On 3 December 2021 we transferred the details of 48 Herefordshire residents to the organisers of the Herefordshire Citizens' Climate Assembly. These 48 people met online in January 2022 over 6 separate days to consider the question
How should Herefordshire meet the challenges of climate change?
Sortition Foundation was tasked with recruiting these 48 assembly members. We worked with Impact Consultancy and the Herefordshire County 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 14,400 addresses from across Herefordshire (300 addresses for every one of the needed 48 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 Herefordshire; 20% of the addresses were chosen specifically from more deprived areas of Herefordshire. A map showing the 14400 addresses is here:
The invitation included the following summary card (as well as a letter and FAQ):
All participants in the climate assembly received £300 in recognition of the considerable time and energy that the process required of them. Invitations were open for 3 weeks and at the end of this time 520 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 and their ethnicity. We also asked if they describe themselves as having a disability. Finally, we asked "How concerned, if at all, are you about climate change, sometimes referred to as 'global warming'?" 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 48 assembly members from the pool of 520 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 Herefordshire population 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 and climate concern mentioned above, we also used the address of each respondent to hit two further targets:
- Urban/ rural: we used government statistics to classify all addresses as lying in an urban or rural area and our sortition algorithm ensured that we had representative numbers from each in the assembly.
- 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 Herefordshire (so, roughly speaking, the percentage of assembly members living in poorer areas was the same as the percentage of Herefordshire residents living in poorer 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 Herefordshire population as a whole, using various publicly available statistics (for instance via the ONS). As an example, in the second row, you can see that 34.5% of the population in Herefordshire is between 45 and 64.
- Column 2 (Respondents): These pie charts summarise the information that was provided to us by the 520 people who signed up as potential participants. There is some skewing in statistics here compared with our target: for instance, notice that many more people signed up who were "Very concerned" about climate change, as compared to what we might expect in the population.
- Column 3 ( Confirmed Selected): These pie charts summarise information about the 48 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.
Finally, note that the ethnicity charts should read "White British" for the red slice and "White other" for the yellow slice. This latter category was particularly significant in this job as it includes people who identify as "Gypsy, Roma, or Traveller"; this group had been identified as of particular significance in Herefordshire and so special effort was made to ensure that there was representation from this group in the assembly.
What happened next?
The assembly has now happened: the final session of the assembly was on Sunday 30th January 2022. The leader of the council attended part of this session in order to hear the vision statements that had been adopted by the assembly. The assembly's recommendations were formally presented to the council cabinet on Monday 7th February; 11 members of the assembly took part in the presentation to the council.
Further resources detailing the work of the assembly are available as follows:
- The Herefordshire Citizens' Climate Assembly website (run by Herefordshire council)
- Advisory group members (this group provided advice on the key issues for the Citizen's Assembly to consider, made recommendations for speakers and ensured the evidence to be presented was of high quality, objective, accurate and robust)
- Speaker profiles: 1 | 2
- Recordings of assembly meetings (youtube)
We hope to link to a full report, including the list of recommendations, soon!
Finally, aside from the formal description and outcomes, we are happy to report that feedback from assembly members has been overwhelmingly positive. We recently met with the assembly organisers for a review session and they reported that, although assembly members found the process intense and emotionally demanding, they also found it to be a very constructive and worthwhile process. We will watch with interest to see how Herefordshire council responds to this assembly.
Update 23 Feb 2022: Some local press coverage of the 35 recommendations made by the assembly.