Quality standards for citizens' assemblies

In a study in 2020 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defined guiding principles for citizens' assemblies. Supplemented by the findings and research on the nationwide citizens' councils in Germany, some quality criteria emerge:

  • Participants are determined by sortition/random selection. A group size of 35 to 200 - depending on the size of the municipality or the political level - seems sufficient to represent the different positions in society well.
  • In the selection process, criteria such as age, gender, education, place of residence, size of municipality and migration background of the participants are taken into account so that a cross-section of the population is represented as far as possible.
  • The balanced participation of the participants is important and is ensured by a professional and content-neutral moderation.
  • The participants receive comprehensive and comprehensible information. In addition to the moderator, experts are used for this purpose. These can be experts or people with experiential knowledge ("affected persons").
  • Sufficient time must be available for knowledge acquisition and exchange. A citizens' assembly therefore always meets on several dates, often over weeks or even months.
  • The topic of the citizens' assembly should be of high public interest and clearly delimited. Controversial or urgent topics may be particularly suitable (e.g. marriage for same-sex couples or climate protection goals).
  • The citizens' report (i.e. the recommendations that the participants develop) should have a clear purpose and addressee. Ideally, it is clear at the beginning of the citizens' assembly who will receive the proposals (e.g. parliament or government) and what steps will follow (e.g. referral to the relevant political bodies).
  • Openness and transparency of the entire process are necessary in order to make the results accessible to politics and administration. In order to involve society as a whole, media support is important.
  • To ensure quality, it is advisable to commission independent implementation institutes and a scientific evaluation.