Finding Genius Podcast

I’ve been meaning to post about this, but sadly the end of term proved rather hectic for me. I was interviewed in April about sortition for the Finding Genius podcast. It was a good interview–wish I’d seen the interview with Simon Pek beforehand, as the topic of sortition inside of firms came up. The picture they found of me is ten years old, but I’m not going to complain about that! The podcast can be accessed here: Revolutionizing Democracy – The Benefits Of Sortition and Selected Citizens Councils with Dr. Peter Stone.

First Municipal Citizens Assembly in California

The northern California city of Petaluma (pop. 60,000) recently budgeted $450,000 for a Citizens’ Assembly chosen by lot to recommend a plan for the future use of its municipal fairground–a contentious issue that had been plaguing the city for several years. The Petaluma CA is the first municipal citizens assembly in California. The plan passed the city council unanimously.

The panel runs from mid-May to mid-July 2022, will deliberate over 90 hours, and is tasked with providing three policy reports on the question, “How might we use the City’s fairgrounds property to create the experiences, activities, resources, and places that our community needs and desires now and for the foreseeable future?”

The panelists will develop, write, and edit the reports themselves, and will deliver them to the Fair Board and City Council. The reports are advisory, though the council and board are expected to thoroughly consider and publicly respond to them.  

Healthy Democracy, best known for their work on the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review, has been designated moderator for the CA. Their work involves design and implementation of the CA process, and facilitating deliberation.

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Mock Citizens’ Assembly

Want to experience a Citizens’ Assembly from the inside? Democracy Without Elections has teamed with Healthy Democracy and the Building a New Reality Foundation to put you in the middle of one!

Healthy Democracy will run a Mock Citizens’ Assembly that will be very close to the real thing. You can experience every part of a Citizens’ Assembly except that there would be no democratic lottery (sortition) to choose participants, a final report would not be written and the experience will be more compressed. There is no lottery as folks are self-selected because they want to experience a Citizens’ Assembly from the inside.

A Citizens’ Assembly must have an issue to settle, and ours will identify the best direction for our movement. Assuming only one direction could be supported at this time, should we focus on

  • using citizens’ assemblies to make recommendations to elected bodies, or
  • replacing legislators with citizens chosen by lottery

The cost for this experience is set at 3 self-selected levels: US$49, $89, $119. Pay what you can afford. If $49 is too much, contact us and we will work something out. Precocious 13 – 18 year olds are free with a paying adult.

Wonder what it would be like to be a facilitator at a Citizens’ Assembly (CA)? You can try it out as well! While it does not prepare you to be a professional facilitator, a special training session will happen prior to the Mock CA. A facilitator focuses on the meeting process and how the group is working, but does not contribute to the actual discussion. Participants in that training session will serve as novice facilitators during the Mock CA. Depending on the numbers, you would be a facilitator at times and a participant in the Mock CA. The cost for both the facilitator training and the Mock CA is, again, at 3 self-selected levels: US$99, $179, $229.

It all starts in February, and will be on Zoom on these dates:

  • February 19 (facilitator ‘training’)
  • February 26 and March 5 (Mock CA)

The times for each Saturday session are are set to include interested people in Europe, Africa, and across North and South America. All times are pegged to the United States Pacific Standard Time, so please verify the time in your own area.

  • Hawaii time: 7 – 9am, 10 – 12pm
  • Pacific US time: 9 – 11am, 12 – 2pm
  • Eastern US time: 12 – 2pm, 3 – 5pm
  • United Kingdom, Portugal, Ghana: 5 – 7pm, 8 – 10pm
  • Central Europe, Tunisia: 6 – 8pm, 9 – 11pm

There are limited spaces; click here to sign up! Contact me if you have questions.

Owen Shaffer

01shaffer@gmail.com

Democracy Without Elections

Democracy Without Elections is a U.S. 501(c)3 registered nonprofit organization.

