Climate Confident

A Climate Solution That Brings People Together: Citizen Assemblies

February 22, 2023 Tom Raftery / Denise Baden / Matt Ryan Season 1 Episode 109
A Climate Solution That Brings People Together: Citizen Assemblies
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Climate Confident
A Climate Solution That Brings People Together: Citizen Assemblies
Feb 22, 2023 Season 1 Episode 109
Tom Raftery / Denise Baden / Matt Ryan

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Hello Climate Confident listeners! I'm so excited to share with you the latest episode of the podcast where I had the pleasure of speaking once again with Prof Denise Baden and also this time with Prof Matt Ryan. In this episode, we dive into the topic of Citizen Assemblies and the role they play in addressing the climate crisis.

Denise and Matt are both experts in the field and it was amazing to hear about their experiences and insights on this topic. We talked about the importance of involving citizens in the decision-making process and how Citizen Assemblies can help to find solutions to complex issues, such as climate change.

One of the highlights of the episode was when Denise shared a story about a successful Citizen Assembly in Gdansk, Poland. It was inspiring to hear how a group of 60 city dwellers were given the authority to take action and made sweeping changes in areas like flood mitigation, air pollution, and even controversial topics like LGBT rights. And to top it off, the assemblies ended with a hug!

Matt also shared valuable information about the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA) website, knoca.eu, which is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about Citizen Assemblies and their role in addressing the climate crisis.

Throughout the episode, Denise and Matt emphasized the importance of finding the right mix of entertainment, decision-making structures, and inclusion in the Citizen Assembly process. They shared that while there may be mistakes made along the way, the goal is to find solutions that will allow us to survive, thrive, and flourish without damaging the planet.

If you're interested in learning more about Denise, Matt, Citizen Assemblies, or any of the topics we discussed in the podcast, be sure to check out

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  • Lorcan Sheehan
  • Hal Good
  • Jerry Sweeney
  • Andreas Werner
  • Devaang Bhatt
  • Stephen Carroll
  • Marcel Roquette
  • Roger Arnold

And remember you too can Support the Podcast - it is really easy and hugely important as it will enable me to continue to create more excellent Climate Confident episodes like this one.

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If you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover the show.

Credits
Music credits - Intro by Joseph McDade, and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send me a message

Hello Climate Confident listeners! I'm so excited to share with you the latest episode of the podcast where I had the pleasure of speaking once again with Prof Denise Baden and also this time with Prof Matt Ryan. In this episode, we dive into the topic of Citizen Assemblies and the role they play in addressing the climate crisis.

Denise and Matt are both experts in the field and it was amazing to hear about their experiences and insights on this topic. We talked about the importance of involving citizens in the decision-making process and how Citizen Assemblies can help to find solutions to complex issues, such as climate change.

One of the highlights of the episode was when Denise shared a story about a successful Citizen Assembly in Gdansk, Poland. It was inspiring to hear how a group of 60 city dwellers were given the authority to take action and made sweeping changes in areas like flood mitigation, air pollution, and even controversial topics like LGBT rights. And to top it off, the assemblies ended with a hug!

Matt also shared valuable information about the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies (KNOCA) website, knoca.eu, which is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about Citizen Assemblies and their role in addressing the climate crisis.

Throughout the episode, Denise and Matt emphasized the importance of finding the right mix of entertainment, decision-making structures, and inclusion in the Citizen Assembly process. They shared that while there may be mistakes made along the way, the goal is to find solutions that will allow us to survive, thrive, and flourish without damaging the planet.

If you're interested in learning more about Denise, Matt, Citizen Assemblies, or any of the topics we discussed in the podcast, be sure to check out

What If? So What?
We discover what’s possible with digital and make it real in your business

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Podcast supporters
I'd like to sincerely thank this podcast's amazing supporters:

  • Lorcan Sheehan
  • Hal Good
  • Jerry Sweeney
  • Andreas Werner
  • Devaang Bhatt
  • Stephen Carroll
  • Marcel Roquette
  • Roger Arnold

And remember you too can Support the Podcast - it is really easy and hugely important as it will enable me to continue to create more excellent Climate Confident episodes like this one.

Contact
If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - get in touch via direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn.

If you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover the show.

Credits
Music credits - Intro by Joseph McDade, and Outro music for this podcast was composed, played, and produced by my daughter Luna Juniper

Denise Baden:

The idea of citizen assemblies as a great medium to get well-informed, long-term sustainable decisions, I think that case has been answered by a lot of the research. The next step now is to give them more power because it's such a waste of all those resources and that energy, if they come up with great ideas that then don't get implemented, because of the short-term goals of the government's in power.

