Nested Assemblies

You know… the Ostbelgien Model. Or what it was first named by Terry Bouricius a decade ago: Multi-body Sortition.

For a movement to grow, it needs names of important terms that are more descriptive of the concept behind it so that it is easier for newbies to learn. If the term can serve as an advance organizer, even better. I think we need to adopt the best term possible before less-than-optimal terms take hold.

Terry and I have been bouncing around terms, and the best so far seems to be Nested Assemblies. Think Russian dolls that nest one inside another. Or nested structures in computer science.

Are there better terms?

11 Responses

  1. It won’t make things easier, but the same is true for other languages where citizens’ assemblies & councils… are rising: German, French …


  2. The name is very important indeed:
    At present we distinguish mainly three types *25

    – The statistically and descriptively representative assembly (limited or individualdeliberative *26 ).Usually characterized by a large number of participants (500 / 1000 or more). Stratification and proportional selection on objective characteristics, (gender, residence, age,voting eligibility,..). Image of society (mini-public)
    – The deliberative assembly. Group deliberation characterized by “great diversity”,”maximum diversity”, etc.. rather than “representativeness”. This representativeness is often claimed but rarely substantiated and realized. Usually a very small number of participants ( 15 – 100 … ).Selection on the basis of problematic questionnaires (education, financial situation, political affiliation, religion, race, profession, conflicting interests,..) and often unmotivated stratification with targeted manual corrections, complemented with an element of sortition *27
    . Deliberative meetings do not always impose the same requirements, however, properly justified, their organization can meet the specific fundamental principles required. For example, a jury appointed by lot in the judicial application can have only 12 members but must meet only there requirement of “unbiased” and not at all the requirement of “representativeness.” In contrast, the requirements in the domain of the legislature, which we deal with here in this paper, are more demanding.
    – A mixture statistical representative and deliberative *28
    . Deliberative Polling®.With evaluation of each stage performed with published scientific methodology includingquestionnaires on the topic covered in order to evaluate the advancing understanding

    Due to the lack of standardization for the surrounding institutions of the People’s Assemblies/Jury (client, organizers, organizing committee, external companies, pilot committee, facilitators, etc..) and “Code(s) of Good Practice” *29, the current “People’s Assemblies” (or Juries), whether or not designated in whole or in part by lot, are often questionable in execution and rather harmful to the instrument itself. They are arbitrarily composed, without justification of their methods and concepts (representative, statistically – descriptive representative, proportionality, individual/group deliberative, maximal diversity,…), a questionable and/or uncontrollable sortition system mixed with arbitrary selection, a lack of financial transparency and susceptible to manipulation *30.

    Irrespective of whether questionnaires about your religion, political affiliation and race etc., are acceptable for the purpose to carry out a selection, or give any reliable result, it is clear that the claim for statistical as well as descriptive and proportional representativeness must be substantiated.

    The claim of “representativeness” therefore has many aspects that need to be assessed.
    In addition to the selection system used, and the quality of implementation, there are the aspects of “statistical representativeness (margin of error and confidence level)”, “descriptive representativeness (with objective criteria: age, gender, region of residence)” and the choice of the strata and their “proportionality”. All the elements together legitimize the claim for “image of society” or “mini-public”.
    Along with cognitive (knowledge and reasoning ability) and sociological aspects (political, cultural, religious and economic ), the necessary diversity of life experience is also represented in this way.


  3. How about “Interacting Assemblies”? Or, “Assembly of assemblies”?

    (“Nested” implies some sort of a hierarchical structure that is not in fact proposed, I believe.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How about “co-ordinate” (used adjectivally) to express coordinated action without hierarchical baggage. Thus “co-ordinate assemblies”.
    I also wish we had a dedicated term for sortive assemblies. “Jury” is OK, but limited by its juridical associations. “Assembly” absent qualifiers like “random”, “sortive” or “sortitional” is just too non-specific. How about repurposing the old musical term “Consort”? It combines the morphemes con- (=together) and -sort (=choose by lot), and evokes harmony. Thus, “Legislative Consort”, “Deliberative Consort”, “Consultative Consort”, and so on.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The name “Jury” has a strong connection with the judiciary system that uses only “stratified sortition”. Most political initiatives (except DP from James Fishkin, the Oregon CIR etc..) are using a mixture of manual selection by experts and an element of sortition. This latter system would never be accepted in the Judicial application. For me this is the most dangerous evolution in the sortition system and has to be mentioned in some way in the name if possible. Otherwise it is misleading from the start. An other problem is the “values” of the initiative. A judicial Jury only has to be “Impartial”.
    (The four democratic values: “equality, impartiality, representativeness and legitimacy” as suggested by Dimitri Courant in “Thinking Sortition”.) Of course we can’t put every characteristic future in the name but the main characteristics should be clear and not misleading at least.


  6. *** Paul Nollen writes “A judicial jury only has to be “impartial” ; representativeness and democratic legitimacy being irrelevant. I disagree.
    *** In English-like criminal juries the allotted jurors have only to decide about the guilt. But there is a strong element of basic political choice. Must they require an high level of proof ? This will lessen the repression of crimes, especially in some kinds of crimes as sexual ones where proof is difficult, or about loose complicity in terrorism or in complex financial schemes. Or they may be satisfied with low level of proof, and that will lessen harshly the legal safety of all citizens. Allotted jurors will more or less guarantee that the political choice is not too far from the median choice of the citizen body – representativeness and democratic legitimacy are relevant.
    *** In France since half a century jurors have a say in deciding sanctions. Must the jurors be sensitive to all kinds of extenuating circumstances ? Or must the sentences be harsh, to fight crime ? or especially some kinds of crime. Here too there is a basic political choice. Here too representativeness and democratic legitimacy are relevant.
    *** Horacio Spector (2003) and Eric Ghosh (2010) proposed allotted juries for constitutional courts. Who will say that the political leanings of the constitutional judges are irrelevant, that only impartiality matters ?


  7. André – maybe I had to say “historically a judicial jury only has to be impartial”.
    It is no problem for me when you want to add other requirements. But real “representativeness” (statistical? descriptive? proportional?) has a lot of other definitions and requirements. The way most Citizens Assemblies are composed now (manual selection by specialists of a small number volunteers with an element of sortition) will not be acceptable at all for judicial purposes.


  8. André – *** Horacio Spector (2003) and Eric Ghosh (2010) proposed allotted juries for constitutional courts. Who will say that the political leanings of the constitutional judges are irrelevant, that only impartiality matters ? ***
    Juries or judges is not the same. For the appointment of federal judges there was a remarkable referendum (citizen’s initiative) in Switserland. It was not accepted but it was the first time ever I know about. And such changes take time, maybe the next initiative will have success.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Are here any people with German as their native language like me? Not only that there are terms that are simple untranslatable (eng. “jury” ≠ dt./fr. “jury”). I could be a lot more useful in a discussion in German. :-)

    B.t.w., have you heard of this project?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for the link to the goodbyelections film website.


  11. Hm
    I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean. I’m aware that CAs have been and are being held in east Belgium, and may now have been institutionalised, but I’m not familiar with the model being used.

    Is it one assembly that sets the agenda, and a dedicated assembly for each of the issues identified in the agenda?

    If you can point me at a concise summary, I’d be grateful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: