How can a transition be effected?

A reader of the blog wrote asking whether readers of Equality by Lot have ideas about how a transition toward a system in which sortition plays an important role could be achieved.

The reader, who is an Iranian expat, is specifically interested in the case of Iran, which she describes as follows:

  • There are no political parties in Iran, though there are some syndicates of workers, teachers, …
  • There are some opposition groups out of Iran, but those who are well-known and are professional politicians, are just promoting their own interests, I think.
  • The majority of people who are against the regime are still passive as they don’t know what would happen next. They need an image of the future of Iran.
  • There is so much violence from regime devotees because they are also afraid of the future. Maybe the idea of sortition can soothe them too.

With the appropriate modifications, however, the description applies also to many (possibly all) other countries, specifically including those with the Western-style elections-based systems. Therefore any ideas may very well be relevant for effecting a change in many societies.

The questions then are:

How can a revolution create a deliberative democracy and sortition? What would be a realistic scenario or plan for that? What can international agents/actors, people like you, do to make it possible? Is there any international organization that can help at least us, Iranians who live out of Iran, to have a “citizen assembly based on sortition”, to practice democracy and peer-to-peer conversation between us and to create a feasible image of how could be the democracy like in Iran of future?

And, again, I believe the answers in the context of Iran would not be very different from the answers in other contexts. Sortition activists of all countries should consider these questions in the contexts of their own societies and government systems.

Meeting: Sunday, October 23, 2022 – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates will have our next meeting on, Sunday, October 23, 2022, at 19:00 GMT (London) [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AED].

The meeting will be held on our Discord platform. You must register on the app to attend the meeting. Here is your Discord invitation: https://discord.gg/6sgnrphp6w.

Once you have completed registration, to join the meeting:

  • Navigate to the heading “Talekanaler” on the left side of your screen (it’s before the “Linguistic Regions”)
  • Click on: “🔊General”
  • Click on: “Video

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to a maximum of 1-hour in length.

Meeting: Thursday, September 22, 2022 – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates will have our next meeting on, Thursday, September 22, 2022, at 19:00 GMT [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AED].

The meeting will be held on our Discord platform. You must register on the app to attend the meeting. If you’re interested in registering on on the Discord platform and attending the upcoming meeting contact: Rich Brown at rbrowncmt@yahoo.com.

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to a maximum of 1-hour in length.

Meeting: Sunday, August 21, 2022 – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates will have our next meeting on, Sunday, August 21, 2022, at 19:00 GMT [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AED].

The meeting will be held on our Discord platform. You must register on the app to attend the meeting. If you’re interested in registering on on the Discord platform and attending the upcoming meeting contact: Rich Brown at rbrowncmt@yahoo.com.

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to a maximum of 1-hour in length.

Meeting: Saturday, July 16, 2022 – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates will have our next meeting on, Saturday, July 16, 2022, at 15:00 GMT [16:00 Europe, 17:00 Israel, 10:00 AM US EDT, 2:00 Australia AEDT].

The meeting will be held on our Discord platform. You must register on the app to attend the meeting. If you’re interested in registering on on the Discord platform and attending the upcoming meeting contact: Rich Brown at rbrowncmt@yahoo.com.

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to a maximum of 1-hour in length.

Meeting March 24th – International Network of Sortition Advocates

The International Network of Sortition Advocates (INSA) will have its next meeting Thursday, March 24, 2022 at 19:00 GMT [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AEDT].

Google Meets Link: meet.google.com/xek-kpwx-ofr

Agenda items include:

  • Update on Google Works account
  • Configuring Discord app
  • Regular dates and times for monthly meetings
  • Shared management and facilitation of the INSA project
  • Ideas for future projects

*Please note our desire to keep the meetings to 1-hour in length. 

Meeting February 24th – International Network of Sortition Advocates (INSA)

The International Network of Sortition Advocates (INSA) will have its next meeting Thursday, February 24, 2022 at 19:00 GMT [20:00 Europe, 21:00 Israel, 14:00 EST (2:00 PM), 6:00 AEDT].