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Climate Confident podcast. The number one podcast, showcasing best practices in climate emission, reductions and removals. And I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Don't forget to click follow on this podcast in your podcast app of choice, to be sure you don't miss any episodes. Hi, everyone. Welcome to episode 109 of the Climate Confident podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. And before we start, I'd just like to welcome a new supporter of the podcast. Jerry Sweeney. Jerry signed up in the last few days to support the podcast. Thanks so much for that. Jerry much appreciated. I've added Jerry's name to the list of supporters published in every episode. If you'd like to sign up and become a supporter of the podcast to help me continue creating informative and engaging episodes. Simply click on the support link in the show notes of every episode. Or go to tiny url.com/climate pod. You can make a small donation starting at just three euros. That's. Less than the cost of a cup of coffee, but every little bit helps. Okay. With that out of the way with me on the show today, I have my special guests, Denise and Matt. Denise and Matt, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourselves?

Denise Baden:

Hi. Yes. Hi Tom. I'm Denise Baden. I'm professor of Sustainable Practice at the University of Southampton.

Tom Raftery:

Superb, Matt?

Matt Ryan:

Yeah, I'm also at the University of Southampton. I'm Associate Professor of Governance and Public Policy, and I work basically on problems of democracy.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And Denise, I should say welcome back to you cuz you were on the podcast a couple of weeks back, when we were talking about the climate stories and one of them you had on was talking about citizen assemblies. So I said I'd invite you back and we could dig into that a little bit more because it's an intriguing idea. And, you know, maybe you'd like to first of all, remind people who might have heard that episode or tell people who might have, who might not have heard that episode. What is a citizen assembly?

Denise Baden:

Okay. Yes. So that anthology, we compiled, we, we got together load of climate experts and we say, what do you think are the most transformative solutions to help us transition towards a, low carbon economy? And we had some technical one and nature-based ones. One of them was citizen assemblies. So the anthology was called No More Fairy Tales, Stories to Save the Planet. And one of the stories in there, to be honest, it's the longest one. It's more like a mini novella. It assassin and it sets eight people in a citizen's jury there to debate climate solutions and to make it fun for the reader. It's a bit of a whodunnit, and one of them, as the target suggests, is an assassin. So that, that was my sort of introduction to citizen assemblies and I became utterly convinced that yes, it is a key climate solution. When we look at all the other decisions and solutions that are out there. First almost always, we need government to either create the right regulatory framework for it, or we need them to finance it or provide tax breaks or incentives or at least stop the disincentives. We need them to be thinking beyond the four year electoral cycle in Britain. And time and time again they show they're not doing that. And the idea of citizen assemblies is you get a diverse mix of people. much more representative than our current governments, um, who are exposed to experts and information, not so much vested interests. you know, who can get access to politicians and they have the chance to deliberate. So it's not about a sort of debate like, you know, party politics. I'm gonna shout at you and I'm gonna shout back, but proper deliberative inquiry by a diverse group of individuals who care about their futures not winning the next election. So I became utterly convinced that this is something we really need as a fundamental element of any climate solution. So my key goal, I guess, in in writing that story, was to raise awareness of that.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. And how would a citizen assembly enact anything? I mean, it's great to get a group of people together and have a chat and say, oh, we should fix the climate, but that doesn't fix the climate.

Denise Baden:

Well. You would think you get a load of people together and they might just shout and have a go at each other, like in, in Parliament. But actually the, the evidence shows that they do make, you know, if you give them responsibility, they will take responsibility and do it well. So, so Matt's the expert in that. You, you'll know all the case studies won't you, Matt?

Matt Ryan:

Definitely a little bit So, I think that's a really good question, Tom, and, and, and Denise is outlined a couple of the real issues, and why I think what Denise is doing is fantastic, is if you organize a climate assembly, as you said, it's not necessarily empowered, you have to do a bit of work to actually get that, get the recommendations or whatever comes, whatever the product of the assembly is into policy making and, and have an effect. One of the issues that has come for all assemblies is that they struggle to tell the story of, you know, what's going on inside them and, and project it. So this podcast and the work that Denise is doing, writing short stories and plays and everything like that, that's actually what's needed to, to build a kind of a public understanding to connect people with the decisions that are made. So it's kind of easy to to, to make a very technocratic exercise but if people don't buy into what's going on and don't understand what's going on, you just have the same problems as well. So we can talk about how you, convene these assemblies and how you select who goes into them and how you decide what they talk about. But at the end of the day, something we've touched on immediately is what empowers them. And actually it's a fundamental thing is that governments have to agree. First of all, people who've got authority have to agree that they're going to, implement something and it has to be feasible for them to do so with their, within their jurisdiction and their powers and hold debate there about what, that should be and what it means. But I think what Denise touched on, which is really important, is that actually being able to communicate through these kind of media to people, uh, and get them to understand, or try and connect with these new ways of doing politics is really important. We're gonna solve the problems that we we're trying to solve.

