A recent Seattle Times column asked readers to consider an idea. What if we brought together a diverse cross-section of people in a community to wrestle with a tough policy question, then chose a handful of them to make final recommendations on solutions? Could we and should we create something akin to a jury to solve the city’s problems?
At an event earlier this month, Claudia Chwalisz, a global expert on citizen assemblies’ and founder of DemNext, helped Seattleites consider that idea for themselves with help from two local journalists: Brandi Kruse, host of the [un]Divided podcast, and Rich Smith, editor of The Stranger.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences recommends that “Congress should convene ‘citizen assemblies,’ representative samples of the nation brought together to deliberate about issues of national importance and to submit recommendations to Congress. These assemblies would help restore trust in Congress and would illustrate that Washington is responsive to the voices of the American people.” You can read more about their recommendation here.
In true deliberative spirit, panelists, and audience members – including our executive director – had all kinds of different takes on deliberative democracy. Here’s a taste:
Citizens’ Assemblies are great because they…
- make elected officials more accountable to their constituents.
- demonstrate to people that their voices matter.
- include more perspectives in discussions about the issues.
- give people the opportunity to work together across divides and build trust in one another.
Citizens’ Assemblies aren’t the answer because…
- we already vote for elected officials who we think will make decisions we support – that’s their job.
- many places already have too much bureaucracy and this adds even more.
- most people aren’t experts and won’t be able to make smart decisions.
- people might come up with crazy ideas that become the law of the land.
Do you think citizens’ assemblies would improve the way governments make decisions? Make those decisions worse? Still undecided? Let us know what you think at email@example.com.