Let’s Go Deeper

Find our how-to guides, online courses as well as resources to learn more
about how and why change is more possible than ever.

The Overview

Change Politics is all about bringing awareness to the real reason politics isn’t doing what it should be doing. The problem is with the incentives that elections force on our politicians. That means we need to start thinking about and testing things that we can do to make it better. For a quick rundown on that, check out our 2min video below.

OK. Let’s go…

So… What is a Citizens’ Assembly?

Citizens’ Assemblies are a method for finding agreement on solutions to a problem. What makes them different is that they take a representative mix of people chosen by lottery and give them adequate time, information and support to consider an issue deeply before finding common ground on answer.

We’ve outlined our 7 Key Principles for a Citizens’ Assembly below and you can view all of this info in our Quick Guide to Citizens’ Assemblies.

And… What problem are they solving?

The 7 key principles of a Citizens’ Assembly

It can be difficult for large groups of people to find agreement on complex decisions. And let’s face it – it can be tough to make up your own mind about where to go on holiday… To make things easy, the OECD and the United Nations Democracy Fund recommend seven key principles that improve the deliberative quality of group work by creating the ideal environment for the consideration of the broadest range of sources while giving citizens time, an equal share of voice and authority. These principles are the ingredients for a successful citizens’ assembly that takes a bunch of random people who have never met before and transforms them into a smart group of sensible decision makers.


There should be clarity on how recommendations will be responded to by the decision-maker.

A Clear remit

It should be clear that you’re asking people to address a specific problem and what their scope is for making change.

 Democratic lottery

This ensures there is a fair method for choosing citizens that gets beyond the usual suspects and includes everyday people of all ages and viewpoints.

Adequate time

People need enough time to consider lots of information and find work together to find agreement, any less and the quality of the work is at risk.

Diverse information

There are lots of views on any given topic, people will need to consider a wide range of sources to be able to fairly justify their final recommendations. This often involves citizens being able to request experts they trust.

Dialogue and deliberation, not debate

This ensures there is a fair method for choosing citizens that gets beyond the usual suspects and includes everyday people of all ages and viewpoints.

A free response

A group should be able to provide their own set of recommendations with a rationale and supporting evidence that emerges from their shared learning without feeling led by government or limited in their exploration of the issue.

Has this been proven to work?

Yes. They work because they create democracy under the best conditions. Instead of people arguing to make the other side look bad, using tax payer’s dollars to retain their seat or voting just to appease their donors (our current political system), they bring a group together that reflects the makeup of the population to find common ground and solutions they can live with.

They’re increasingly being used all around the world. So much so that the OECD calls it the “deliberative wave“.

If you’d like to read more you can download our quick guide to citizens’ assemblies. You can also read about powerful examples of where citizens’ assemblies have worked around the world.

Deep Learnings

Share an article, buy a book, tell a friend, spread the word!

Interested in holding a Citizens’ Assembly?

We partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to design courses for elected representatives, decision-makers and engagement practitioners who wish to learn better ways to address complex issues.

Gain key insights from leaders who have overseen successful citizen assembly processes and learn how you can apply the principles to address the complex issues your organisation is facing.

The change is coming. Be part of it.


Now you might be wondering…

What happens during a citizens’ assembly?

They take a representative mix of everyday people, chosen by lottery and bring them together for 40-50 hours over the course of a few months to address a specific challenge posed to them by the government. They’re asked to consider a lot of information from a wide range of sources, discuss that information with expert speakers and among themselves. They work together to find common ground around trade-offs and proposals that address their problem, ultimately finding agreement on recommendations they write themselves and handing those to decision-makers with supporting evidence and rationale.

What is a democratic lottery? How are people chosen?

Democratic lotteries are a method for fairly choosing a mix of people to participate in an assembly. We can’t invite everyone to deliberate so to fairly narrow down the group to something like 40 people, we use a computer to generate a list of names or addresses and send out invitations. From those that accept the invite, we do another computerised draw that matches the group to the wider community. This means the group will be broadly representative of the wider population by a few important measures like age, gender, education, and location. This ensures fair representation for everyone.

