On the weekend of 19 – 21 July, 58 of the 60 people selected as being representative of the Welsh population gathered at Gregynog Hall in mid Wales to take part in our first citizens’ assembly. The Assembly Commission decided to hold this citizens’ assembly as part of its 20th Anniversary celebrations.

This citizens’ assembly had two questions to
consider:

  • How can
    people in Wales shape their future?
  • Which
    devolved areas are working particularly well and which are challenging Wales?

The
citizens’ assembly’s participants

Sixty participants, drawn from applicants from
10,000 randomly selected households, were chosen to take part. They were
demographically representative of the Welsh population. Roughly 75% had no
university degree, 25% had no GCSEs or equivalents, and 60% did not vote in the
2016 National Assembly for Wales (the Assembly) election. Distinguishing this
political gathering from any other recallable in the last twenty years in Wales.

The 60 chosen to take part in this event were
representative of Wales’ population aged 16 and over in terms of:

Age:

  • 16-29 –
    23.5% (14-15)

    • 39-44 –
      22.4% (13-14)
    • 45-59 –
      23.9% (14-15)
    • 60+ – 30.2%
      (18)

Education level:

  • No
    qualifications – 25.9% (15-16)

    • Level 1 or 2
      – 29% (17-18)
    • Level 3 or
      Apprenticeship or Other – 20.5% (12-13)
    • Level 4 or
      above – 24.5% (14-15)

Geography:

  • 12 people
    from each of the 5 electoral regions.

Ethnicity:

  • White –
    95.6% (50)
  • BAME – 4.4%
    (10 – a decision was made to over-represent this category)

Vote in 2016 election

  • Yes – 40.7%
    (24-25)

    • No or
      ineligible – 59.3% (35-36)

Welsh language skills (speak, read, write,
understand or some combination thereof):

  • Yes – 26.7%
    (16)

    • No – 73.3%
      (44)

Gender (self-identified):

  • Male – 51%
    (30-31)

    • Female – 49
      % (29-30)
    • Other – 0%
      (none selected this category)

The
weekend of the citizens’ assembly.

The citizens’ assembly began with participants
considering the areas that are devolved to Wales. A panel of speakers delivered
background information about the Assembly, its budget, powers and role.
Participants were then asked to write down:

Participants reached conclusions on the areas where
they felt Wales is doing well on and the areas they saw as posing the biggest
challenges.

“I’ve heard a lot of interesting and diverse views around the table – I’d like to see some of these actioned”.

Niz, citizens’ assembly member.

Participants then focused on the primary question
this citizens’ assembly was to address, how they – the people of Wales – want
to be able to shape their future through the work of the Assembly.

Participants heard from expert speakers who
presented evidence to the citizens’ assembly on the ways in which they can
already do this and then focused on the additional ways in which people in
Wales could be able to do this in the future.

The 
functions participants focused on were:

  1. Ways to shape the future by influencing committees’ work.
  2. Ways to shape the future by engaging with the draft budget approval process.
  3. Ways to shape the future by engaging in questioning the Government.
  4. Ways to shape the future by helping to set the Assembly’s agenda (e.g. the petitions process, the Welsh Youth Parliament).

Participant
feedback

All participants completed a feedback form at the
end of the citizens’ assembly weekend, giving their views on whether or not
taking part in the citizens’ assembly had changed their feelings towards
participation in decision making more generally.

  • 91% of participants strongly agreed
    that taking part in this citizens’ assembly made them want to be more involved
    in other aspects of decision making.
  • 93% of participants strongly agreed
    that they felt more confident to engage in political decision making as a
    result of being involved in this citizens’ assembly.

“Coming here now and meeting lots of different people and listening to different opinions was really good – it was a really good weekend.”

Sarah, citizens’ assembly member

The
report

A citizens’ assembly report is currently being
drafted. The report will consider the following:

1. What participants value most about Wales as it
currently is;

2. What participants see as the biggest challenges
facing Wales;

3. The pros and cons of each additional way of
shaping the future;

4. Participants’ order of preference for
innovations in each of the four functions debated, and why;

5. Participants’ order of preference across all of
the innovations, and why;

6. Participants’ view on whether or not each
innovation should be considered for adoption, and why.

This will provide the Assembly with an excellent
understanding of what people in Wales see as the biggest challenges and how
people in Wales would like to be able to shape their future through the work of
the Assembly.

The aim is to publish the report at a public event
at the Gwlad Festival of Politics in late September with the Assembly
Commission considering its response in the Autumn term.

The
team behind the citizens’ assembly

The evidence and information for participants was
compiled by the citizens’ assembly’s expert leads: Professor Graham Smith, Professor of Politics and Director of the
Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster and Dr
Huw Pritchard
, lecturer in law at Cardiff University and member of the
Wales Governance Centre; Huw supported by putting together background
information for the citizens’ assembly.

Also, the Assembly Commission’s steering group
coordinated internal scrutiny and analysis whilst the Hansard Society provided
an impartial external critique.

Furthermore, the expert speakers, who are leading
academics and practitioners in this field, advised on the comprehensiveness,
accuracy and balance of the evidence the assembly was to hear on both current
and future opportunities for people in Wales to shape their future. 

The citizens’ assembly guest speakers included the
expert leads, along with Dr Alan Renwick, University College London; Dr Diana
Stirbu, London Metropolitan University; Dr Clodagh Harris, University College
Cork; Professor Cristina Leston-Bandeira, University of Leeds and Rebecca
Rumbul, Lead Researcher with My Society.

The Assembly Commission commissioned two leading organisations to deliver the citizens’ assembly event and recruitment. The Sortition Foundation, which delivers stratified, random selection solutions, and the Involve Foundation, the UK’s leading public participation charity.

To find out more about the citizens’ assembly, visit the Devolution20 website.

Source

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.