Not all assemblies of citizens are citizens’ assemblies – and neither do they need to be. There is a vast toolbox of public participation methodologies that can be used to involve people in decision-making in a variety of ways.

While it’s important that standards do not curb innovation, it’s critical that methods are not watered down beyond recognition. A citizens’ assembly is a specific democratic tool to be used in specific circumstances. Their power comes from their robust process, which gives a representative group of the public time and support to engage with a topic in depth. But this process makes them time and resource-intensive compared to many other methods of engagement, so citizens’ assemblies should be reserved for the really knotty issues that require challenging trade-offs to be made. 

Where these circumstances exist, a citizens’ assembly can make a substantial contribution to helping to resolve an issue — but it must be properly resourced and well run to enable it to succeed.

It's with this in mind that we developed some draft standards for the citizens’ assemblies that we design and run. These are based on our own practice, understanding of the international practice and a range of standards that have already been developed across the globe (including by us). They are intended as a starting point for discussion with other practitioners, experts and commissioners to refine them over the coming weeks and months. We hope that they might form the basis for some collectively agreed standards among practitioners and commissioners in the UK. 

Draft standards for citizens' assemblies

The standards below are organised into “essential” and “desirable” features of ten criteria:

  1. Clear purpose
  2. Sufficient time
  3. Representative
  4. Inclusive
  5. Independent
  6. Open
  7. Generative learning
  8. Structured deliberation
  9. Collective decision-making 
  10. Evaluated

We consider the essential features to be the fundamental things that make a citizens’ assembly a citizens’ assembly. The absence of any one of these features would require detailed justification and would only be warranted in exceptional circumstances. The desirable criteria are the additional features that we consider to be current good practice.




1. Clear purpose

  • There is a clear question / set of questions for the assembly to address, which has / have a range of different possible solutions

  • The scope for making a difference to the policy or decision is explicitly declared at the start and things that are out of scope or cannot be changed are clearly outlined

  • Decision-makers make a public commitment to consider and respond in detail to the recommendations

  • There are a clear set of trade-offs for the assembly to address

  • There is support for the citizens’ assembly from across key political divides

  • The assembly is commissioned by a public authority with responsibility for the issue in question

2. Sufficient time

  • The time available is proportionate to the question / purpose

  • There are multiple meetings with time between for reflection

  • There is sufficient time for each of the three phases of the citizens’ assembly: learning, deliberation and decision-making

  • The assembly lasts for at least 30 hours (4 days) in total

  • The assembly lasts for 45 hours (6 days) or more

3. Representative

  • 40 or more assembly members are recruited 1

  • A pool of potential assembly members is created through random selection, using a recognised market research recruitment methodology

  • Assembly members are selected from this pool using random stratified sampling based on demographic criteria to ensure that they are broadly representative of the wider population

  • 100 or more assembly members are recruited 

  • The pool of potential assembly members is created through a full civic lottery / sortition process

  • Where relevant, assembly members are selected using attitudinal sampling (as well as demographic sampling) to ensure that they are broadly representative of the wider population

4. Inclusive

  • Assembly members are reimbursed for all reasonable expenses

  • A gift of at least £50 per day is given to assembly members

  • The accessibility requirements of assembly members are met on request

  • Carers of assembly members are welcomed and provided for

  • There is a ratio of max 9 assembly members per group facilitator

  • Presentations by witnesses are accessible, avoiding jargon and not assuming prior knowledge

  • A gift of at least £75 per day is given to assembly members

  • Information / materials are provided in a range of different formats

  • The care costs of any assembly members are reimbursed and/or caring facilities are provided onsite (e.g. a creche)

  • The accessibility requirements of assembly members are anticipated and met

  • There is a ratio of max 7 assembly members per group facilitator

5. Independent

  • The assembly is impartially facilitated (both lead and group facilitation)

  • Key decisions about the citizens’ assembly agenda and design are reviewed by an independent advisory group to ensure their balance and impartiality

  • The assembly is run at an arm’s length from the commissioning body

6. Open

  • The recruitment methodology, advisory group membership, speaker lists, agendas and briefing materials are published in full

  • The process plan / design is published

  • The assembly’s conclusions are published in full

  • Decision-makers publicly respond to the recommendations

  • All evidence sessions are live-streamed

7. Generative learning

  • Assembly members hear balanced, accurate and comprehensive information and evidence

  • Assembly members hear from diverse witnesses with a range of views

  • Assembly members determine their own questions for witnesses and have sufficient time to question them

  • Witnesses are briefed so that they clearly understand that their role is to stimulate and support discussions among the assembly members, not to lead or direct them

  • The learning phase supports the subsequent deliberation and decision-making phases, enabling assembly members to arrive at informed and considered judgements

  • Assembly members select at least some of the evidence and/or witnesses they wish to hear

8. Structured deliberation

  • Assembly members are supported through a facilitated process to consider and weigh-up different perspectives

  • Assembly members are given time to discuss issues with as many of their fellow participants as possible

  • The assembly process is well structured, with a clear progression through learning and deliberation, to decision-making

  • The assembly process is designed and led by professional facilitators

  • The assembly process allows time for plenary feedback and summing up, so that assembly members can hear views from across the assembly

  • Facilitators are well briefed and provided with any necessary training ahead of the citizens’ assembly

  • Small group discussions are facilitated by professional facilitators, with experience of deliberative processes

9. Collective decision-making 

  • A defined decision and/or set of recommendations is reached as an integral part of the process

  • Assembly members consider all key trade-offs and their decisions / recommendations are internally consistent

  • Decisions and/or recommendations are agreed collectively by assembly members

  • Reports of the assembly outline the rationale behind decisions / recommendations

  • Assembly members are given a variety of ways to express their views – both collectively, through the discussions, and individually through other methods, such as voting, post-it notes, postcards or flip charts

  • Where relevant, a minority report with dissenting opinions is produced

  • Assembly members are involved in writing the report of their recommendations

  • Assembly members are involved in presenting their recommendations to decision-makers

10. Evaluated

  • Assembly members are surveyed to collect their views on their experience and the quality of the process, including the impartiality of facilitation, the balance of evidence and the opportunities to participate

  • An external evaluation is completed of the process and its impact


  • 1. Other deliberative processes, such as citizens’ juries and citizens’ panels, involve fewer participants