Sortition certainly sounds good to us - but how do we get from here to there?
The Sortition Foundation has released a Draft Strategy Document outlining some ideas. The first campaign proposal is a call for a Citizens' Parliament on House of Lords Reform (http://www.citizensparliament.uk/). The campaign, to be officially launched later this year, will call on the UK government to constitute and empower a 650-member, random though representative sample of ordinary citizens to consider, research, deliberate on, and then make a House of Lords Reform proposal, to then be put to a national referendum. You can already sign the open letter calling for a Citizens' Parliament on Lords Reform.
As the year comes to a close the Sortition Foundation reflects on what we think are the most exciting sortition events of 2015, and outlines our plans for next year.
Sortition 2015 highlights
Sortition thrived in 2015. Here are just a handful of the highlights:
- In the UK two pilot citizens’ assemblies were successfully held and, as seems usual with these events, observers and participants were all impressed that a random selection of ordinary people can make good deliberators and come to legitimate decisions.
- One proposal that came from the Irish Constitutional Convention (two thirds chosen by sortition) to alter the constitution to allow same-sex marriage was put to a referendum and passed. A representative sample of people spoke and the population listened.
- As it has been doing for years now, the newDemocracy Foundation continued to organise and run many events using sortition all over Australia at every level of government. Our favourite outcome was when the City of Melbourne approved a AU$4billion 10-year plan made by a randomly selected policy jury.
Justin Trudeau, who will become the new Canadian Prime Minister next week after winning the general election on October 19, has promised that the election will be the “last election” based on the first-past-the-post system.
But without it, he would not have won a parliamentary majority, so there will be considerable pressure from within his own party to renege on, or avoid fulfilling, his promise.
What is more interesting, however, is that Canada has a compelling history of using sortition in Citizens’ Assemblies to address provincial electoral reform – it happened in British Columbia in 2004 and in Ontario in 2006.Read more
What is sortition? How would it work? Why do we like it? All the answers are here in this short video!
Please spread the word and share with your friends.
Sortition is coming soon to the UK!
Or at least three citizens’ assemblies and one forum presenting aspects of sortition are happening in the coming months:
- A 200-member Citizens’ Assembly, as part of the NHS Citizen project, will occur on Wednesday 25 November in London.
- Two 45-member Citizens’ Assembly Pilot Projects will each be held over two weekends, in Sheffield on 17-18 October and 7-8 November, and in Southampton on 24-25 October and 14-15 November.
- The Policy Network, who recently published a report that included a call for the House of Lords to be replaced with a Citizens’ Assembly, are organising a forum on 15 October in London, “Contact Democracy in the modern world: An Australian perspective on democratic renewal."
- Jon Trickett MP, Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, has promised that “Labour will organise a series of citizens’ assemblies across the country.” It is unclear at this point if these will use sortition or not.
Answer: major policies on all three have recently emerged directly from groups selected by sortition.
Using a stratified random selection of citizens (sortition) to create policy is making steady and impressive progress. From Australia, Canada, Ireland, and throughout Belgium, the Netherlands and elsewhere, citizens’ assemblies using sortition are being held, and the practice is gaining increased media attention.
Claudia Chwalisz, a researcher at Policy Network and Crook Public Service Fellow at the University of Sheffield, has made waves with the report The Populist Signal (download it here) which, among several recommendations, calls for the replacement of the House of Lords in the UK with a randomly selected Citizens’ Senate. The argument for increased use of randomly selected Citizens’ Assemblies received favourable coverage from The Independent on Sunday, and an opinion piece by Chwalisz, calling for the Canadian Senate to be replaced by a Citizens’ Assembly, appeared in the Canadian Globe and Mail.Read more
The Dutch G1000 banner with slogan: Towards another democracy
The G1000 in Belgium, held in late 2011, was an impressive event. In less than six months the small group of organisers, including David Van Reybrouck, author of Against Elections, raised nearly half a million euros to invite a random selection of 1000 people to come together for one day to deliberate on Belgium’s political problems and potential solutions.
The agenda was set after a broad online consultation, and the large gathering prioritised issues and solutions, and selected a group of thirty-two people to further develop and refine the propositions before presenting them to the government.
Although the extent of its political impact is debatable, there is one thing that is sure: the people attending were overwhelmingly impressed by the experience and it showed, yet again, that ordinary people are not only willing to discuss contentious issues with each other, but that they can do so in an atmosphere of respect and openness.
To the south of Belgium the idea has also taken hold: a group in France has formed to hold a G1000 in Paris, although this appears to be in the planning phase at the moment.Read more
The Sortition Foundation is in the initial phases of planning a Citizens’ Parliament in the UK and is seeking help to bring the concept to fruition.
The Sortition Foundation is creating a network of academics, charities, NGOs and relevant businesses to advise and assist in the organisation of this event. If you are interested, please get in touch.