The citizens' assembly was asked to make recommendations in response to the question: "How do we recover from COVID-19 and create a better future for all in Bristol?
The objective was to produce recommendations on how Bristol can reduce the impact of Covid-19 focusing on three topics identified as important for the future of Bristol : climate change, health, transport.
60 citizens had been recruited as assembly members. These members reflected Bristol's local diversity in terms of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, geography, deprivation, and employment. Assembly members were provided with everything they needed to fully participate in the online assembly process. For the selection of the members Bristol Citizens' Assembly worked with Sortition Foundation an independent, not-for-profit organisation that randomly selected 12,000 Bristol addresses from the Royal Mail's address database.
They sent invitations explaining the citizens' assembly and asking people to register their interest. A high number of responses were received. Nearly 700 people applied to join the assembly. Sortition selects people as a random sample from a larger pool of candidates.They used Bristol census and statistics information to calculate the numbers of people they needed to recruit from different backgrounds in order to create a citizens' assembly that broadly reflects the diversity of the population in the Bristol City Region.
The Citizen's Panel
The Panel is a way for the council to engage with the public and to gather opinions that try to reflect the views of different communities.The Citizens' Panel is an online group of nearly 1,400 people from across Bristol who regularly share their views on a wide range of issues to let the council know how to improve services and make the city an even better place to live. Established in 1998 this is one of the longest-running Citizens' Panels in the country and the largest group the city council regularly engage with. Panel members have to provide some personal details upon joining, in order to identify community characteristics.
The Citizens' Panel can be cited as a precursor to the citizens' assembly.
The Citizens' assembly
In the Citizens' Assembly, the Bristol City Council asked people about their experiences during lockdown. They also asked questions about what they wanted Bristol to be like in the future. The citizens' assembly met over four weekends from January to March 2021, with a total of 30 hours of meetings. In order to help answer the above question, they were asked to conduct deep dives into three topics that had been identified through engagement with residents as particularly important to the future of Bristol:
- Climate change: How do we rapidly reduce the impact of our homes on climate change?
- Transport: What changes should we make to our neighbourhoods to make how we travel easier, healthier and better for the environment?
- Health: How should we tackle health inequalities in Bristol?
For each topic, assembly members heard evidence from speakers, discussed their own views and experiences, and developed recommendations for the council and its partners.
Assembly sessions and process
A number of valuable views and ideas were fed back, the citizens' assembly provided the mechanism for acting on them by giving members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic, before reaching conclusions and then making recommendations to be taken forward.
The first session introduced the assembly to the deliberative democracy process and how citizens' assemblies work.The second session saw the assembly split into three groups of 20 people each considering either climate change and housing, transport or health inequalities. 33 speakers delivered panel presentations to provide participants with information to inform deliberations. The third session saw each of the three groups listen to a final panel of theme-specific speakers. The information presented addressed specific areas that the participants felt that they needed to know more about. This allowed them to spend the remainder of the session deliberating and working together to further develop recommendations. Participants focussed on putting together these recommendations in response to the questions. These were taken forward to the final session when the 60 participants came together for the last sessions to review and vote on the assembly's concluding recommendations.
Sources (in english) :
Official website of Bristol Citizens' Assembly
Members opinions and feedbacks
Interim report - March 2021
News Bristol's first Citizens' Assembly
More informations and news