On 4 February 2023 we confirmed 40 residents of Barnet for the Barnet Citizens' Assembly. These people will meet, in person, on 8 separate days between February and May 2023 to consider the question:
Barnet has declared a climate emergency. What more can we do together to make Barnet more sustainable, now and in the future?
Sortition Foundation was tasked with recruiting these 40 assembly members. We worked with TPX impact and Barnet Council to achieve this. Below we briefly describe the details of this recruitment process; the process followed our standard two-stage sortition template in conformity with the OECD's good practice principles for deliberative processes for public decision making.
We randomly selected 8000 addresses from across Barnet (200 addresses for every one of the needed 40 assembly members). Each of these addresses received a letter in the post inviting residents to sign up as potential members of the climate assembly. We have noticed in past jobs that people who live in more deprived areas tend to be less likely to respond to invitations of this kind, hence the random selection was weighted as follows: 80% of the addresses were chosen from the whole of Barnet; 20% of the addresses were chosen specifically from more deprived areas of Barnet. A map showing the 8000 addresses is here:
The invitation included the following summary card (as well as a letter and FAQ):
All participants in the assembly will receive £360 in recognition of the considerable time and energy that the process asks of them. Invitations were open for 3 weeks and at the end of this time around 360 people had signed up as potential assembly members.
As part of the sign-up procedure, all potential participants were required to share some basic information about themselves. We asked them to share their address, their date of birth, their gender, their ethnicity, their religion and information about their occupation. We also asked if they describe themselves as having a disability. Finally, we asked "How would you rank your awareness of climate change?" This question was asked to ensure that there was a wide range of starting opinions about the specific subject that the assembly was tasked to consider.
We then used this information as input into a "sortition algorithm"; this is a process of randomly selecting our 40 assembly members from the pool of 360 potential members in such a way that we have a representative sample (so, for instance, the age profile of climate assembly members is broadly similar to the age profile of the population of Barnet as a whole). Details of the specific algorithm we use, including information about the fairness of the algorithm, can be found here.
In addition to the information about gender, age, ethnicity, disability, religion, occupation and climate concern mentioned above, we also used the address of each respondent to hit two further targets:
- Index of multiple deprivation (IMD): We used government statistics that classify how deprived different areas of the country are (with IMD1 being most deprived and IMD10 being least deprived). Our sortition algorithm ensured, again, that the IMD profile in the assembly reflected the IMD profile for Barnet (so, roughly speaking, the percentage of assembly members living in poorer areas was the same as the percentage of Barnet residents living in poorer areas).
- Geography: We used information about the population distribution of Barnet to ensure that the people who were selected were drawn from all areas of Barnet, in proportion to the population in those areas.
Details of the selection process for this assembly are summarised using the following pie charts, with further information following.
The way to understand these pie charts is as follows:
- Column 1 (Target): These pie charts give information about the population of Barnet as a whole, using various publicly available statistics (for instance via the ONS). As an example, in the second row, you can see that 12.4% of the population in Barnet is aged between 58 and 67.
- Column 2 (Respondents): These pie charts summarise the information that was provided to us by the 360 people who signed up as potential participants. There is some skewing in statistics here compared with our target: for instance, notice that a larger proportion of the respondents had an occupation classed as "Professional" compared with what one might expect from the population.
- Column 3 ( Confirmed Selected): These pie charts summarise information about the 40 people who were finally confirmed to participate in the assembly. Notice that, thanks to our use of a sortition algorithm, the pie charts in this column are very similar to the target charts in the first column. As part of our recruitment process all of these people were contacted by telephone to confirm that they were still willing and able to participate -- in the event that this was not the case, we used the sortition algorithm to replace people who dropped out with others who shared similar characteristics.
What happened next?
Barnet Council have a dedicated page where you can keep track of how the Citizens' Assembly is going. The assembly is part of a wider programme aimed at Barnet achieving Net Zero - details are on their dedicated site. You can also sign up to the BarNET ZERO e-bulletin.
We will also update this page after the assembly has met and made recommendations, so we can keep track of what comes out of this process.