What is a citizens' assembly?

A citizens’ assembly brings together a group of people to learn about, discuss, and deliberate on a difficult issue, and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen.

An assembly is typically made up of between 50 and 250 people who are randomly selected to be broadly representative of the wider population in terms of demographics (for example, age, gender, ethnicity, geographical location), and sometimes relevant attitudes (for example, how concerned they are about climate change).

Citizens’ assemblies give members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic. Participants are given a wide range of information presented to them as evidence from academics, researchers, people with direct experience of the issue, other stakeholders, and campaigners. The evidence presented offers a balanced view on the issue and assembly members are then given time to discuss what they have heard with one another and decide what they think.

Assemblies usually last for two or more weekends and are coordinated by independent, expert facilitators who help ensure that everyone's voice is heard. Once the assembly has ended, the recommendations are written up in a report to be presented to decision-makers.

Since 2004, citizens’ assemblies have been taking place around the world at the national and local level in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Poland, among other countries. For more information about other citizens’ assemblies that have taken place, see our page on citizens’ assemblies around the world.