10 Reasons Why We Like Sortition Citizens' Assemblies

Check out our latest publication: 10 reasons to run a sortition citizens' assembly, which our friends and supporters have also translated into (Brazilian) Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish. Enjoy!

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What would a randomly selected US Senate look like?

If you selected 100 people randomly from the US population and put them in the Senate, what would the age and demographics be like?


Zach Roberts created this great graphic answering exactly that question. Perhaps the most obvious is it would have many more women, and of course far more young people. It would also, unsurprisingly, be a far more ethnically diverse Senate.

But, of course, the point of sortition is not only to make our legislatures far more inclusive, diverse, and representative — but to see what kind of impact this inclusivity and diversity has on the political process and the legislation that such a Senate passed.

What kind of laws do you think a sortition Senate of everyday people would pass?

Sortition Foundation Strategy: 2019-2024

How should we do democracy better? How can we institute a sortition democracy? How do we get from here to there?

After a lengthy process of member and supporter consultation, we are proud to publish our Strategy Document 2019-2024. This was endorsed by the directors in October 2018 and implementation has already began — although it is never too late to make comments and give feedback as we will be reviewing it regularly.

Sortition Ambassador Programme

As soon as word got out about our new Sortition Ambassador Programme we had volunteers asking to be our first candidates. So, if you want to:

  • learn about sortition - the "why" and the "how" - and learn about successful modern examples;
  • become skilled in advocating sortition assemblies in your local area;
  • be one of the first to graduate as a Sortition Ambassador!

Then simply get in touch. The programme typically involves 1-2 hours of your time every week, and should normally be completed in less than 6 months.

We have a plan on how to get to a sortition democracy - now it's time to implement it!

How to get from elections to sortition? Sortition Foundation strategy workshop

On Sunday June 10, 2-5pm (British Summer Time/GMT + 1) the Sortition Foundation will be discussing strategy: what is the best way to get from elections to sortition?

There will be two face-to-face meetings, one in London and one in Cambridge, with people not in either of those locations joining us online. 

If you would like to join us, it is not too late to RSVP, just drop us an email and we will send you links to the agenda, our strategy discussion paper, and all the meeting details.

Strategy Discussion: How to get from elections to sortition?

WhenSunday June 10, 2-5pm (British Summer Time/GMT + 1).

Where: London, Cambridge, and online.

RSVP: Via email.

We look forward to talking with you about what you think is the best way forward.

Mavoix - French group uses sortition to select election candidates

[Disclaimer: the Sortition Foundation is non-partisan and does not endorse any political parties. This is published as an interesting experiment in the use of sortition in politics]

"Who's representing me the best?"

A group of friends began the collective #MAVOIX (meaning "my voice") in France in 2015 - they all believed that the current form of our representative democracy has failed us

The idea was to bring together diverse citizens from different backgrounds to collaborate, discuss and work out how to "hack" the Assemblée Nationale by allowing everyday citizens to participate in the creation of every single law. After a first run at a local election in 2016, the goal was set to send several deputies (Members of Parliament) to Parliament after the June 2017 election.
Once elected, these deputies would play a very special role. Instead of voting according to their own program or convictions, they would always vote according to the outcome of every citizen who had voted on an online platform: if, for example, 10 #MAVOIX deputies were in the Assembly, and the result from the online platform about a law was 40% YES, 30% NO and 30% ABSTENTION, then the #MAVOIX deputies would vote in the same proportions (in this case: 4 YES, 3 NO, 3 ABSTENTIONS).

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Beating the Cambridge Analyticas: change the way we (s)elect our representatives

lead As Aristotle put it: ‘It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot, and as oligarchic when they are filled by election’ (Aristotle, Politics IV. 9, 1294b8).

We are now all aware of how our electoral systems have been manipulated by harvesting our digital footprints and preferences. Targeted messages, images and false information are then deployed to support or denigrate particular candidates, with no verification and no disclosure of the source of the posts.

Whatever it’s called legally, this is electoral fraud and we need to stop it. Here’s my suggestion – let’s adopt sortition (selection by lot) together with what I will call ‘filtration’ as our preferred electoral system.

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It's time for a UK citizens' constitutional convention

UK ParliamentThe Sortition Foundation has recently joined an alliance of groups calling for a citizens' constitutional convention in the UK.

It all started back in the summer of 2014 when a group of people, concerned about the state of democracy in the UK, created Assemblies For Democracy. Their aim is to highlight the glaring democratic deficit in the UK and propose solutions. They organised meetings, networked with like-minded people, groups and politicians and, in July 2016, published a letter in the Guardian, Time for a new UK citizens’ constitution.

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Launch of International Sortition Network: Democracy R&D

Medialab PradoOn Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th of January 2018 around 40 people from more than 15 organisations will meet, many in person at Medialab Prado in Madrid (others will join online), to develop the founding principles and processes of an international sortition network: Democracy R&D.

The Sortition Foundation will be at the two day meeting, alongside representatives from newDemocracy (Australia), hosts ParticipaLab (Spain), Forum dos Cidadãos (Portugal), G1000 (Belgium) and G1000 (Netherlands), MASS LBP (Canada), Missions Publiques (France), Particitiz (Belgium), Japan Research Forum on Mini-PublicsDanish Board of Technology FoundationBertelsmann Stiftung Foundation (Germany), ECI Campaign (EU), Democracy in Practice (Bolivia/US/Canada), Jefferson Center (US), Healthy Democracy (US), Empowering Participation (Australia), the Policy Jury Group (US) and the Nexus Institute (Germany).

The two day meeting promises to lay the groundwork for international collaboration and skill-sharing to promote and institute sortition locally, nationally, and even internationally. Watch this space for a post-meeting report.

Discovering the People’s Will

sortition-front-cover-ndf.pngThe Sortition Foundation, in collaboration with newDemocracy, has submitted a report, Discovering the People’s Will: Citizens’ Assemblies as Trusted Proxies in Irish Referenda, to the Irish Citizens' Assembly proposing that every referendum in Ireland be preceded by a Citizens' Assembly. Yes, it is kind of self-referential (very postmodern, perhaps!) to try to convince a Citizens' Assembly to propose that Citizens' Assemblies are the way to go. They are meeting to deliberate on the topic in mid-January - let's see what they recommend.

Legislature by Lot

[Note: this has been adapted from an orginial blog post here: http://www.bretthennig.com/legislature_by_lot]


From Friday to Sunday this weekend (September 15-17) the co-founder and director of the Sortition Foundation, Brett Hennig, will be joining a group of academics, researchers and activists gathering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to discuss the pros and cons of a "Legislature by Lot" - a parliament, senate or congress selected by sortition. 

The workshop is being organised by Professor John Gastil (Penn State) and Professor Erik Olin Wright (University of Wisconsin-Madison) who have drafted the principal proposal that attendees are responding to. Their proposal is for a bicameral legislature where one chamber is elected and one is selected using sortition.

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Sortition - doing democracy differently | Brett Hennig | TEDxDanubia

A TEDx talk on sortition from May 2017 has just been released:

A Citizens’ Assembly for the Scottish Parliament

CA Scotland coverHow would sortition be implemented in practice?

A new paper proposing a second chamber for the Scottish Parliament, selected using sortition, has been published by the Sortition Foundation in collaboration with Common Weal Scotland and the newDemocracy Foundation. It gives a detailed answer to the question of implementation.

Initial (somewhat inaccurate) press coverage by The National was okay, except for the unhelpful headline which focused on the proposed salary and called assembly members Scottish 'Lords'.

A (sold out) talk at Edinburgh University will discuss the merits of the proposal.

The full paper can be accessed here.