Let’s do some sightseeing and go to Saillans. A small village in a South of France tried something unusual, and I belong to a collective in Paris wanting to reproduce their experiment. A member sent a bunch of links to videos about Saillans.

Two images to help locating Saillans. Romain Cazé CC-BY

Saillans’ town hall uses sortition massively. 12 randomly selected citizen control the elected official (check 5:00 of this video). They also use random selection to build action groups on specific topics, like designing the city’s urban plan. The experiment demonstrates how we can use chance to enhance citizen involvement. They demonstrate at least two points: (1) Citizens can perform executive functions, and (2) Citizens can be used to control the executive power.

Of course, some locals speak against this method and for them things were better before. And some mayors around look on Saillans with a judgemental eye. They argue that people should not decide on topics unknown to them. We can answer this argument in two ways: people can become experts through action, and certain mayors didn’t have any prior training before their elections.

But the easiest criticism of this experiment is about its scale (Saillans’ population is around 1,200 inhabitants). Hey, we need to start somewhere and better start at the smallest scale possible. I like the bottom-up approach and believe that a revolution should be done one step at a time. The town hall has worked this way for four years now. A story to be continued…

Thank you for reading! Write below, if you want to add information about Saillans or why you agree or disagree.

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4 Responses

  1. Presumably the reform was introduced 4 years ago because residents felt City Hall does not represent their values and interests. Does the average Saillans resident feel that the new system does a better job? How has policy changed?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It would indeed be interesting to hear if the reform was introduced a) for the reason Yoram gives (but how would you know?) b) an initiative by sortition activists c) an initiative by politicians. Is participation voluntary and if b) is there any correlation between the activists and those who chose to accept their allotted role?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tristan Rachid explains how it all started in a video ( (sorry in French). The former mayor of Saillans was autocratic and he made a stupid decision by himself. He decided to welcome a supermarket at the border of the city. Across an highway. Meaning elderly and young parents have to cross a dangerous street + killing little shops in the city center. It started by a collective against this project. They won and nobody build a supermarket. The same collective then ran for election.

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  4. It’s interesting to hear that it was the result of a collective of activists against a specific decision, rather than a general dissatisfaction from the huddled masses (some of who might have quite liked a supermarket) with the political elite. A democratic decision would have involved voting, rather than decision-making by an autocratic mayor, so it would appear sortition was introduced because democratic principles were not followed, not as a reaction against “electoralism”.

    Liked by 1 person

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