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What is a Citizens’ Assembly ?

Jury Duty for the Planet on Existential Threats to our Future

A Model Citizens’ Assembly is one of the finest, concentrated learning experiences a school or community can ever undertake. Involving a Jury broadly representing the different sectors of a community (young / old; male / female etc.) + an audience of interested observers, the Assembly listens to, and questions, witnesses who present arguments for and against the choice being explored.

A Model Citizen’s Assembly(MCA) can explore any issue – from putting a water fountain in a park, to the global issues discussed here: existential threats that could wipe out humanity for ever. The purpose of every Assembly is identical: to enable communities, and individuals, to come to informed decisions on challenging issues. They are a whole lot more simple to organise and manage than the Model UNs for which MCAs are designed as an alternative. They allow participants to deep dive into a single issue. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Appoint a Jury – 20 to 50 persons balanced to represent your community;
  2. Recruit an Audience – anyone who’s interested (as many as possible);
  3. Appoint or Train your Expert Witnesses. (no more than five a side)
  4. Plan next steps – to follow up your informed decision with ACTION

In a school, for a genuine Peace Child MCA, Step Three involves training up a group of students to present each side of the argument. This is where the real learning can take place and, as with the MUN, the students themselves should take responsibility for researching in depth the arguments they are presenting. This has the added value of giving the young people a sense of ownership of the Assembly. It empowers them, hopefully, to take Step Four and act on the informed decision the Assembly reaches. (The Peace Child mission is: Empowering Young People)

But it is equally possible to appoint outside experts – elders who are passionate and informed about the field. Or use imported TED talk-style videos on the topic under discussion. And, of course, you are welcome to use the recordings on this website of the witness statements from the Pilot MCAs Peace Child Intl. has delivered. Please check these out anyway to learn how witnesses present their cases – well or badly!