In 2022, Herefordshire County Council held a citizens assembly regarding the question: “How should Herefordshire meet the challenges of climate change?”. Citizens were invited to learn and deliberate the effect of climate change and what the community can do to challenge it. 
This was a joint project completed for the class ‘Reinventing Democracy: Innovation, Participation and Power’ 2023 at the University of Southampton, by Euan Legge, Jake Mumford, Rory Walker, Kyle Furukawa.
Problems and Purpose
The impact of climate change is increasing in both frequency and severity on a global scale. Herefordshire Council acknowledged the impact this may have on their natural environment, biodiversity and society. In striving to protect their environment and community, the council declared a climate emergency on the 8th of March 2019. The focal issue at bay was the high carbon emissions the county produces. Thus, there was a big emphasis on the reduction of carbon emissions in pursuit of becoming carbon net zero by 2030/31 whilst also utilising 100% renewable energy for the county's consumption. The council also promoted Herefordshire’s residents to engage in democratic processes and open dialogue to best approach the discussion on the climate emergency and the county’s deliberation. 
Background History and Context
Herefordshire is a Marches county with a minute population density of 86 persons/km^2 and a heavily agriculturalist economy.  Despite this, they have previously taken greater action in aiding the fight against global warming. In 2013, the council agreed to aim for 80% less carbon output by 2050 of which it is currently on target for. In light of the publication of Global Warming by 1.5C.   The council has once again utilised resources to encourage knowledge and prevention of carbon emissions.
One key facet of this push was to incorporate the county’s public within climate affairs and extend the modern knowledge of the recent findings into the rural crevices of Herefordshire. Being on track with their climate plan, the council then decided to utilise their community in order to organise plans and initiatives. This was done with a citizens assembly of participants from the county, who discussed and deliberated the topics and issues online in January 2022. 
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The climate assembly was funded by Herefordshire Council. It had a budget of £70,000 . The Impact Consultancy and Sortition Foundation was commissioned by the council to run the activities of the assembly.  The Impact Consultancy undertakes research, evaluation and consultation to help organisations improve their projects. The organisation has experience in helping its clients to develop public policy.  The Sortition Foundation is a non-profit organisation which specialises in promoting citizen assemblies.  The foundation was responsible for participant recruitment.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
In 2021, the Sortition Foundation randomly selected 14,400 addresses from Herefordshire. These addresses were invited to participate in the Assembly by post. 520 people registered, and 48 were randomly selected to participate in the assembly. The members were chosen through a ‘sortition algorithm’, which ensured the chosen members were representative of Herefordshire’s population. 
The Sortition Foundation published data regarding participant selection in three sections - groups targeted, those who responded to the invitation and those who were selected. The foundation gave data on seven categories:
- Climate Concern Level
- Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) - to measure respondents based on whether they live in affluent or poorer-income areas
- Urban/ Rural
Organisers targeted a fair men to women ratio for the assembly - 49.5% male to 50.5% female. This was extremely similar to the ratio eventually selected , with 48.9% being male and 51.1% being female. Just 19.2% of participants were aged between 18-29, down from a targeted 23%. An effort was also made to recruit individuals who identified as 'Traveller, Roma or Gypsy' to ensure this group was represented. 
17% of the assembly had a disability, which was 5% higher than targeted. This was, however, more representative of Herefordshire's population. For the climate concern level, 34% were ‘very concerned’, 44.7% were ‘fairly concerned’, 10.6% were ‘not very concerned’ and the remaining 10% were ‘not at all concerned’. This was representative of the 14,400 households initially invited, but contrasted to the make-up of those who signed up, as 73.8% of the 520 who registered described themselves as ‘very concerned’. 
Organisers were also successful in ensuring that the percentage of assembly members living in poorer areas was representative of the IMD profile of Herefordshire. 46.8% of the Assembly were from urban areas of the County, while 53.2% represented rural areas. 
Each participant received £300 in return for their participation. In total, 41 people attended the assembly meetings. 