Denise Baden:

Other places are ahead of us, so there's been loads of citizen assemblies. Uh, I mean, Ireland's done a lot, haven't they? Uh, Europe have done a lot, and they've really made a, a difference. So I think in France they, they're well ahead. They're, they're more established, I think in Poland they have actual power, so, the problem has been we can show they will make good decisions but then they need to connect, as Matt was saying, to policy. And that's where the gap has been. We run them here, but it doesn't mean that the government will implement them. They might take them just like they take a lot of committee proposals. Oh, that's nice, but there's no real legislative authority there. So I think the idea of citizen assemblies as a great medium to get well-informed, long-term sustainable decisions. I, I think that case has been answered by a lot of the research. The, the next step now is to give them more power because it's such a waste of all those resources and that energy, if they come up with great ideas that then don't get implemented, because of the short-term goals of the government's in power.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we'll dig into that in a sec, but before that I want to dig a little further into how do we decide who goes into the citizens Assembly? And also, I mean, Denise, you mentioned that they are addressed by all these experts on these different topics. Who picks the experts? Because who decides what an expert is in any particular topic? How does that all work?

Denise Baden:

Well, I know that Sortition are a group and then they propose random selection. like a, a lottery but the idea is that it represent the proportion of people in the country or the locality that they're doing it. So that's one model. Do you know of any other models Matt?

Matt Ryan:

Yeah. So I think it's worth taking a small step back and thinking like, you know, where does this come from? So, obviously I think what you are learned that's really important Denise is that one of the way that we've done politics, democratic politics for a long time is that we elect people every few years. So, you know, the idea, and it's a really important idea, is that, you know, if you're not happy with what's going on, you can throw the rascals out as they put it every four years and, and fix things. But what what ends up happening of course, is power gets entrenched within certain people and they kind of continue doing that. And this electorate cycle, we know that it's not dealing with the challenge that we face in terms of long-term action on climate. So there has to be something different. Governments have tried all kinds of things. Like the classic thing is you set up the Environmental Protection Agency and you give a bunch of technocrats or experts and that that works to an extent, right? It does. I mean, if we didn't have those agencies and experts doing this work, we'd be in trouble. But the issue is oftentime, it's still a small biased group of people. When you have these, you, you asked about experts, it's still a small biased group of people who have their own, you know, most people who are scientists, you know, we're boffins, that's hang around universities talk to each other, and we don't go out into the wild and talk to real people and the concerns that they have. And so many of the challenges around climate change are so multi-faceted, right? The fact that someone is car dependent in a suburb in, in one part of the city might not affect someone in another part of the city. You need to get them together in some way. There's a long history of kind of random selection or rotation or sortition as, as Denise put it. It comes back from the days of ancient Athens, and they had no idea about probability theorems. You know, they might have had a sense it, but they hadn't written down the, the equations or anything at that point. But what they did get was that there's something to be gained from excluding people from decisions. And I think that's the real magic of the climate assembly for me is it's actually something to do with exclusion rather than inclusion. It's a systematic exclusion. So what I mean by that is that you you make sure that the elites who are always making the decisions have exactly the same chance of being involved as the people who don't normally get to make decisions and don't get included. So you're systematically excluding the elites that do this all the time. I think that's, a really important thing to, to focus on. I mean, you could talk about the representativity. It's really good. You do get a different kind of look and feel to these citizens assemblies in terms of the, representation of gender, ethnicity, and all the other social characteristics that maybe are not represented in Parliament. But to an extent, you know, you can only invite people to come and people are hard to reach, especially people who have been disaffected for a long, long time from politics. But the, the most important thing is here is you exclude elites, or at least you only include them in a systematic way. So you can select the experts and you can give them the amount of speaking time. But effectively, people who have their own concerns and are experts in their own lives and how, climate affects them, get the chance to have a safe space away from all the noise of social media and media and everything else. And they get that time to talk to each other, learn from each other, and then you get a really more, authentic sense of what people think if they're given time to deliberate and decide about things away from, the cacophony that we normally have to deal with when we're trying to decide. So, so that's the idea really. And like there's all kinds of small variables that you can move and, and think about, you know you could stratify who you select. You can have a commission that decides the experts or you can think about, and there's lots of fighting over the question that you decide on this scope, and it's all really important. But at the end of the day, that's the fundamental principle is that you kind of exclude the elites from being the only ones making the decision. And you have some kind of system where you include citizen expertise as well as the scientific expertise and the, and the opinions of, you know, all the different parts of the economy that have a stake in this. So it's trying to kind of game the system so that it's a bit fairer in a way and a bit more, um, suited than, you know, to compliment the electoral system that we have.

