Trust the wild card? Initial thoughts on the People’s Assembly for Nature￼
October 14, 2022 by Citizens' Assembly Working Group
The WWF, Royal Society for the Protections of Birds (RSPB) and the National Trust are jointly commissioning a citizens’ assembly to come up with a People’s Plan For Nature. In their own words, this alliance of some of the UK’s largest nature conservation charities will be collaborating with the public to protect and restore nature in the UK.
The more the idea of citizens’ assemblies (CAs) are in the limelight, the more the public will become aware of how people can actively be involved in the decision making that affect their lives.
What’s the plan?
What we know so far is that it is to be run by Involve and the Sortition Foundation, both now experienced practitioners having been part of Scotland’s Climate Assembly, Climate Assembly UK and many others. Other partners are 89Up and the New Citizens Project.
It’s happening over four weekends: two in person in Birmingham and two weekends online between November 2022 and February 2023.
So what’s good?
The knowledge and understanding about CAs will reach a wide range of the general public due to the extensive membership of these groups, people that XR might find hard to reach.
The process has been designed with three different stages, each stage helping to extend the conversation on the nature crisis we are in.
- At the individual level, people are invited to share their thoughts and ideas before 30th October. Those responses, captured online, will feed into the citizens’ assembly.
- People are also encouraged to organise their own community conversations and people’s assemblies to discuss what they think the plan for nature should be. There are posters and guidelines provided in English and Welsh.
- Citizens’ assembly: 100 people selected like a jury to be broadly representative of the UK population. This representative group will hear a range of views from experts and opinions from people affected. They will weigh up the pros, cons and trade-offs to come up with recommendations aimed at government, businesses, NGOs and communities as a joined up plan to save and protect nature.
It’s an interesting model that seeks to include input from as many people from as wide a range as possible. This model of holding community conversations or assemblies and feeding into a citizens’ assembly has already been used at the Global Assembly and is being used for Poland’s forthcoming citizens’ assembly on fuel poverty.
The expectation is that when the People’s Plan for Nature is published, it will be too big to ignore and will have the support of a large swathe of the nature-aware population.
What’s not so good? (So far!)
As if there wasn’t enough confusion already, the decision was made to have a citizens’ assembly which they called a people’s assembly. To clarify: the People’s Assembly for Nature is in fact a citizens’ assembly. Though both are deliberative and participatory processes, they are fundamentally quite different. See ‘How Do Citizens’ Assemblies Differ From People’s Assemblies’.
The process of a citizens’ assembly should always be completely transparent. For now, details are a bit sparse on the ground especially since this project must have been in the making for a while and is starting in less than a month. A few things we are curious to know are:
- Funding: who’s putting in what?
- Will there be remuneration for participants to ensure people aren’t excluded from the assembly by financial constraints?
- Who is in the Advisory Group?
- What sort of representation is there in the Oversight Body?
We look forward to more details and hope the minimum standards we measure citizens’ assemblies by are followed. We will of course keep you posted!
What can you do?
This is a great opportunity to get much needed attention for both the nature crisis and the need for more deliberative democracy, such as citizens’ assemblies. Here are some ways you can help:
- Add your ideas and suggestions by submitting your answers to the questions posted on the People’s Plan For Nature website. Don’t leave it too long: you need to do this by the 30th of October 2022!
- Bang the drum for a citizens’ assembly: Talk to everyone you know about citizens’ assemblies, point them to more information and stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter.
- Write to your MP and help make citizens’ assemblies part of political vocabulary. Here is a template for a letter to get you started, but better still is to personalise it: Template for a letter to your MP about citizens’ assemblies.
If you have any questions about citizens’ assemblies, please reach out to your friendly Citizens’ Assembly Working Group (CAWG) on xr-CitizensAssembly@protonmail.com, check out our citizens’ assembly page and Frequently asked Questions, and: come find us in the citizens’ assembly gazebo at the Tate Modern on Saturday 15 October for the Festival of Resistance where you can ask your questions in real life!
Love, rage, and deliberation!