In this site, there will be different documents that provide the Citizens’ Assemblies with clarity of numerous aspects. This library of documents is available in three languages. It provides a substantial number of articles and other written contributions produced from an original vision which corresponds with the Citizens’ Assemblies. These are organized in three topics :
1. Relation between assemblies and dialogue of the facilitators
2. Methods and challenges of the assemblies
3. History and social construction of the assemblies
Progress report of the Citizens Assemblies - June 2011
This report provides the progress status as of June 2011 on the process of the regional citizens’ assemblies running from 2007-2008 in the five geo-cultural areas of Asia, Oceania, the Mediterranean, the Southern Cone of Latin America and the Sahel-Sahara.
It is based primarily on the assessments made by each assembly coordination on the basis of a single interpretative framework (see in Annexes), as well as some personal experiences, testimonials and reviews produced in the itinerary.
With a relatively accurate retrospective of each initiative already described in the report of the meeting of assembly animators in May 2010, the choice was made to focus on the last stage held from mid-2010 to early 2011, explicitly asking the question : where do we stand and in what direction are we now engaged ?
At one go...
Un unprecedented experience
By organizing in five major regions of the world approaches that combine popular gatherings, traveling and cultural caravans, citizens’ discussions and the networking of a large plurality of actors and political issues, the citizens assemblies have become an unprecedented experience in terms of the reinvention of politics and they will surely provide significant inspiration to the effort of peoples’ emancipation of this early twenty-first century.
Six assemblies, held between July 2010 and January 2011 in emblematic cities of the region, have mobilized a total of nearly 3,000 participants, representing some sixty different peoples, ethnic groups and nationalities from Asia, Oceania, the Southern Cone of Latin America, the Sahel-Sahara and the Mediterranean. Through them, around twenty-five social and professional groups started a dialogue, focusing on the participatory modalities of convergence and debate, varying according to the regional socio-political realities, and seeking in each case to connect the actors around a limited number of questions related to the evolution of their society and to structural crises of governance.
From intuition to prototypes
Even though the assemblies have advanced each at their own pace by taking very variable geometries, the first chapter they have just written from 2008 to 2011 is indeed a breakthrough in common and it could be entitled “from intuition to prototypes.” Each assembly now has a pilot experience that can be remobilized and adapted to continue its process. They have produced powerful symbols, a collective movement, thematic reflections, preliminary networks, team methodological learning. They have also generated new initiatives and suites that are actually running in multiple processes (see below the six desmograms).
This pilot experience confirms that the place of the assemblies is well up on the side of the “new factories of dialogue and citizenship,” which build broad and inclusive relationships between the diversity of actors in motion and the search for common views and perspectives. They describe themselves as a kind of laboratory (Southern Cone), networks of networks and multilateral dialogues (Asia) or even unprecedented adventures (Sahel-Sahara), where new links between actors and policy issues are experimented, in answer to contexts marked by compartmentalization or segmentation of approaches. No assembly can be resolved in a single magical or mathematical formula. Their way forward and their mechanism take up both intuition and pragmatism, trial and error and programmatic strategy, the ability to debate strong issues that make sense, to feed the exchanges by returning a joint overview of the contributions.
Lessons and challenges
What do the assemblies teach us after this first lifecycle ? Without going into details of the six initiatives discussed in the reports of each process, we will here focus on a few key lessons that can help us think more of the adventure.
1. The assemblies teach us first to better transform ourselves and find our place in a world full of crises and rapid change. They fit into a set of emerging civic movements, carriers of new organization. The world continues to transform itself very quickly after the shock wave initiated from the economic crisis of 2008. We should note three trends that make us take an all the more tenacious look on the scope of global citizen approaches. a) New popular movements have emerged with new organizations, upsetting the usual patterns of activism and asserting themselves as powerful levers of advocacy and search of global perspectives in the long term. b) Innovative forms of dialogue and connection among citizens, among individual, national and regional diversities are experienced here and there, going beyond the traditional mechanisms of discussion, integration and international cooperation, often being out of step with the complexity of the issues. c) The regional level continues to assert itself doubly in two ways, as a “leading link” of global governance and as a privileged level where to forge the alternatives, the bonds of trust and wider alliances, more adapted to the challenges posed by the current crisis. The citizens assemblies, which were born and fit into these different contexts, seem to be an “appropriate response” to the mood of today’s world.
