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Recruitment of members to the Citizens' Assemblies 2022

Note on the recruitment of members to the Citizens’ Assemblies 2022

(This preliminary note for information, provided by the Secretariat to the Citizens' Assemblies, will eventually be supplemented by a more detailed technical paper.)

In accordance with the Government Decision and Oireachtas Resolutions on the establishment of the Citizens’ Assemblies, the latest round of Citizens’ Assemblies used a brand new approach to member recruitment. This new approach features important changes to eligibility criteria and to the recruitment methodology, informed by learnings from previous Citizens’ Assemblies and by international best practice.

For the first time, any adult who is resident in the State was eligible to become a member of the Citizens’ Assemblies. This included people who are not Irish citizens and others who are not enrolled on the electoral register. This has helped ensure that the membership is as broadly representative of Irish society as possible.

Also for the first time, the recruitment process was based on written invitations to randomly-selected households. This approaches differed from the methodology used by previous assemblies, which relied on polling companies conducting door-to-door interviews to select members. This new methodology was designed to improve the geographic spread of members and to increase the quality and inclusivity of the random selection process.

Recruitment to the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss

To recruit members for the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, 20,000 households around the country received a postal invitation to nominate one adult from that household to apply to become a member of the Assembly. Each county received an amount of invitations proportionate to its overall population. Households were selected randomly from the GeoDirectory database of households, which is the most comprehensive available database of households. Figure 1, below, shows the spread and concentration of invitations for the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss. Gaps in coverage correspond with low-density population areas with a high proportion of non-unique postal addresses.

Figure 1 - Coverage of invitations for Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity Loss

Heatmap Citizens' Assembly on Biodiversity

Recruitment to the Dublin Citizen’s Assembly

For the Dublin Citizen’s Assembly, 14,000 households around Dublin city and county received a postal invitation to nominate one adult from that household to apply to become a member. Households were selected randomly from the GeoDirectory database of households, which is the most comprehensive available database of households in the country. Figure 2, below, shows the spread and concentration of invitations across Dublin city and county. Gaps in coverage correspond with low-density population areas with a high proportion of non-unique postal addresses.

Figure 2 – Coverage spread of invitations for Dublin Citizens’ Assembly

Heatmap Dublin Citizens' Assembly

Registration

Written invitations were addressed generically to “The Householder”, rather than to named individuals. Each household that received an invitation was entitled to nominate just one adult from that household to apply. It was up to household members themselves to decide who might apply. Invitations were non-transferable between households. The registration process required each applicant to use a unique identifier code, which prevented more than one application from the same household, or more than one household using the same invitation.

Applicants from eligible households were required to register their interest in becoming a member of the Assembly by 14th March 2022. The Secretariat to the Citizens’ Assemblies used key demographic information gathered during the registration process to select members using a stratified random selection process, which ensured that that the overall composition of both assemblies broadly mirrored wider Irish society in terms of gender, age, geography and socioeconomic status.

Innovation and continuous improvement

Citizens Assemblies are an important form of deliberative democracy. Ireland is widely regarded internationally as being a leader in deliberative democracy. The Secretariat to the Citizens Assemblies is committed to innovation and improving how we manage and operate the Assemblies.

These latest innovations in recruitment methodology are informed by the experience of previous Citizens’ Assemblies in Ireland, and by international best practice. In particular, the OECD Recommendation on Open Government[1] (2017), the OECD Good Practice Principles for Deliberative Processes for Public Decision Making (2020)[2] and other jurisdictions with extensive experience of Citizens’ Assemblies, including Canada and Australia.

In order to continue refining and improving the recruitment methodology for future Citizens’ Assemblies, the Secretariat will conduct a detailed review of the process, including a qualitative and statistical analysis of factors influencing the response rate.

[1] https://www.oecd.org/gov/Recommendation-Open-Government-Approved-Council-141217.pdf

[2] Chwalisz, C. (2020), "Good practice principles for deliberative processes for public decision making", in Innovative Citizen Participation and New Democratic Institutions: Catching the Deliberative Wave, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/b40aab2a-en.