Rich Wilson and Claire Mellier from Iswe and co-initiators of the Global Assembly have authored a provocative short article arguing that advocates of citizens’ assemblies need a new theory of change. They contend that “if citizens’ assemblies are to achieve significant change, they will need to step into the political fray and get real about how power and politics work”.
Wilson and Mellier argue that a new theory of change needs to be guided by three core assumptions:
“First, governmental institutions will not implement all proposals by assemblies without external pressure. Second, citizens have significant power to effect change with or without institutional support. Third, there is a significant policy-action gap, meaning that policies do not always translate to effective action.”
Organisers and advocates of citizens’ assemblies need to increase their literacy of political power and how change happens. This means adopting insider and outsider tactics of influence. Such tactics range from recognising assembly members as political actors and providing them with media and advocacy training through to embedding citizens’ assemblies within broader systems of public engagement and participation.
Much of Wilson and Mellier’s analysis resonates with work that KNOCA is developing, not least how to support members once the assembly has finished its formal work and considering the different ways that climate assemblies can be initiated and linked to wider citizen engagement – the recent People’s Plan for Nature initiated by three conservation organisations in the UK being one interesting example.