Denise Baden:

It ties in quite nicely cuz I used to way back, teach business ethics and, you know, I still teach corporate social responsibility and sustainable business and, and a big, a key buzzword is stakeholder management, where there's all these different stakeholders of any policy or, or any business. And you find that in general government, some stakeholders have privileged access. They have the ear of the minister, whereas the idea of citizen assemblies, you don't have that privileged access. You know, if you are a stakeholder who is affected by this policy, then you are included. So there's a distinction between powerful stakeholders and stakeholders who are important. So important stakeholders will be very much affected by whatever is decided. Powerful stakeholders have the ability to make it happen or not happen. Business and, and governments tend to pay more importance to powerful stakeholders rather than important stakeholders. So again, it redresses that balance. So, I think most of us have been quite disenchanted with democracy and we really don't wanna throw out the baby with the bath water. So for me, this kind of participative democracy is, is what we need to save us, really save us, save the planet, and and save the ideals of democracy.

Tom Raftery:

Sure. Well, I mean, both of you are based in the UK where the electoral system is a single seat constituency, first past post, which is hugely flawed in and of itself. And people have been saying you should move to proportional representation. That keeps popping up from time to time and it never gets anywhere. Because to your point, I suspect, Denise, you've got these powerful stakeholders who have vested interest in keeping the status quo. How are you going to get them if they're not, going to, I don't wanna say allow, but if they're stopping proportional representation, for example, from being implemented, why would they embrace citizen assemblies?

Denise Baden:

Well, yes, like turkeys voting for Christmas isn't it? That's a very good point. And it's a real shame. I mean I used, you know, I was be fan of proportional representation, but it only solves part of the problem. If you just sort of bung it onto our existing system. I mean, who even votes for the party they'd want you vote to keep the one you don't want out. And I think they did a survey once in Chichester, Sussex where they found out with everybody voted for the policies they want, the Green party would be in. Of course there's just one mp. So, it's a real problem. I think now with the debate about looking for a replacement with the House of Lords on the table. This is a really good time to try and get a sort of momentum behind the idea of, hang on a minute, why don't we have a house of citizens? Why don't we have a citizen's Senate? You know, why don't we like really put it in the heart of power rather than just taking one representative system. And, you know, I have representative in quotation marks with another representative system and a whole argument over who we put in place there. We kind of had two then systems with similar issues rather than one complimenting and providing different pros and cons to the other, which for me would be ideal. So yes, I'm, I'm quite a fan of the Sortition movement because they are trying to galvanize sort of public interest behind this debate, and I think now is the time to, to raise these issues and, and get people talking about them. But the trouble is people not really, they're not familiar enough with them , that that's one of the issues.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah. Fair, fair. Matt, do you have anything to, to add to that about how do you get these powerful stakeholders to step aside, and, and, and allow our citizen assembly in place?

Matt Ryan:

Certainly. So I think there's, there's a few things to say on this. So 1, 1, 1 thing that came to me immediately is that, well, I think it's important to start off by saying, I think Denise talks about throwing the baby out with the bat water. Like the, institutions we have are, are hard fought for, and we need to make sure that they work well in themselves. So, you know, you often hear people complain and you ask them, have you ever tried writing to your mp? And they go, why would I? You know, so you kind of wanna say to people, engage with the political system and, you know, there are all, there are all kinds of issues around that. And, and as you've pointed out, the first past the post system doesn't work well in terms a lot of the time in terms of providing accountability for politicians in safe seats, et cetera. They don't have to look beyond a certain part of the electorate and, think about those things. But in different systems, you have a different mix that can help. And, and the UK, in fairness to it, has had, some kind of innovation, especially around at the local level in terms of the way that they, they consult the public and change things. And we have had those citizens stories and assemblies over the years that have contributed to, to policy making in different ways. So through getting that ecosystem right, but what I think is really important, and this is what Denise touched on is, we have to keep thinking about innovation and we have to think about innovating our democracy. And it's a constant struggle to make sure that the right voices are represented and we can't ever take anything for granted. And what's nice to know is that like we studied democratic innovation all over the world, and there's loads of different examples of places that are actually doing this. So Denise talked about the second chamber, uh, in the uk, but already in in the German speaking East Belgian region, they're one of the first people who've actually put into a citizen a standing citizens assembly, that sits alongside, their existing legislators. So it is happening at, at, at regional levels already. You know, so it's not, it's not like this is sci-fi, you know, this is really, this stuff, is really happening and it does work. Now, none of this is magic bullet, right? But it's just try something different and do something different. It's, it's good to see what, what can happen. You're still going to run into same problems. Like if you have, we, we know from doing citizen panels, which have been very effective for surveying citizens around the c the country in different places and loads of local authorities in the UK and other, other places had citizens panels and still have. But if the same people on the panel all the time, they get socialized into, so it's the same issue, you know, if you randomly select people, you have to exclude them again. And I think that's the really important thing, is to make sure that people can't be. You have to try and come up and it's very difficult come up with a system that allows, people that safe space to deliberate things away from interest groups, but the interest groups and the lobbies are always going to be there. So you have to try and marry that, that issue of having, a safe space for people to give their expertise without being affected by strong interests and lobby groups. But those lobby groups, some just have to exist because at the end of the day, politics is about interests and about, you know, it's about values, but it's also about people's interests. People have needs and they need to get them satisfied. So it's a very complex thing. But the, the main thing for me that's important about citizens assemblies and why they, they might be part to the answer, solving the climate crisis, is that they provide this other space, this alternative way of doing things. And they bring those ideas that Denise is talking about to politics so that you can have a different, way of looking at things. We know this works, right? It's an alternative venue that can bypass some gridlock, and we've seen that happen, for example, in Ireland on different issues like, constitutional issues there, like the gay marriage issue and the, um, the abortion issue. It provides a separate venue where people can deliberate and say, actually the, the country's in a different place to where, where it really was 20 years ago now, and we can actually give you the authority to move in this direction because you've brought the experts and the citizens together and, and they've made a decision and it's kind of legitimate and representative in some way. But there are other ways doing this as well. It doesn't have to be random selection, it doesn't have to be people in a, in a room, you know, for two weekends in a hotel. It can also be something that's incentivizing neighborhood meetings and, and building things from the ground up as well. So there's, there's a whole array of things that we can do to compliment, you know, staid or slightly creaking political institutions and kind of support them and buttress them, so that, you know, some people don't want to write to their mp, but maybe go to a neighborhood meeting or, or you might get a letter in the door saying you've been randomly selected to a citizen's assembly and you can make an important decision to to mitigate climate, you know, so it's kind of climate change. So, so those are the, you know, there needs to be a lot more innovation and mix. That would be my call out to people, is to kind of think about different ways of doing things and, and engaging people who, for whatever reason are disengaged.

