How to run a citizens’ assembly: Handbook from the Innovation in Democracy Programme

This report is aimed primarily at local authority officers or councillors who want to run a citizens’ assembly in their local area. It was developed as part of our work on the Innovation in Democracy Programme.

But we also hope that it can be of use to others who are interested in deliberative democracy: process designers, facilitators, advocates, researchers or anyone else.

While some of the guidance is specific to local citizens’ assemblies, lots of the suggestions apply to regional, national and even transnational deliberations.

The insights we share in this report are drawn from three different sources:

  • Our reflections on the three IiDP citizens’ assemblies and other assemblies that have recently taken place at a local level
  • The ideas that have emerged from the various peer-learning events that we ran as part of IiDP
  • The best guidance written by practitioners from around the world.

The ideas that have emerged from the various peer-learning events that we ran as part of IiDP

The best guidance written by practitioners from around the world.

Many people feel disempowered and disengaged from politics. This programme is an opportunity to get people involved in the decisions that affect their daily life.

Miriam Levin, Head of Community Action and Giving, DCMS.

Lots of the advice in the Handbook is illustrated in the IiDP Case Studies report, which is a trove of real-world examples and personal stories co-authored by council staff that led the three IiDP assemblies.

This video follows the journey of three participants through the citizens’ assembly process in Cambridge, Test Valley and Dudley:


Download the Handbook

Download the Case Studies

Download the IiDP Programme Evaluation Report

More information about the Innovation in Democracy Programme:

The Innovation in Democracy Programme, commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, supported three local authorities to involve residents in decision-making through an innovative model of deliberative democracy – citizens’ assemblies.

The programme’s aims were:

  • To increase the capability of local people to have a greater say over decisions that affect their communities and their everyday lives
  • To encourage new relationships and build trust between citizens and local authorities
  • To strengthen local civil society by encouraging participation in local institutions.

Three authorities were selected to take part in the programme:

  • Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Test Valley Borough Council
  • the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP).

Dudley and Test Valley chose to focus their assemblies on the future of town centres. For Dudley council, it was Dudley and Brierley Hill town centres and in Test Valley, the area south of Romsey town centre. GCP asked assembly members to consider traffic congestion, public transport and air quality.

As a team of delivery partners –  Involve, the RSA, Democratic Society and mySociety – we supported the local authorities to design and deliver their assemblies through a package of tailored support for each authority.

The programme was independently evaluated by Renaisi. The full programme evaluation can be found here.

Peer Learning

Innovations in Local Democracy Conference

We ran a two-day conference on innovations in local democracy as part of the Innovation in Democracy Programme, in partnership with Public Square which is supported by Luminate

The conference shared lessons from Public Square and the Innovation in Democracy Programme. Both of these programmes focus on supporting local councils to use participatory and deliberative democracy, including citizens’ assemblies, to involve residents in decisions that affect their lives. 

Through speakers, unconference sessions and facilitated discussions we shared what worked well, what the challenges have been, and discussed next steps in this field. We also highlighted other exciting projects from around the UK and international experts about their cutting edge exemplars from across the world.

All of the conference materials are available here. This includes slides, videos and notes from the many lively discussions. 

Peer Learning Network

The programme also initiated and supported a Peer Learning Network of participating local authorities and a wide range of others from around the UK who are interested in exploring deliberative democracy in their areas. Find out more about the network and how to get involved here.

Further resources

More resources developed as part of the Innovation in Democracy Programme can be found at the bottom of this page.