Citizens' Assembly on Germany's Role in the World takes place completely Online

11. November 2020

The second nationwide, randomly-selected citizens' assembly will take place completely online, with the topic "Germany's role in the world". "We have to take circumstances into account and still allow democratic opportunities at every opportunity. That's why we are organizing the entire citizens' assembly online and making a virtue of necessity," explains Claudine Nierth, spokeswoman for the board of Mehr Demokratie, the association that initiated the citizens' assembly.

Between 13 January and 20 February 2021, the 160 people chosen by lot will meet online every Wednesday and for four Saturdays. "We are convinced that the personal meeting brings a very special quality to political procedures," says Nierth. "On the other hand, an online format offers many opportunities. For example, it is possible to attract experts who are not able to be on-site for the event". The hurdle for participants to take part in an online citizens' assembly is also lower, as they can stay in their familiar environment. The citizens' assembly will ensure that the necessary technical conditions are established for all participants. If necessary, laptops, a stable Internet connection, and support with technical applications will be provided.

"Our goal is to further test and develop the Bürgerrat procedure in addition to the content topic. An online citizens' assembly is not only appropriate due to the Covid situation, but also promises further new insights compared to the first citizens' assembly," explains Nierth. For the first nationwide citizens' assembly in Germany, the "Bürgerrat Demokratie", 160 people met in Leipzig across two weekends in September 2019.

The advantages of an online format could be:

  • The weekly working sessions allow participants to delve even deeper into the topic.

  • There will be more opportunities for interested observers to get an impression of how a citizens' assembly works.

  • Any number of small groups can be formed, as there is no need for physical space.

  • The citizens' assembly meetings can be better integrated into the everyday life of the selected participants. Travel to the meetings and an absence of several days from participants’ personal lives are no longer obstacles.

  • Questions and ideas can be collected and sorted online more easily, and digital instruments can be used for illustration more easily.

  • At regular meetings, the time between appointments can be used for small tasks such as clarifying a question.

  • The time between the working sessions of a meeting can be used in a variety of ways, e.g. joint virtual coffee breaks, exercise, relaxation activities, or individual work.

  • New digital participation tools can be applied to enable effective results.

A comprehensive overview of the advantages and disadvantages of an online citizens' assembly can be found here.

The project was initiated by Mehr Demokratie and the initiative EsgehtLOS! and is a direct result of the Bürgerrat Demokratie, which, among other things, proposes the establishment of randomly-selected citizens' assemblies at federal level. At the request of the Bundestag's Council of Elders, the association facilitates the independent and donation-financed implementation of a second citizens' assembly. The institutes nexus, IFOK, and IPG are entrusted with the implementation. The proposals on what "Germany's role in the world" could look like are to be presented to the President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, as patron of the Citizens' Assembly, and to the Bundestag on March 19.