Denise Baden:

I think also there's a, a feminist argument to be made here because I see a lot of our institutions as having arisen from the debating chambers of Eton. It's all male, elite sort of privileged, idea where you have, two oppositions and the idea is if you both take opposing views, the best argument will win. And that adversarial system, has permeated through our entire culture. It's in our law courts. It's in the relationship between the media and the politicians. It's in the two opposing, just the way the whole House of Commons is set up is basically two people shouting at each other, two groups. And the assumption that the truth will arise from that. But I think we know, especially now as information is being interfered with so much, and people are exposed to as probably, I think probably most big decisions that have been made nationally and internationally over the last five years have been made mostly on the basis misinformation. So, Democracy is only good as the information that comes into it and the people involved. And if the attitude is the truth will emerge from two opposing views. Well, that's not what happens. The loudest voices and those with most control over the distribution of information, are the ones that win. In America, that parties with the most money wins. So I like the idea of deliberation of a whole different attitude. So, I mean, like I said, I spent many years in favor of proportional representation, but you just sort of impose that upon our current tone and, you know, approach to politics. I, I'm not sure how well it works. This is a real fundamental change of approach. I see it as, maybe you don't need to genderize it, but I, I do see it as a more, you know, I'm not interested in shouting at you. I'm interested in having a discussion. So I love the idea of that and, but the media aren't gonna like it. The media, like divisive, polarized discourse. It's more theater. It's, entertainment, and a lot of people love politics for that. They like the cat and mouse game that politicians play with journalists and journalists try and catch them out on a word, out of context. I hate it. I don't think politics should be entertainment. So Parson is a matter of preference, but the stakes are too high to think. Actually, it's more fun to have politics as theater. Quite frankly. The, the stakes are our futur, our humanity, and we need to be making long term decisions in a deliberative, calm, thoughtful way. Not full of people just shouting at each other, trying to get the latest soundbite. Or trying to avoid being caught out in a statement outta context, because that's not a safe space. You know, we don't have a safe space at the moment to debate things, thoughtfully.

Tom Raftery:

Sure, sure. Matt, you referenced the example of citizen assemblies in Ireland and East Belgium. German speaking, east Belgium. How did the media respond to the citizen assemblies there?

Matt Ryan:

