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How Do Citizens’ Assemblies Build Democracy? Panel Discussion

Festival of Ideas
Protect and extend democracy promotional image by Willem Hampson

Crowdcast  |  Free

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Our panellists address – from personal experience – the impact and effectiveness of citizens’ assemblies and their future.

Drawing on work in Bristol, Scotland, London and Ireland, they look at their involvement in citizens’ assemblies and at where assemblies might develop next.

Councillor Asher Craig (Bristol City Council) looks at the early work of the Bristol Citizens’ Assembly on recovering from COVID-19 and creating a better future for all in Bristol. She is joined by Graham Smith, the internationally recognised expert on citizens’ assemblies and author of Can Democracy Safeguard the Future?, and Kate Wimpress, convener of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland.

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Asher Craig

Asher Craig has over 30 years’ experience as a community activist, leader, management consultant and now politician. She has championed the needs of the voiceless, with a particular emphasis on the social-economic development of under-represented communities. She has led and chaired a number of major partnerships and organisations at local, regional and national level and has worked in the fields of employment and training, education and skills, recruitment, advocacy, and equality and diversity within local government and the third sector. She was elected as the Labour Councillor for the ward of St George West, Bristol in May 2016 and was appointed to the Cabinet with the wide-reaching portfolio of Neighbourhoods in August 2016. In March 2017 she was asked to step into the newly created role of Deputy Mayor for Communities, elevating the issue of Public Health as part of this new portfolio. Follow her on Twitter @CllrAsherCraig

Graham Smith

Graham Smith is Professor of Politics and Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster, UK. He is a specialist in democratic theory and practice, with particular expertise in democratic innovations – new forms of public participation in political decision making. His publications include Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation (Cambridge, 2009) and Can Democracy Safeguard the Future? (Polity, 2021). He is currently working with the participation charity Involve on the project ‘A Democratic Response to Covid-19’ and is Chair of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development. Follow him on Twitter @Smith1966G


Kate Wimpress

Kate Wimpress is convener of the Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland, responsible for stewarding the assembly, convening and hosting meetings and representing the assembly – in the media and in public – and speaking on their behalf. She has worked for art organisations across Northern Ireland and Scotland since 1990 and is currently Director of North Edinburgh Arts. She is also the chair of Scotland’s Regeneration Forum (SURF) and sits on the boards of Tinderbox Orchestra and North Edinburgh Childcare. She is particularly interested in how art can change the public realm and public imagination, working with artists whose practice takes them beyond the boundaries of the institution, studio or theatre.

Democracy and Freedom of Expression

This event is part of our 2021 series on democracy and freedom of expression. We’re committed to looking at solutions to the great challenges that face us – what individuals, leaders, mayors, councils, governments, cities, communities, nations and others can do to support, strengthen and extend democracy and freedom of expression.

The series includes: programmes on the future of democracy, May elections, the monarchy, constitutions, English devolution, House of Lords reform, votes at 16; work exploring freedom of expression through the year; and a focus on democracy and cities in Festival of the Future City (20-21 October).

Our project partners include English PEN, Prospect Magazine, the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath and the Observer. More events will be launched soon. Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #FOIDemocracy and #CommonCurrency

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Illustration by Willem Hampson

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