. Review Phase (public)

Preliminary recommendations are released and shared with the public authority, experts, and are made available for public commentary. The local government is responsible for evaluating the financial and temporal commitments associated with each recommendation. Comments received are then forwarded to CA members for their consideration.
Subsequently, during the following meeting, representatives of the city, experts, and stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the comments and address questions posed by assembly members.

4. Final Negotiation Phase (closed)

It falls to the CA members to integrate these comments into the final recommendations or dismiss them. Likewise, they have the responsibility to clarify and refine individual recommendations, if necessary, that did not gather sufficient support in the preliminary vote.

5. Voting Phase (closed, public)

The CA membership votes on the proposed recommendations. The members have been guided through the process of developing recommendations to ensure the outcome serves as a high-quality foundation for the public authority.

Transmission and Acceptance of Recommendations (public)

The CA members will submit their recommendations to the representatives of the public authority. Simultaneously, these recommendations will be made publicly available on the Citizens' Assembly and city administration websites. The public authority will accept the recommendations according to the rules established before the process began. It is considered good practice for the city to maintain ongoing communication with citizens while implementing each recommendation or publicly address significant barriers to implementation.



1. What makes Citizens' Assemblies unique?

Representativeness of the Group - the financial reward for CA members lends weight to their activities and enables those with time constraints to actively participate.

Politically Binding Recommendations - the public authority is committed to incorporating CA recommendations.

Educational Phase - citizens are given the necessary space and information during the educational phase, empowering them to make informed decisions.

Open Discussion - CA meetings foster open discussion among citizens, creating an environment where diverse views are heard, constructive debates occur, and carefully considered conclusions are reached.

Public Trust - assemblies contribute to building trust in the political process. When citizens witness that their opinions are taken seriously and decisions are made through active participation, trust in the outcomes is strengthened.

Tackling Complex Issues - CA structures provide a systematic approach to addressing complex issues, such as climate change or constitutional reform, by involving a broad spectrum of society in the decision-making process.

2. How long does a Citizens' Assembly take?

On average, the preparation phase for a Citizens' Assembly spans approximately three months. The assembly itself typically occurs over one to two months, with members convening on weekends. The educational phase typically extends over two to three days, followed by a two-day negotiation phase. The review phase, including the final vote, takes one day. In total, the duration of a Citizens' Assembly is at least around six days.

3. How long does it take to prepare a Citizens' Assembly?

Based on international experience, the preparation time typically ranges from 2 to 5 months.

4. What is the cost of one Citizens' Assembly?

The cost varies depending on the specific circumstances and the distribution of responsibilities between the public authority and the coordination team. Generally, the cost falls within the range of 50,000 to 70,000 euros, excluding expenses related to publicizing the assembly in public spaces and online.

5. Where have Citizens' Assemblies already taken place?

In recent years, CAs in various forms have been conducted in numerous countries worldwide, including Germany, Poland, Hungary, Armenia, Brazil, and Chile.