Yeah. So this is, and, and Denise has touched on this as well. This is the tough nut that we have to crack is kind of getting the media stories We started with this didn't we? Trying to understand how we tell those good news stories and, and, and get the media interested in that. And it's not like, it's not like they're the wrong people. Like you can talk to journalists about what happens and the colleagues of mine who have actually looked at this and, and looked at Climate Assembly UK for example. They, they have written some really nice, reports that people can access that kind of explain the difficulty here. And from talking to them. One of the issues was, the journalists will say, when something happens, we report about it. But at the moment, like you said earlier, it's a bunch of people talking. And even if you have David Attenborough and you have, uh, a documentary on the BBC that's really nice. If you take the Irish examples, abortion and gay marriage are major social issues that had a whole social movement attached to them for 20 years. And I think people forget that, that it's not, it wasn't the climate assembly or sorry, it wasn't the citizen's assembly that, that was the magic bullet that changed those things. It was, 20 years of social change. UK's a really good example actually because I think the UK is somewhere where the most people actually, it's probably a leader in the sense that throughout different, parts of the society, people do accept that climate change is a real problem and we have to deal with it. So there's a lot of actual support in public opinion across different sectors of society to do something about this. The problem is we all disagree about how we should actually change and what we should do. So we need a venue to be able to, to talk about these things. I'm going around the houses a bit, but coming back to the point about, you know, how do we make this interesting? We're running a climate assembly in Southampton now. There's been a lot of local level assemblies and we're trying to think about how we can do it differently so that we can, you know, we're just planning this over the next couple of years to think about, how we can do this in a way that builds that momentum, that gives people like an honest and clear story about why this is happening, what it's doing, and you know, the participants involved. There's been some nice examples, for example, of where people have followed assembly members from that moment where they get that letter, they're kind of randomly selected, and then they go and meet each other and they meet people from very different walks of life. So, you know, you might be an 18 year old who, you know, knows everything about this technology, that technology has a totally different culture to a a 55 year old rural person. I mean, I'm stereotyping a bit here, but, then you have to come together and you have to try and understand each other and you might find that you've got a lot in common. And those kind of stories are really interesting because of kind of life interest stories. And they tell, they tell the journey of people going through these things. And we do have some, uh, evidence coming out now that those people who are involved in the assemblies, even though it's a small number. They continue campaigning afterwards on the issues that they get involved with. So it does change their life, and they create a kind of cohort in a way. A lot of them, you know, not everyone, but many of them will if you follow up and interview them six months, two years later. They've, you know, learned something about something that's been a significant moment in their lives and they're now campaigning about whatever, you know, whatever decisions they came to. In all the policymaking we do, all of these things are a drop in the ocean, but you're hoping that's like water on a stone and it's going to kind of gradually erode the, the blockage we have to finding these solutions. So again, going back to what, what we said earlier, what's really important is that people embrace different ways of doing things and they're not just like, uh, I mean, you, you've talked about how on the podcast you're looking for solutions and I think it's, the naysayers are problematic, right? We know we do have to be critical about what? About, about different ways of doing things, but we have to try something different because as Denise has pointed out, the electoral cycle as we have it is important, but on its own, it's not enough. It's not gonna solve the problem for us. So we do have to do something slightly different here. And getting that message across, that's actually not my area of expertise and that's why I'm trying to work with people like you, like journalists and, and, and kind of get this message out there and see, you know, is it through podcasting? Is it through good journalism? Is it through, um, writing plays? Writing stories? How are we gonna make sure that, uh, we can tell stories in interesting ways that galvanizes us to embrace new ways of doing politics that then solves major problems that we have. Climate of being number one essentially.

Denise Baden:

So yeah, Matts mentioned my, play a few times, so perhaps I ought to, say what that's all about. So, uh, the novella, I wrote The Assassin, which is set in the citizens jury where they debate, key climate solutions. We're adapting it as a play. And the idea is that the, the first part of the play is kind of a whodunnit. And we get exposed to all the different climate solutions and at the end there is a murder. So, uh, we we're gonna do it as a piece of entertainment, but we're also gonna engage the audiences and hang on a minute, which climate solutions did you like, in the interval. And we'll do a workshop one as well. We'll actually make that proper workshop. And, but for the entertainment one, it will just be in the interval. And then the second act, the Crown Prosecutor has to decide, is he gonna prosecute? Is there enough evidence to prosecute? It could possibly have been an accident, but he knows if he does, this is the first Citizen's Assembly to be granted full power. And there's a lot of interest ranged against it. And if there is publicity to a murder, it would shut them down. And he thinks, well, this is the silver bullet to avert climate change. If I prosecute, it's the end of citizens' juries. We have no chance then of making the policies that will save ourselves. So that's his crisis of conscience. When is doing your job the right thing and when is doing your job the wrong thing? So we engage the public in making that decision. So he will say, you know, I'm an upright person of the law. There's huge stakes here. I cannot make this decision alone. You have to help me make it. So again, we engage the, the public in that. So it's a nice, I'm hoping it will be really entertaining. So you've got all the fun of a whodunnit. All the fun of a crisis of conscience and a chance to engage with the issues. So that's something. We had a small pot of funds to do on a small scale, which will definitely happen and I'm hoping to get a larger pot of funds, take it to Edinburgh and do it probably. But for the moment, yeah, we're just trying to get the anthology out there. No More Fairy Tales - Stories to Save Our Planet cuz it's in there. And also I'm, I'm quite keen, I think this Sortition Foundation is probably the most established of groups that it is compiling a lot of the information and case studies and making the case and trying to do some campaigning. Especially as you know, the House of Lord's option is there, can we have a House of Citizens or Citizen Senate instead?

Tom Raftery:

And is that Sortition group that you reference, are they UK specific or are they more global?