Methods and Tools Used
The main method used was the citizens’ assembly, where a representative group of people from all backgrounds congregate to discuss the relevant issues and come to a homogenised agreement for deliberation.  The assembly emphasised three discussion themes: buildings, transport and food, farming and land use. A discussion over what makes Herefordshire distinct and valuable enabled the groups to identify the relevant aspects which were most important to the individual and the community as a whole. Expert speakers were used to get a fuller understanding of the predicaments. The experts presented a number of topics ranging from the long-term effects of climate change to the latest information on Co2 capture. They were also informed of separate climate-related deliberations made on national and international levels presented by organisations and professionals in affected industries such as farming.  The ‘crosscutting’ theme was the greater involvement of younger people in decision-making processes and support for this to happen. The council worked closely with local organisations, schools and parish councils to support this aim. The council also identified the need to lobby the national government about the needed changes. This assisted the final vision which was created by the assembly and council.  By the end of the sessions, the assembly developed 35 recommendations. A voting system was used to form a priority ranking on preferred recommendations
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
In January 2022, the participants met in 10 online sessions across two weekends and two evenings.  Three themes were consistently discussed across these sessions regarding the topic of challenging climate change: buildings, transportations and food, farming and agriculture - the county’s greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions. The last session took place on the 30th January 2022.
The deliberation first took place in smaller groups via breakout rooms with each group having a facilitator from the consultant agency and each breakout group having an IT consultant from the agency. 
- The second and third session (January 15th) further discussed climate change in both the world and relative to Herefordshire, as well as renewable energy and the role of the council in implementing changes to building emissions. 
- The fourth and fifth session (January 16th) regarded transport and later farming. 
- The sixth session (January 27th) held a greater focus on the role of the local authorities in implementing greener policies. 
- The seventh and eighth session (28th January) looked into the plan for 2030, and the projections of Herefordshire’s climate if the greener policies continue. There was also deliberation on waste and an energy strategy. 
- The final session (January 30th) mapped out the recommendations and plans that the groups had finalised on. Projects for land use, buildings and transport were all created. 
The participants were informed of the funding (£1.3m) for the projects surrounding the topics discussed. The 35 recommendations were put forward and voted on by the assembly members on 6 metrics. 
- Strongly agree
- Don’t mind
- Strongly disagree
The only recommendation that was completely “agreed” was the initiative to purchase local food and produce to reduce outsourcing and increasing carbon output. The least “agreed” upon initiative was the push for residential access to electric travel (69%).
The leader of Herefordshire Council  attended part of the final session to hear the envisioned statements. 11 assembly members formally presented the recommendations to the council cabinet on the 7th February 2022. They were finally approved for the 24th February. 
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Following the report publication by the Climate Assembly in February 2022, the assembly put forward 35 recommendations to the county's council to consider. These recommendations can be largely categorised into 4 sections:
- Recommendations for building
- Recommendations for transport
- Recommendations for farming, food and land use
- Cross-cutting recommendations
Each recommendation is designed to tackle climate change from different industries and sectors of the society within the county. Moreover, these recommendations put a direct influence on council’s policy drafting and spending priorities in Herefordshire to achieve net-zero and nature rich by 2030. 
In response to the assembly’s recommendations, the council initially announced the commission of 13 projects including development of a decarbonization plan for all corporate buildings, school travel plan support, farm carbon audits and an on street residential charge point scheme (ORCS). [18a] These projects are due to start in early 2023. Furthermore, the council announced to put an addition of 1.6 million GBP into climate action in Herefordshire in 2023 to ensure the fiscal support for the effort in achieving the development of the projects. [18b]
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Part of the legitimacy of the assembly rested on the extent to which the participants were given the opportunity to inform themselves of the pivotal issues central to the climate crisis discussion to make thoughtful judgements on the deliberation. To enhance the political decision-making process, the participant’s judgements should have been based on informed and reflective assessment of the issues as opposed to private interests and prejudices. 
