Read about the Citizens' Assembly on Democracy in the UK and explore our list of FAQs.
The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK brought together approaching 70 members of the public from across the United Kingdom over six online weekends between 18 September and 12 December 2021. Assembly members were selected at random so that they resembled the UK voting-age population in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, social class, region and political attitudes. The Assembly explored what kind of democratic system people wanted in the UK, in particular, what roles people thought should be played by the government, parliament, the courts, and the general public, and also what expectations people had for how participants in UK democracy should behave.
Over the six weekends, Assembly members had the chance to hear from and question a wide range of expert speakers and discuss their thoughts with fellow members. Members then formulated recommendations relating to the Citizens’ Assembly’s core question: How should the UK’s democratic system work?
We are now preparing the report of the Citizens' Assembly, which we expect to publish in March 2022. We hope that the Assembly and its recommendations will inform debates about democracy among policymakers in governments and parliaments in all parts of the UK.
The speakers' presentations, briefings and agenda for each weekend are available through the links below.
The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK was 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 was run by the Sortition Foundation. It formed 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, Professor Alan Renwick (firstname.lastname@example.org), or the project’s Research Assistant, James Cleaver (email@example.com).
“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.” -
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.
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 was the Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK?
The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK asked ordinary citizens this question: How should the UK’s democracy work? Participants looked in detail at what kind of democracy they wanted in the UK. They examined how politicians and citizens ought to behave. They also explored what roles should be played by the basic building blocks of democracy in the UK: parliaments, governments, courts, and the general public.
Could anyone take part in this Assembly?
No. Only those people who received an invitation letter could 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 were members 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 were 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 lived, how they have voted, and what they thought of democracy. Some members unfortunately had to drop out over the course of the Assembly, leaving a final total of 67 participants.
When did the Assembly take place?
The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK took 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 ran the Assembly?
The Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK was run jointly by a team of researchers at the Constitution Unit at University College London (UCL) and by a charity called Involve. It was 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 ran the process of recruiting Assembly members.
What did taking part involve?
Those selected to take part had the opportunity to interact with individuals from all walks of life across the United Kingdom. They heard from engaging expert speakers, discussed the issues in small groups, and came to conclusions. They were also asked to fill in short questionnaires from time to time. Facilitators ensured that everyone had their voice heard in the discussions. Participants did not need to have any prior knowledge of any of the topics – all the information they needed was provided as part of the process.
Was the Assembly accessible?
The Citizens’ Assembly took place online, using a video conferencing tool called Zoom.
People have different levels of online access, skills and confidence, and it was important to us that this was not an obstacle to taking part. We asked Assembly members about their internet access, the type of device they would use and how confident they were about participating in an online video conference. We gave people the support they needed to take part fully. We also offered to assist with other support needs.
Those who attended received a thank-you gift for their participation.
Could anyone attend the Assembly as an observer?
It was possible to observe the Assembly only while it was in plenary session, but not while Assembly members were discussing issues in small groups. That was so that members could have open discussions among themselves without feeling they were being watched. We have also uploaded videos of all the plenary sessions, including presentations by external speakers, on this website.
What will happen next?
We are now preparing a report setting out the Assembly's conclusions, which we expect to publish in March 2022. We will present the report to policymakers in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast. The Assembly’s work will also be publicised in blogposts, academic articles and public seminars.