On 23 January 2023 we transferred the details of 52 residents of Wales to the organisers of the Nature and Us Citizens' Assembly. These 52 people will meet, online and in person, on 4 separate days in February and March 2023 to consider the question
What future do we want for our natural environment in Wales?
Sortition Foundation was tasked with recruiting these 52 assembly members. We worked with the National Centre for Social Research and Natural Resources Wales 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 15000 addresses from across Wales (Just under 300 addresses for every one of the needed 52 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 Wales; 20% of the addresses were chosen specifically from more deprived areas of Wales. A map showing the 15000 addresses is here:
The invitation included the following summary card (as well as a letter and FAQ), all material in both Welsh and English:
All participants in the assembly will receive £260 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 330 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 and information about their occupation. We also asked if they describe themselves as having a disability. Finally, we asked "In the last 12 months, how often, on average have you spent free time outside in green and natural spaces?" 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 52 assembly members from the pool of 330 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 Wales 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.
- Geography: We used information about the population distribution of Wales to ensure that the people who were selected were drawn from all areas of Wales, 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 Wales as a whole, using various publicly available statistics (for instance via the ONS). As an example, in the second row, you can see that 31.3% of the population in Wales is between 45 and 64.
- Column 2 (Respondents): These pie charts summarise the information that was provided to us by the 330 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 "Manager/ professional" compared with what one might expect from the population.
- Column 3 (Original Selected): This column gives information about the first 52 people who were selected by the algorithm. These people were each contacted individually by phone to confirm their participation. Some people dropped out of the process at this stage, as they had various constraints meaning they could not participate.
- Column 4 ( Confirmed Selected): These pie charts summarise information about the 52 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.
To make things more legible we have removed the legend from the occupation and ethnicity charts. The legends are as follows:
|Manager/ director/ professional
|Administrative/ secretarial/ skilled trade
|Caring/ leisure/ service/ sales
|Plant or machine operative/ elementary
|Not in the labour force (retired)
|Not in the labour force (other)
|Asian, Asian Welsh or Asian British
|Black, Black Welsh, Black British, Caribbean or African
|Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups
|White, White Welsh or White British
|Other ethnic groups
Note that, for some groups where the proportions were very small, there was some "over-recruiting" to make sure that there was a diversity of people in the assembly. This applies particularly, in this case, to ethnicity where it was felt to be important to make sure that there was a reasonable representation of a number of minority ethnic groups.
No pie charts are shown for the question about time spent in green spaces. To deal with responses here we have used management information derived from an upcoming statistic from the People and Nature Survey (PaNs) to help benchmark and validate the composition of the citizen assembly -- again, we selected participants for the assembly whose answers reflected those of the population of Wales.
What happened next?
The first phase of Nature and Us took place in spring 2022 and was held online. The second phase took place over the summer and early Autumn. In spring 2023 a citizens’ assembly brought all the views collected together and agreed the vision for the natural environment of Wales.
You can find the final vision and full reports, videos and summary reports on the Nature and Us website.