Integrating Public Deliberation for Impact: Learning from the European Wave of Citizens’ Assemblies (i4i)

The i4i research project, conducted in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Brigitte Geißel in Frankfurt am Main, Dr. Rikki Dean in Frankfurt am Main, and Prof. Jean Benoit Pilet at Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in Brussels, Belgium, focuses on the impact of citizens’ assemblies (CAs).

CAs bring together randomly selected individuals to discuss political issues and provide recommendations, gaining popularity in Europe as a means to connect citizens with representative institutions, particularly in addressing challenges like climate change. Opinions on the effectiveness of CAs vary among researchers. The project aims to explore this further by examining the integrative elements of CAs—how they are designed and connected to the political system. For instance, the project investigates whether a CA is a one-time event or a continuous process, who organizes it (public institutions or civil society), and whether its recommendations are binding or advisory.

The i4i project poses three crucial questions: Do CAs have an impact, and if so, what types of impact? What integrative design features connect CAs to the political system? What is the relationship between these integrative design features and the realization of impact? The project involves collaboration among researchers from Belgium, Germany, and Poland, analyzing 40 climate assemblies at national and subnational levels. Various methods, including documentary analysis, process observation, qualitative interviews, survey experiments, and Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA), will be employed to gather comprehensive data. The goals of the i4i project are to: generate real-world data on the integrative design features of European CAs and their impacts on political institutions, decision-making, and policies; develop a detailed understanding of how different integrative design features correlate with the impacts of CAs, providing a realistic assessment of their overall effects; and contribute valuable insights into how democracy and deliberation function. Ultimately, i4i aims to contribute to academic knowledge by offering new explanations and evidence on how to effectively use and design CAs in contemporary European democracies, where these processes are increasingly common.

This research project is financed by National Science Centre (NCN) in Poland within Weave-Unisono funding scheme (UMO-2023/05/Y/HS5/00027).