The Need: Describe the need for your solution and the size and characteristics of the community(ies) your solution is engaging
To meet their needs and thrive, communities need a political system that is smart and responsive. Yet BC's political system suffers from deficits in three key areas:
It can sometimes be hard for the voices of ordinary residents to reach their elected representatives.
There are few supports in place to encourage the deep political deliberation needed to tackle our communities' increasing complex problems.
Citizens are becoming disengaged from traditional political structures.
All this can lead to sub-optimal outcomes for BC communities and society as a whole. We can do better!
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
To improve outcomes for communities by making Citizens' Assemblies (CAs) an integral part of how we do politics in BC.
To do that, we will create a non-profit dedicated to organizing CAs in communities across BC.
A CA is a randomly selected group of citizens that:
- is given objective information on a topic
- a chance to deliberate, and
- a chance to make recommendations
Here is how CAs can make a positive impact on our politics:
1) They can give ordinary residents a louder political voice, and open up whole new channel of communication between society and its elected representatives (Representation).
2) They can help create good public policy, by providing government with well-informed, well-reasoned advice on key public policy issues (Deliberation).
3) They can give citizens the kind of meaningful political engagement they crave (CAs have been shown to make participants want to get more involved in their communities and to enhance trust in government).
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include the primary activities involved in your solution.
The citizens' assembly model has been successfully tested around the world. What has been lacking is an effective mechanism for making CAs a regular and permanent feature of a political system. Deeper Democracy, the non-partisan non-profit we will create, will provide the organizational platform to do just that.
Here's how it will work:
- Residents go to our website to indicate interest in holding a CA in their community.
- Once a threshold is reached, we set up an initial community meeting to which all members of the community are invited. There, residents choose the topic for the assembly (this could be anything from improving public transportation, to making housing more affordable, to improving social services. The topic could address local, regional, or national concerns).
- Deeper Democracy then invites a representative, random sample of 100 residents to participate in the assembly. (A professional polling firm will identify the sample).
- At the assembly, participants receive objective information from experts on both sides of the issue, and engage in facilitated deliberation.
- Lastly, participants draw up recommendations, which are put to a vote. If they pass, they are presented to the appropriate government, which is urged to take action. Deeper Democracy then works to make all British Columbians aware of the assembly’s recommendations and to hold governments accountable for implementing them.
Each assembly will take 3-5 days to complete. Eventually, 10-15 CAs, and an annual meeting, will be held in communities around BC each year.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others working to address the same needs as you and indicate what sets you apart from them.
Wise Democracy Victoria is a Victoria-based non-profit aimed at promoting participatory democracy in BC. Their model calls for an assembly (wisdom council) of 10-12 residents to discuss a topic of their choosing and to issue a consensus statement, which is presented to the relevant entity.
We believe that the small size of those assemblies, their short duration (1 day) and lack of support from subject-matter experts, makes it hard for them to attract the attention of the public, the media and politicians, significantly undermining their impact. The last wisdom council took place in 2008.
To our knowledge, we are the only organization in Canada, and parhaps the world, attempting to institutionalize large-scale citizens' assemblies.
We view Wise Democracy as an important partner.
This Entry is about (Issues)