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Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK

Read about the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy in the UK and explore our list of FAQs.

Citizens' Assembly on Brexit logo on pink background

The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK will bring together 75 members of the public from across the United Kingdom over six online weekends between September and December 2021. Assembly members will be selected at random so that they resemble the UK voting-age population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, social class, region and political attitudes. The Assembly will explore what kind of democratic system people want in the UK. In particular, it will investigate what roles people think should be played by the government, parliament, the courts, and the general public, and also what expectations people have for how participants in UK democracy should behave.

Over the six weekends, Assembly members will have a chance to hear from and question a wide range of expert speakers and discuss their thoughts with fellow members. Members will then formulate recommendations to the Citizens’ Assembly’s core question: How should the UK’s democratic system work? We hope that the Assembly and its recommendations will inform debates about democracy among policy-makers in governments and parliaments in all parts of the UK.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK is being run jointly by a team of researchers at the Constitution Unit at University College London (UCL) and by Involve, the UK’s leading public participation charity. Member recruitment is being run by the Sortition Foundation. It forms a central part of the Democracy in the UK after Brexit project. Find out more in our list of FAQs.

For more information about this Citizens’ Assembly and the wider project, please contact either the project’s Principal Investigator, Dr Alan Renwick (a.renwick@ucl.ac.uk), or the project’s Research Assistant, James Cleaver (j.cleaver@ucl.ac.uk).


Project endorsements

“The Constitution Unit’s research project “Democracy in the UK after Brexit” is timely and highly important...I would encourage anyone offered a place on the assembly to seize the opportunity with enthusiasm. Its work and conclusions could well play a significant role in shaping the constitutional future of our country.” - 

David Jones, Conservative MP for Clwyd West 

The UCL’s Constitution Unit has a prestigious history of research. It is uniquely well placed to conduct this new and vital study. But it will only work if enough citizens of broad and diverse experience and opinion get involved. Only then can the findings make a powerful case for progress.”  - Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, Labour peer 
To understand how the executive, the legislature and the judiciary might better function to serve the people we need to know what the people think. So, the citizen participation aspect of this project will make its findings invaluable to politicians and commentators." - Joanna Cherry QC, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West
I have no doubt that this project will lead to significant insights into how the public views our democratic system, and what can be done to improve it.” - Anand Menon, Director of UK in a Changing Europe. 

FAQs

What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

A Citizens’ Assembly is an innovative democratic tool that is increasingly being used around the world. It aims to bring together a randomly selected group of people who broadly represent the whole community, in this case, the entire United Kingdom. The people who attend learn about issues, discuss them with one another, and then make recommendations about what should happen and how things should change.

What is the Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK?

The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK will ask ordinary citizens this question: How should the UK’s democracy work? Participants will look in detail at what kind of democracy they want in the UK. They will examine how politicians and citizens ought to behave. They will also explore what roles should be played by the basic building blocks of democracy in the UK: parliaments, governments, courts, and the general public.

Can anyone take part in this Assembly?

No. Only those people who received an invitation letter can take part in the Assembly. Invitation letters were sent in August to 20,000 randomly selected addresses from every part of the UK. We used this approach so that the members of the Assembly were as representative as possible of the whole population – not just of people who might have chosen to apply for this kind of event.

How will members be selected?

After registration closed, 75 people were randomly selected from those who received an invitation letter and subsequently registered their interest in taking part. This random selection was weighted to make sure that there are people from all across the UK attending, from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of political viewpoints. We aimed to make the Assembly membership representative of the wider population in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, education, where they live, how they have voted, and what they think of democracy.

When will the Assembly take place?

The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK will take place over six online weekends between September and December 2021.

  • Weekend 1: 18/19 September
  • Weekend 2: 9/10 October
  • Weekend 3: 23/24 October
  • Weekend 4: 13/14 November
  • Weekend 5: 27/28 November
  • Weekend 6: 11/12 December

Who is running the Assembly?

The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK is being run jointly by a team of researchers at the Constitution Unit at University College London (UCL) and by a charity called Involve. It is part of the Constitution Unit’s Democracy in the UK after Brexit research project, which is investigating people’s attitudes to democracy in the UK. You can see the members of the project team here. The Sortition Foundation is running the process of recruiting Assembly members.

What will taking part involve?

Those selected to take part will have the opportunity to interact with individuals from all walks of life across the United Kingdom. They will hear from engaging expert speakers, discuss the issues in small groups, and come to conclusions. They will also be asked to fill in short questionnaires from time to time. Facilitators will ensure that everyone has their voice heard in the discussions. Participants do not need to have any prior knowledge of any of the topics – all the information they need will be provided as part of the process.

Will the Assembly be accessible?

The Citizens’ Assembly will take place online, using a video conferencing tool called Zoom.

People have different levels of online access, skills and confidence, and it is important to us that this is not an obstacle to taking part. We will ask Assembly members about their internet access, the type of device they use and how confident they are about participating in an online video conference. We will give people the support they need to take part fully. We can also assist with other support needs, such as issues with hearing or vision or needing to arrange childcare.

Those who attend will receive a thank you gift for their participation. 

Can anyone attend the Assembly as an observer?

We hope to make it possible for a limited number of people to watch the Assembly as observers. It will be possible to observe the Assembly only while it is in plenary session, not while Assembly members are discussing issues in small groups. That is so that members can have open discussions among themselves without feeling they are being watched. We will provide more details about observing here in due course. If you would like to register your interest in being an observer, please contact James Cleaver at j.cleaver@ucl.ac.uk.

We will also post video of all plenary sessions, including presentations by external speakers, on this website after each weekend.

What will happen after the event?

The research team at the UCL Constitution Unit will write a report about the Assembly and present it to policy-makers in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, in mid-2022. The Assembly’s work will also be publicised in blogposts, academic articles and public seminars.