An in-depth study of the “Irish Model” by Dimitri Courant

In “Citizens’ Assemblies for Referendums and Constitutional Reforms: Is There an “Irish Model” for Deliberative Democracy?” Dimitri Courant analyzes the recent Irish citizens’ and constituional assemblies in a nuanced and contexuatlized way. This must be one the better treatments of the subject for anyone intersted in the “trans-localization” of the model itself and for those intersted in the design issues for citizens’ assemblies. To me it is a sober evaluation of the “Irish case” and gives us much food for thought on what might happen going forward.

Among democratic innovations, deliberative mini-publics, that is panels of randomly selected citizens tasked to make recommendations about public policies, have been increasingly used. In this regard, Ireland stands out as a truly unique case because, on the one hand, it held four consecutive randomly selected citizens’ assemblies, and on the other hand, some of those processes produced major political outcomes through three successful referendums; no other country shows such as record. This led many actors to claim that the “Irish model” was replicable in other countries and that it should lead to political “success.” But is this true? Relying on a qualitative empirical case-study, this article analyses different aspects to answer this question: First, the international context in which the Irish deliberative process took place; second, the differences between the various Irish citizens’ assemblies; third, their limitations and issues linked to a contrasted institutionalization; and finally, what “institutional model” emerges from Ireland and whether it can be transferred elsewhere.

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Mark Rice-Oxley: Should citizens assemblies be mandatory?

Mark Rice-Oxley, acting membership editor of The Guardian, wrote a short piece entitled “Should citizens assemblies be mandatory?” He is supportive of the idea, writing: “Last year, I went to a citizens’ assembly. It was one of the most optimistic moments of 2019 for me.” “Perhaps a stint or two on a citizens’ assembly should be mandatory, like jury service or driving tests.”

On the legitimacy of citizen assemblies

Dear Kleroterians,

I am currently writing on the legitimacy that grounds sortition-based representation in general, and citizen assemblies in particular. Not the perceived legitimacy of citizen assemblies (whether people actually see them as legitimate or not), but the reasons that we might have to see the decisions of such asssemblies as binding.

I realize that you have thought about this much more than I have. And this is why I would be interested in having your opinion on the three following questions:

  1. What are the potential sources of legitimacy for citizen assemblies, besides political equality, representativeness, impartiality and ordinarity?
  2. Among these different potential sources of legitimacy, which one(s) do you see as the most important?
  3. Finally, because I am expecting many of you to highlight representativeness as the main source of legitimacy, I add a third question:

  4. Would you say that a citizen assembly of 50 to 100 participants, with optional participation, still has some legitimacy? Would your opinion be different with stratified sampling?

Thank you very much for your input! I will make sure to credit the Blog if a publication comes out of this!

Kill The Assembly

In the first post of my series on the legislative, I discuss what is wrong with the general assembly (spoiler alert: everything). Nevertheless, in the history of the assembly there are the seeds of new growth. We can get back to a more honest, more productive assembly if we take it apart, honor its historical motivation, and rebuild it with some modern innovations.

Radio Podcast Series “Democracy in Crisis” on Democracy and Sortition

Last month, with WORT FM in Madison, Wisconsin, I helped organize a three-part radio podcast series “Democracy in Crisis,” that asked what’s wrong with elections and explored alternatives such as assemblies and juries. Thanks very much to those who took part. Additional thanks to Chris Forman, Yoram Gat, Adam Cronkright, Keith Sutherland, and Manuel Arriaga for suggestions and introductions.

We aimed to include differing approaches and points of views in each round-table discussion, and largely succeeded, imho. My own view—that in modern mass politics, characterized by polarization and geographical and intellectual self-sorting, minipublics function as exceptional, pluralistic spaces for the formation of citizenship—was nowhere represented; so, that gives me at least one motive for a follow-up program.

Below are links to the episodes, also found in most podcast applications under the program “8 O’clock Buzz,” published on Aug 27, 28, 29.

Democracy In Crisis, Part 1: What’s Wrong With Elections?
Across the globe, electoral fraud, corruption, disenfranchisement of minorities and the specter of fascism now seem the rule rather than the exception. In 2017, the London-based Economist Democracy Index hit its lowest score ever, including the downgrading of the United States from a “Full Democracy” to a “Flawed Democracy.” Today, we start a three-part series, Democracy in Crisis, which will explore the failures of our current electoral system and perhaps, provide some hope for an alternative model.
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