In recent years, citizens’ assemblies — large randomly selected bodies of citizens convened to deliberate about political issues — have become a popular way for governments to address governance and legitimacy issues. These bodies of ordinary people are entrusted with the goal of generating policy recommendations and, sometimes, even legislative proposals on issues such as electoral reform, abortion, same-sex marriage, climate justice, and assisted suicide. As citizens’ assemblies may come to occupy a larger role in democratic governance, important questions need to be addressed: Who holds power within and over citizens’ assemblies? And who should? Citizens’ assemblies have so far been governed from the outside by government officials, experts, and professional facilitators. How much of the power belongs and should belong to the citizen participants themselves?
This day-and-a-half conference will bring together academics, political leaders, and practitioners to explore these critical questions. The focus will be on the recent French Citizens Conventions, respectively on Climate and End of Life, which explicitly thematized the question of governance. Each had an appointed “governance committee” running the process as well as some effort to include citizens in the internal decision-making process.
This conference overlaps with a subsequent conference titled “Governing (with) AI.” The overlapping morning will cover the question of how AI technologies can help augment citizens’ assemblies deliberations and help bridge the gap between micro and macro publics. The goal of this combination is to connect leaders from the study and practice of deliberative democracy with AI experts and leaders in the hope that they will forge new partnerships around the promising idea of using deliberative tools to govern AI and using AI tools to augment deliberation.