We're at Democracy Day in Belfast today to share the experience of the Citizens' Assembly for Northern Ireland. The citizens' assembly took place in Autumn 2018, bringing together a representative group of 75 citizens’ from across Northern Ireland to consider how the social care system for older people should be reformed to be fit for the future.

We were fortunate to be joined by six members of the citizens' assembly who shared their personal experiences of taking part.

Citizens' Assembly for Northern Ireland @ Belfast Imagine Democracy Day

Alongside hearing those experiences, we previewed a short film of the citizens' assembly. The film will be launched along with the full report in the coming months, but in the meantime here's the trailer to whet your appetite.

Participant Evaluations Report

We also launched a report summarising participants evaluations of the citizens' assembly prepared by Queens' University Belfast. The report summarises the evaluations from the citizens who took part in the citizens’ assembly based on their responses to a survey conducted at the beginning and end of each of the two weekends.

“I felt I was actually contributing to Northern Ireland policy-making and democracy.”

Citizens' Assembly Member

Participants were asked for their views about the issue of social care for the elderly and views about the process, including the extent to which they thought different aspects of the Citizens’ Assembly were well executed.

99% OF PARTICIPANTS SAID THEY FELT ENCOURAGED TO PARTICIPATE IN FUTURE INITIATIVES LIKE THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY

On the experience of taking part in the citizens’ assembly, the evaluation found:

  1. Nearly all participants agreed that the presentations were useful and that they covered a wide range of perspectives;
  2. The quality of the discussion was perceived to be high, but some members were perceived to dominate the discussions;
  3. Across both weekends, all members agreed that they were given plenty of opportunities to speak;
  4. Facilitation was overwhelmingly perceived to be fair and impartial;
  5. Discussions were marked by a sense of mutual respect, a sense that participants were willing to change their minds (and many did), a sense that participants justified their positions, and a sense that fellow members genuinely cared about the common good;
  6. After the final weekend, 99% of participants said they felt encouraged to participate in future initiatives like the Citizens’ Assembly, while 97% agreed that they should be used more often to inform politicians in decision-making.

IT HAS RAISED MY HOPES FOR A BETTER NORTHERN IRELAND

Citizens' Assembly Member

We’re grateful to Jamie Pow and John Garry at Queens’ University Belfast for analysing the participant surveys and producing the evaluation report.

Read the report via the link below.