The Constitution Unit


Could Citizens’ Assemblies Improve Policymaking?

Co-Badged with the UCL Policy & Practice seminar series. This event took place on 14 December 2024

Images of a justice statue being showered with dollar bills and the Houses of Parliament alongside the title Policy and Practice seminar

Citizens’ assemblies are increasingly proposed as ways of improving the functioning of democracy and policy-making. Yet their real-world record is mixed: while they almost always generate high-quality discussions internally, their connection to wider political processes is often challenging, meaning their impact can be limited. Careful consideration is therefore needed to what citizens’ assemblies are supposed to be for and how they can be embedded within political systems in order to achieve that. This seminar explored these issues with two leading experts in deliberative democracy and Martin Wolf, one of the UK’s most respected economic commentators, whose recent book, The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism, argued that greater use of citizens’ assemblies is needed. 

Meet the speakers

Martin Wolf is chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, London—a position he has held since 1996. He is visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, a Special Professor at the University of Nottingham and an honorary fellow of the Oxford Institute for Economic Policy. He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2000 “for services to financial journalism”.  

Sarah Allan is Director of Climate Programmes at, Involve, a charity that develops, supports and campaigns for new ways to involve people in political decision-making. Sarah is an internationally recognised specialist in public participation in decision-making, with a decade of experience in designing, delivering and supporting a wide range of public engagement methods. She is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Constitution Unit (UCL) and an Associate Member of the University of Leeds’ Centre for Democratic Engagement. 

Miriam Levin is Director of Participatory Programmes at Demos, Britain’s leading cross-party think tank. Until recently she was the Chief Executive of Engage Britain, a participatory policymaking charity, prior to their merger with Demos. Previously, Miriam was Head of Community Action for the UK Government, where she led the government’s first deliberative democracy programme, and Head of Outreach at English Heritage. 

Chair: Alan Renwick is Professor of Democratic Politics and Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit in the UCL Department of Political Science and School of Public Policy.