Sortition Foundation has developed a software tool to allocate participants of a citizens’ assembly to tables or small groups. If you are another organisation working on Citizens' Assemblies or other deliberative-democracy projects in the world, you may find this interesting if:
- You regularly work with larger-ish assemblies (> 40 people).
- You are interested in saving time during or optimise the way in which you allocate participants of an assembly to tables / small groups.
- You would like to maximise diversity on each table (equal number of men and women, young and old people, people of different ethnicity, people of different regional backgrounds, etc).
- You have many other constraints to look after (impairments, photo/audio recording consents).
- You want to create several table allocations that maximise the number of links between participants (the number of people they meet and talk to throughout the assembly process).
The software has the following features:
- Maximise diversity across any provided field on every table / subgroup.
- Any number of fields can be diversified at the same time (though usually it’s only feasible to do this with 3-4 fields at a time). The prioritisation of these fields can be adjusted as well.
- The software can create several separate allocations at a time that will maximise the number of connections each assembly participant will make (i.e. each person is exposed to as many people / opinions / views as possible).
- It is possible to ‘cluster’ people based on their details, say eg put people with special needs (hearing or visual impairment) or certain consents given or not (consent for photos to be taken or audio to be recorded) onto separate tables.
- The software allows for manual allocations to be made, and for the results to be modified at the end.
- The software reads in data from CSV-Files, which any standard spreadsheet (Excel, Google Sheet, etc) can be exported as. The results can either be viewed inside the software or be exported to CSV-Files and then read back in by any standard spreadsheet software (such as Excel).
Here are a couple of screenshots:
We have published the source code of this software on GitHub for full transparency and so that anybody across the world can use it if they want to.
However, we acknowledge that probably most organisations lack the technical expertise to just download and run the source code, and so we offer help with installing the software by providing software packages that can be installed in the usual way most people would expect. Along with that we offer training where we guide you through the software and explain how functions and how it can be used.
Our current plan is to charge a small amount of something like £300 to an organisation for providing this service. We do not aim to make huge amounts of profit from this service but we have to cover the cost of developing and maintaining the software and providing support for organisations who use it. Of course this is rather flexible, so we can find individual solutions, too. This would be a one-off payment that allows you to use this software forever in the future within your organisation and receive software updates.