Google Meets Link: meet.google.com/oiu-wfxi-vdy.

To make our time together more productive and to limit the amount of work done outside of meetings, there will be a new format for our regular monthly meetings. Beginning this month, instead of a meeting primarily to discuss issues and then dividing up work to complete on our own time, we will use the hour together to actually complete the work that needs to be done. We’re hoping that this new format, requiring only an hour a month commitment, will attract greater numbers of interested people. Future agendas will be set by meeting participants.

Meeting Agenda – February 24, 2022 – Research and select an online platform to facilitate an exchange of information and ideas.

Please let us know if you plan to attend. We welcome your active participation and look forward to seeing you at the February 24th meeting! For more information contact:

Benny Nissen at benny@sortition.dk or Rich Brown at rbrowncmt@yahoo.com


Our Mission: To advocate for the use of Sortition, across the globe, as a better way to make political decisions by:

  • Creating an international collaborative platform for groups advocating for the use of sortition to share successes, resources, and inspiration to impel a shared global narrative.
  • Helping to establish and nurture groups to further spread the word about sortition in their local and national context.

Action: Reject the “this is a democratic country!” mental habit

In a previous post I listed some proposals for actions that activists can take to promote the idea of sortition. In this post and future ones I’d like to expand a bit on some of those ideas and open them for discussion.

From birth, citizens of Western countries are indoctrinated into thinking about their countries as being democracies. As they grow, citizens have to face a never-ending stream of pieces of evidence which falsify this idea. And indeed, they tend to become more and more disillusioned and cynical about the political systems of the societies in which they live.

And yet, it seems it is incredibly hard for Western citizens to break the habit of thinking of their societies as being essentially democratic, even if severely flawed ones. Each one of those flaws is perceived as a point in which the system does not function as it should, as it is expected, often as it has previously did.

The simple and stark fact that the Western system is not democratic and was never designed to be democratic – in fact, designed explicitly to be not democratic – is somehow almost never internalized. As they read or hear about another outrage of government, citizens keep repeating in frustration and indignation: “This shouldn’t happen! This is a democratic country!”.
Continue reading

Action ideas

In the discussion following my presentation in the January DWE meeting, one of the participants suggested that a list of actions and activities that sortition activists can engage in in order to promote idea of sortition would be useful. Here is my attempt at a first draft. The possible actions and activities are categorized by the circle of action (internal, personal circle, wider circles). In addition there is a category of activities that are suitable for coordinated action. In some cases it may be worth expanding on the bullet items and giving some details, but I wanted to keep the list brief and manageable, so I intend to do this separately.

Please contribute your ideas in the comments. Hopefully we can create an improved, richer list in future versions.

Changing personal habits of thought and expression

  • Breaking the habit of thinking and referring to countries with elections-based political systems as “democratic” (e.g., “the Western democracies”)
  • Awareness of the oppressive outcomes of the elections-based system
  • Thinking and talking about those outcomes as inherent to the elections-based system, rather than aberrations
  • Rejecting the standard electoralist “fixes” (campaign finance reforms, term limits, the popular initiative process, proportional representation, etc.)

Action within the personal circle
Continue reading

Presentation at Democracy Without Elections meeting

On Sunday I presented the presentation above at a meeting of Democracy Without Elections. The presentation was followed by a lively discussion. There was some interest in the “call to action” I make in the next-to-last slide (namely, resisting the oppressive convention of calling countries where the political system is elections-based “democracies”). A proposal was made that we – sortition activists – draw up a list of possible actions that we could engage in, as individuals or in groups, to promote sortition. I had to admit that I have made no such list, and that as far as I know no such list exists. I’ll draw up a list of ideas I have (it may unfortunately be a rather short one) and share it in a future post, and we could collectively extend and improve it.

It was great to meet this group of enthusiastic sortition activists. I thank those who participated and in particular Owen Shaffer for inviting me, and I warmly congratulate all those involved. It is great to see such activity which I think was unimaginable on a decade ago.