Denise Baden:

If you go on their website. It's just, uh, Sortition Foundation dot. They've got case studies from all over and they're very good at showing the positive case studies, where it's worked really well, where it does have more power. Uh, Scotland are doing way more in, they're further ahead I think, in us in terms of campaigning for them to be given more power. So it's, it's a good resource to find out how they work and also to find out how you can get engaged in that movement and sort of lend your voice to the cry for, rebooting our democracy, making it fit for 21st century challenges.

Tom Raftery:

Okay. How do we make it happen?

Denise Baden:

Well, that's why I pointed out that website. I think they're probably, they're, they're the ones I came across who seem to be doing the most to make it. We are showing through all the positive case studies and local ones. So I think it's happening already at a local level. I mean, a lot of local authorities are using it, especially when they're kind of blocked on an issue. So they're happening any everywhere anyway. But they just don't necessarily have full power. That's the thing. It's power to suggest only, but I think as we continue to do that, and there's not that many barriers I think to doing it locally for issues. It helps reassure politicians as well on the probably the more contentious things around things like abortion and gay rights. It's reassuring if they could say, well, a citizen assembly of representative people like this, so, you know, don't shoot me if I go for it. So its happening anyway. And it's about becoming familiar with the idea and comfortable with the idea. So at the next step, you know, you have a call for change. Overcoming the vested interest of, well, we know if it's as successful as we hope, you know, it does eat into the power of those politicians. So that, that is a tricky issue.

Matt Ryan:

So on on resources, one of one thing that I tell people to check out if they're listening is there's the Knowledge Network on Climate Assemblies, which is run by lots of really good people. And they they have like lots of resources there and they, they run webinars for people thinking about doing climate assemblies. What's worth saying as well, and I think Denise kinda touched on this, there's already a kind of latant group. There's a huge industry of public participation practitioners and people who give up their time. Some of them are professionals, but some of 'em are volunteers. Uh, and there's a huge industry of consulting within public works. And that that's always there and it's always growing actually. And there's people doing this innovative stuff and, and, and trying to get people involved in different ways. Sometimes using Sortition, but using other methods as well to try and reach hard to reach groups, include people in new ways, in policy making. And they probably don't get the credit they deserve. But I think what's important is there's kind of this symbiotic relationship with campaign groups and social movements, et cetera, that are really important as well. Like a few years ago because it was one of their demands Extinction Rebellion was coming to a lot of us, kind of people who work on stuff I do and saying, uh, how do we do a citizens assembly? We want to do a Citizens assembly. And some of us were kind of saying like, I'm not sure if Extinction Rebellion should be doing a citizens assembly because it's not a campaigning device. Right. It's a, like we said, it's a device for coming together and understanding, you know, how you overcome differences in opinions about things and trying to come to collective clever solutions. What we need at the same time is a radical flank that's kind of showing us that another world is possible and you need that, that at the same time. So I might be a very you know, middle of the road person. And then I see someone who tells me they're vegan and they don't wanna sit on a leather couch. And I think that's a bit extreme, but actually it makes me think when I go home the next time I'm thinking about buying some meat in the supermarket, I might go, okay, actually I should think about this. So, there's different things going on in the political ecosphere and this has to play a certain role within that. I really would, suggest to people just kind of. It's an awareness that we want, that people can play different roles in, in this and, and knowing that there's opportunities out there to, to do things differently, and as Denise said, people are picking up on this so, you start off with classically, you know, we see that in, cities that have a very strong civil society, like in Barcelona and Madrid, you know, the places where people, you know, where there's a huge army of people who are, you know, urban, well educated, not to characterize anything, but you have this kind of civil society that, that can then build demand for these things that usually they'll start there. But what you'll then see is that other, you know, kind of scruffy places that I like to, hang out in, and, and I say in the most affectionate way possible. They'll start taking this on. And the politicians there will say, well, if they can do it there, why can't we do it here? And there's kind of a contagion effect that, that leads to change. So, it's a roundabout way of saying how it happens is that, you know, people have to be open minded and, and try things. And, uh, and, what I think is important, and I'd be a big advocate of for, is being agile and, and thinking, you know, there's different designs that can work in different places, but try something, you know, rather than just sit in your hands and say, politics is rubbish and, uh, they're all corrupt. There's an element to that, but really, I spend a lot of time with a lot of politicians. They're not all corrupt. They have, uh, a very difficult incentive structure to work in. And we can have this podcast and talk and complain about everything, but at the end of the day, they actually make the decisions. So we kind of, let them do the hard work in a way. Now some of them really like, themselves and they, they, they like doing that work and they have. there's different problems there, but at the end of the day, someone has to make these decisions and they're tough decisions and, you know, we have to compromise. And politics is designed to disappoint in that, in that sense, because, if you're winning and, and you're getting what you want, you're not living in a democracy, you're in some kind of authoritarian regime. So, you know, at the end of the day, we have to compromise. We have to decide how to do that. The more we can think about different ways of doing that and accepting that, but also being, you know, true to our beliefs and, and trying to find ways to disagree, but come to clever collective solutions. And that's what these things do, right? So they work alongside your campaign organization and alongside your electoral system. You have these other options like citizens assemblies that allow us to weave a path between those, two extremes of kind of shouting at each other in, in a, in a parliament or shouting at each other on the streets. And give us a kind of a safe space to deliberate and come to kind of solutions that we can, we can agree on and move forward.

