May 10

Working paper on mini-publics published

I am extremely happy and proud to present the think tank’s first Working Paper entitled ‘Dynamics of instituting mini-publics for a more participatory democracy’. The author is the American postdoc researcher Jonathan Geib, and he has done an amazing job combining in-depth theorizing with rich insights into a large variety of tangible examples of deliberative ‘mini-public’ forums, particularly citizens’ assemblies, worldwide. Jonathan participated as one of four moderators at our second international youth conference, which ran over Zoom on November 16-19 in 2020, and is currently engaged as the think tank’s first Research Fellow. The paper analyzes what current international research says about the potential of mini-publics to compensate for growing democratic deficits.

The topic for the paper comes from our inaugural youth conference which was held at the Gothenburg venue Svenska Mässan on November 11-14 in 2019. The conference resulted in ten proposals for democracy-promoting actions, one of which proposed the establishment of local assemblies and national civic committees.

‘Mini-publics’ are deliberative forums made up of 20-500 randomly selected citizens. The choice of participants is weighted with regard to e.g. age and gender in order to match the composition of the entire population. Their task is to explore, discuss, and present proposals for political decisions on current societal issues. The aim is to improve the quality of policy decisions, and to inform the public. Both researchers and local democracy developers have high expectations of the democracy-promoting potential of mini-publics, in large part due to the success of recent citizens’ assemblies, especially the 2016 Irish Citizens’ Assembly.

The paper has a broad and principled democracy perspective with a special focus on political participation. It also contains many concrete examples of experiences of implemented citizens’ assemblies and other mini-publics around the world. One of its important end results is that a complex dynamic should be taken into account in the organization, and valuation, of mini-publics. By reaching beyond themselves and engaging more actively with citizens, civil society, experts, the media, and digital platforms, mini-publics can contribute not only to political decision-making but also to changing the public debate.

Jonathan Geib’s seminal work on the paper has been carried out in close collaboration with participants from the 2019 youth conference who continue their involvement in the think tank as Youth Fellows. As a research endeavor it is an important part of the working method called “IYTT Bottom-Up Policy Advice Loop”. Our annual youth conferences are the start of this method, and the purpose is to advance and substantiate the proposals in research-based knowledge, and embed them in dialogues with decision makers, the participants of our European Youth Panel, and the general public through study circles moderated by the Youth Fellows. The working method is described in more detail under the heading “Our method”.

Jonathan Geib

Jonathan Geib