Constituency Council: Randomly selected citizens advise MPs

In 2021, the initiative "Es geht LOS" will launch the project "Electoral District Council". Citizens randomly selected in Bundestag constituencies deal with current political issues and jointly develop recommendations for the constituency MPs. In the first round, MPs Canan Bayram (Greens), Thomas Heilmann (CDU) and Helge Lindh (SPD) are taking part. We asked Juliane Baruck about the details of the project.

Question: "Es geht LOS" launches the constituency council project. What is it about?

Juliane Baruck: In our political system, one person stands between the residents and the Bundestag: the directly elected MP of the respective constituency. The aim of the constituency councils is to strengthen this relationship and thus to link political processes more closely to the perspectives of the residents.

In short, it is about involving residents more in political decision-making processes. There are many federal policy issues where the knowledge of residents with their specific experiences and perspectives provides valuable input and must therefore be a necessary part of political decision-making. Through scientifically informed discussions with the residents, we want to jointly develop proposals that provide MPs with a well-founded decision-making aid.

Question: What happens in a constituency council?

Baruck: In a Constituency Council, about 50 residents of a constituency discuss a relevant federal policy issue. Various experts provide scientific input for the discussion. Professional moderation brings the different perspectives of the participants into an exchange, and proposals for concrete measures are worked out in alternating small groups. At the end of the day, the results are handed over to the MP.

Question: How are the participants selected?

Baruck: The participants are drawn at random from the population register.  Random selection is crucial for us, because it makes it possible to bring the diversity that exists in our society to one table.

Question: "Es geht LOS" also uses the outreach sortition procedure for the constituency councils. What is that and what does it achieve?

Baruck: We use the so-called outreach sortition procedure for the constituency councils. As a team, we draw on positive experiences with this procedure from other participation formats. The special thing about outreach sortition is that we try to get the people who have been randomly selected to participate. This looks like this: We draw about 50 people from the constituency. If they don't get back to us, we go to their door. We ask what possible concerns are, what questions are open and what we can do to make participation possible. This can mean, for example, that we cover the costs of childcare or care for relatives in need of care.

Of course, this is a relatively time-consuming process. For us, however, it is the only way to include precisely those people who would not participate in such participation processes of their own accord. Whether the diversity of society is really represented stands and falls with this pick-up - at the doorstep. And it makes a difference! For our first constituency council, we persuaded more than half of the participants to take part by talking to them in person.

Question: What happens to the results of the constituency councils?

Baruck: In the constituency councils, proposals are worked out that address specific federal policy issues. We examine what decisions are pending in the Bundestag with regard to a certain topic and what various scientific findings already exist on the subject. This provides the basis for discussion with the participants, at the end of which there are proposals for concrete measures. These results are handed over to the MPs and presented to the public. After one or two months, the MPs give feedback to the residents on what will happen with the results.

Question: And who is behind "Es geht LOS"?

Baruck: Es geht LOS is an initiative for open citizen participation by the non-profit association Demokratie Innovation and the Stiftung Bürgerpolitik. We bring together people with pooled experience from different fields, such as participation by sortition at local and state level, policy advice, facilitation, political and social science, as well as design and communication.

More information: The Constituency Council