Denise Baden:

And speaking of shouting at each other, I'm saying it's good to have some good news stories, for Climate Confident Podcast. To me it was surprising that one of the most successful was in Gdansk, Poland um, but they had, uh, 60 people, you know, just city dwellers in Gdansk and they were given authority to take action. So they actually did have some authority and they made really, you know, sweeping changes on flood mitigation and air pollution and more contentious things about L G B T and so on. And they concluded with hugging. So , so they, they have worked and, and not necessarily in the places where you think. And also just to follow up on Matt, and he's talked about the knowledge exchange, the website there is knoca.eu, so that is the knowledge network on climate assemblies and that's got load of resources.

Tom Raftery:

Nice. Nice. Okay. We're coming towards the end of the podcast now, folks. Is there any question I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this we haven't touched on that you think it's important to make people aware of?

Denise Baden:

Where can you buy our book?

Tom Raftery:

I'll have links to the book and the show notes. Don't worry. As well as the, as well as the links. You called out so far.

Denise Baden:

Jolly good.

Matt Ryan:

No, it's a great question. Like what, what questions should I have asked that that's, it's really done me in a way. No, I think the point I, I think we've talked about everything that we need to talk about really, but the point I would, I, I wanted to get across, most strongly is that like, these are difficult decisions around climate and I think we all come to them sometimes and we think we know the answers. And the great kind of humbling thing is when you talk to other people, you realize that you don't know all the answers and there's problems that you, you haven't thought of and that people have other, you know, we could all stop eating meat, stop flying and stop driving cars or stop building stuff and whatever. But certain people have needs that mean that they have to be able to do this. And there's a complex decision making around who should do what. And that, that does seem obvious, but being struck by other people's stories is such a powerful thing. And whether it's just meeting people in an assembly or reading about it in, in a newspaper or listen to it on a podcast, we have to find the right mix. That means that there is kind of entertainment like Denise has thought about, but also, decision making structures and inclusion of of the right people. In, in the right ecosystem. So we're working through different designs for this and we're not, we're making mistakes, but we're getting there. And hopefully that's the positive message about climate solutions from, this discussion is that, we're trying things and, uh, we're, we're hopefully going to, get to a place where we can survive and thrive and flourish without, messing up the planet through doing slightly different ways of doing politic. politics.

Tom Raftery:

All right. Cool. Cool. If people would like to know more about yourself, Denise, or, Matt, or Citizen, citizen Assemblies, or any of the things we discussed in the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?

Denise Baden:

Well, we mentioned, sortition foundation.org and knoca.eu for the citizen assemblies. For me it's dabaden.com. It's where you can find out what, what I get up to. Or just type my name into Google and all my various projects we come up

Tom Raftery:

Lovely.

Matt Ryan:

Yeah, it's probably similar for me. I'll mention a couple of things. So the main, project I work on is called robooting democracy, and that is basically what we're trying to do there is use new ways of using novel technologies to try and get people involved. So it's not really, we, we, we we're working on climate in some aspects, on other social problems and other aspects. So it's really focused on how you, how you involve people differently and try and look at new ways of doing things. Another great resource, which is another project I'm involved in, is called Participedia.net. So it's like Wikipedia for participation. So if you go to Participedia.net, what they have, it's, it's almost like a wiki of all the great, really interesting cases and methods that have been used to try and involve people differently in politics. So everything from climate assemblies, but also things like participatory budgeting, world cafes, and interesting artistic workshops like, um, participatory theater and everything that you can imagine. So sometimes we get contacted by policy makers or civil servants and they go, oh, I found this thing. I'm thinking about how to do it. And I'd refer 'em to Participedia.Net as a good resource to think about here, here's a way of doing something differently that has worked and here's a case of how it has or hasn't worked. But you can learn from that in a different part of the world. So that's the place I would send people, really

Tom Raftery:

Superb. Superb. Great. that's been really fascinating. Thanks a million for coming in the podcast today.

Denise Baden:

thank you for inviting us

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about the Climate Confident podcast, feel free to drop me an email to Tom raftery@outlook.com. Or message me on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you like the show, please, don't forget to click follow on it in your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks, catch you all next time.

(Cont.) A Climate Solution That Brings People Together: Citizen Assemblies

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