Can anyone get selected for a citizens’ assembly? Or would there be qualifications and prerequisites?

The only people ineligible to participate are those who are already professional politicians.

What if ‘bad’ or ‘stupid’ people get selected?

We hear you, your neighbour can’t get their recycling right so you’re worried about us putting them in charge of budgeting for the whole State.

This really doesn’t happen. Citizens’ assemblies have shown again and again that when given respect, responsibility, and a chance to listen and learn from one another, people selected by democratic lottery are sensible and civil. They tend to think passionately about what’s best for everyone and have all the right incentives to find common ground with the help and assistance of wide range of experts.

Wait, what about voting?

We can still have some of that. Voting should still be used to select our professional politicians. Making use of citizens’ assemblies will unlock many of the issues that vex our parliaments and has the potential to revitalise electoral politics – placing the emphasis back on solutions and away from political spin and empty promises.

But don’t we need professional politicians to represent us?

From city councils to Parliament, lawmaking bodies deal mostly with questions of morals, values, and priorities. How do we want to live together? How should we spend our hard-earned tax dollars? What kind of future do we want for our children?

The people best suited to make those decisions on behalf of all of us are people exactly like us. Everyday Australians with the same hopes, dreams, and concerns as us.

When it comes to executing policy and running government day-to-day, we do need professionals, that’s why we recommend making use of citizens’ assemblies alongside elected officials to help address the issues politics-as-usual isn’t well suited to.

Has this really been proven to work?

It has. All over the world citizens’ assemblies are increasingly being used to find solutions for complex problems like climate change in France; city planning in Toronto, Canada; waste management in Fortaleza, Brazil; COVID-19 in Michigan, US; and city budgeting in Melbourne.

In 2020, the OECD documented 289 citizens’ assemblies or similar bodies taking place around the world between 1986 and 2019. That number is rapidly increasing as governments steadily learn about and take advantage of the many benefits they provide. Paris has just recently established a permanent citizens’ assembly with 100 Parisians selected by democratic lottery.

Who or what is Change Politics?

You can think of Change Politics as the public awareness operation of The newDemocracy Foundation. newDemocracy is our parent organisation, they’re a registered charity here in Australia working on demonstrating and researching different ways of doing democracy.

Overall, the broad aim for both organisations is to see citizens’ assemblies permanently incorporated into how we do politics in Australia. You can think of newDemocracy as the “practical project and direct advocacy” to elected representatives arm of this – working to show and convince politicians that this is a complementary mechanism that can help decision-makers. They’ve had lots of success and are viewed internationally as a global leader in citizens’ assemblies and deliberative democracy.

Change Politics is the people-facing arm that is focused on awareness-raising and education – the more people that know and endorse the use of citizens’ assemblies, the more natural their use will feel to the communities involved and the politicians using them.

In terms of who, you can read all about Kyle and Polly over on the about page.

What are you trying to do?

To get more politicians across the line we need to convince them that citizens’ assemblies aren’t a risky endeavour for them. While we can do lots of explaining that shows them past processes, evidence from overseas, and walk them through the overall experience from start to finish (after all, newDemocracy has been running projects for years). At the end of the day, politicians are best swayed by seeing a vast sea of juicy voters holding a particular view.

What does this mean for what we’ll be doing? We’ll be firmly focused on visible numbers that show public support for citizens’ assemblies. Whether it’s people who have signed the petition or people who have watched our videos, each little data point is an angle we can use.

What are your long-term goals?

Overall, we want to see citizens’ assemblies permanently incorporated into how we do politics in Australia.

There are a few different ways this might come about:

  • A third chamber of Parliament that houses a citizens’ assembly.
  • The institutional use of citizens’ assemblies to complement parliamentary inquiries or the conduct of parliamentary committees.
  • Regular rolling citizens’ assemblies that address matters handed to them by Parliament such as those seen in Ireland.