2. The six processes were able to identify common issues and consistent groups of proposals, but these are generally undervalued and poorly disseminated. The six assemblies defined in each case a small group of themes, which were far from representative of the internal diversity of each process, but about which it has been possible to hold dialogue fluently and lead to more ample perspectives. These perspectives span across a broad spectrum of the organization of society, from values and individual ethics to approaches of management of common goods and regional integration (see the theme entries in the six desmograms). These perspectives were included in the minutes circulated within each assembly after the meetings of 2010. Their grouping is currently very difficult to achieve because of the variety of formulations and the absence of an aggregation of all the issues and proposals. Given the energy required to carry the logistics load of the assemblies, the animation teams have not been able to devote sufficient time, beyond the final evaluations, to precisely systematize the proposals and build consistencies among them. This explains why various citizens charters are underway or planned (Asia, Southern Cone, Sahel-Sahara). The reconciling of these proposals and charters, when they are accomplished, will be a new opportunity to make visible the voices of the participants gathered in the assemblies, and to outline a word of the citizens and peoples of the five regions of the world.
3. The expansion of the processes involves in return the consolidation of the animation teams. The enlargement of the geographical and socio-professional scale of the processes is required in almost all cases as a natural extension of the completed cycle. We see through the evaluations that this expansion can be destabilizing if it fails to build on the strength and internal coherence of the animation teams. It is associated in turn with the idea of “working inside” the facilitation groups. But the experiences of 2010 showed that the ability of animation and facilitation has been a key element in the conduct of the assemblies. This ability is based on common criteria shared by each member and the local teams, on the ability to mobilize strategic actors, to share thoughts and methods of work, to maintain a dialog under conditions of creativity. These lessons, significantly strengthened through the efforts required to hold the 2010 assembly, must be maintained and deepened. They are clearly a necessary counterpart so that the dynamics can again expand themselves.
4. The implementation of modes of animation and innovative methods was generally successful ; it must be continued and will gradually gain coherence. The gamble by the assemblies to give more authenticity and circularity to the dialogues has been generally met. The traveling caravans and the cultural and festive activities have created some very strong and symbolic moments, bringing the participants more in a situation of “fraternal discovery” than mere formal dialogue. The assemblies in many cases provided “spaces of circular exchanges”, designed as intermediate formats between plenary sessions and workshops, where each obtained direct knowledge of all theme discussions (Southern Cone, Sahel-Sahara, Asia). The workshops addressed the collective construction, circulation and respect for the word given to everyone, with the support of facilitators and methodological teams. Open consultations or evaluations were also launched with the support of communication tools such as websites, electronic lists and social networks. This effort of methodological innovation has sometimes generated resistance and dissent on the part of participants (as well as the workshop animators), because they involved a break with the traditional patterns of communication and participation in the discussion. We also see how the facilitation teams have played a decisive role in channeling these tensions and keeping the exchanges in favorable conditions. Even if they are still unequal and heterogeneous, these experiments represent concrete progress in the field of methods. They should gradually take root and take shape more widely with the reinforcement of the animation teams.
5. Value the 2010-2011 cycle and build in the same breath a new calendar 2012-2015. The first phase of mobilization of the assemblies was able to play at a time on the organization of the discussion around issues of legitimacy, calendar effects and extended partnerships with all kinds of actors. The main priority that emerges logically from the evaluations is to continue the processes through a new calendar of activities capable of holding the breadth and depth of the issues identified. Beyond the calendar effects, we feel that the meetings and joint initiatives are one of the “driving forces” of the processes. They are used to crystallize more firmly the imaginaries, relationships and trust in a context where the participants and the decentralized animation teams can be geographically distant from each other. The second priority is to bring the 2010-2011 cycle to fruition by enhancing the conclusions, perspectives and proposals that were issued in the form of Charters and other supports restoring the overall perspectives. This enhancement is underway in several processes.
6. The fertility of the six assemblies is expressed in particular through new initiatives and opportunities that imply the ability to continue the adventure. This first cycle 2008-2011 has produced an outlook of very varied initiatives. They can be grouped into five main families : 1. The creation of training spaces and methodological teams ; 2. New dialogues established with national or regional institutions ; 3. Preliminary networks and thematic working groups ; 4. Projects of local (or thematic) assemblies and traveling caravans ; 5. The development and dissemination of charters and summary papers. Since 2008, the first exchanges among facilitators have stressed how important it was to record the dynamics in time to “gain substance” in the proposals and try to go further than other global citizen approaches sometimes too evanescent and momentary. It is clear that the nature of the assemblies and their initiatives involves the possibility of a follow-up and continuity over time. It is indeed a condition of their strengthening and also of the length needed for the experiments, the links and the new issues to fully make their way.
(Download from the link below to see the complete report).
Document(s) à télécharger
Progress Report - June 2011
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