The experts employed in the assembly, due to their role of informing the participants, were able to provide an ‘enhanced’ political decision making process: Presenting the long-term impacts of climate change, methods of carbon capture and international case studies, whilst being an effective approach for the group's growth in technical knowledge, also contributes to the term 'enlarged mentality' Enlarged mentality requires capacity to imaginatively place ourselves in the position of others, distancing ourselves from private circumstances that limit and inhibit the exercise of judgement.  The observation and analysis of foreign climate deliberations would help put the participants in a frame of mind which considers other people who are in different social and geographical positions who are faced with climate predicaments. This method of exposure to separate subjective circumstances increases the chances for the participants to consider aspects and identify problems which may have gone overlooked whilst also acting as a system that encourages participants to critically examine their own preferences and be open to considering alternative viewpoints.
Furthermore, “democratic responsiveness of elected officials depends on citizen participation”.  In other words, the way participation occurs is pivotal for representative democracy, thus, participation is not just a representative tool but an intrinsic democratic good. The sortition foundation took 14,400 random addresses from Herefordshire whilst ensuring that 20% of these addresses were taken from the deprived areas to ensure a more balanced form of recruitment and participation.  It is well known that representation and influence is not random for each case, but systematically biased in favour of more privileged citizens.  More ‘privileged’ citizens are those with more wealth, education and overall better socio-economic circumstances. Therefore, Herefordshire council did well to consider the above and put in the appropriate measures to represent their county population equally whilst also actively acknowledging the people who identify as ‘Traveller, Roma or Gypsy’ - a growing demographic of Herefordshire.  This move was an indication of bias reduction. In April 2020, Herefordshire Council commissioned a ‘Housing Market Area Needs Assessment for 2021-2041 to determine the accommodation needs for Travellers.  The assembly’s desire to represent this community therefore reflected a consistent effort to represent minority groups in the county.
One key aspect of inclusion was the stratification sampling methods. As there was a set target for the certain populations, we can only clarify this as semi-random.  Pure random sampling was prevented by the greater presence on lower income areas (20%).
With the implementation of IT facilitators in each session, participants that were less technologically savvy (such as elderly participants) were aided in case of access issues. Facilitation was a key advantage of this as each of the break out mini groups had a member of Sortition act as the primary engager and director of conversation, as well as a clear moderator to circumvent argumentation.
As the sessions took place online, the stress of an uncomfortable environment that otherwise may prohibit participant voice, increase inclination or create a dominating voice was restricted.  This also increased efficiency, as less resources were needed to access the citizen assembly, such as petrol for transportation or even time for travel. However, this also meant that there was a “digital divide”, with many participants suffering from access restrictions that could have been easily adapted to equalise voice input.  No controls were set to equalise this such as providing better internet access, or even lending laptops/headsets to the participants. Given that the purpose of a citizens assembly is to: “offer a way to permit real popular participation in “legislation” in a way that is separated from the normal elite-advantaging processes that form the core of modern governmental practice”, it is expected to circumvent any inequalities that could prohibit fair deliberation and voice. 
An issue here could be that the lack of face-to-face confrontation may have made participants more isolated and less likely to voice their opinion accurately. In addition, a virtual setting for deliberation may cause technological issues with the tools of zoom.  To combat this, each breakout group had an IT consultant from the agency (See ‘What Went On’).
Politically, the sessions were mixed between groups who cared about the issue of the environment and apathetic voters (who made up 10.6% of the assembly, with another 10% stating they were “not very concerned with climate change”).  While this may have caused disagreements, it allowed a set course for balanced deliberation, stratifying the opinions of the public so a greater understanding can be found about both sides of the climate debate. In addition, the details of the participants were kept anonymous. [27a] Due to the pressing nature of climate change, individuals may feel stigmatised for not feeling concerned about the issue. As members of the assembly included those who were not concerned, these individuals may have self-censored to avoid scrutiny if their details were made public. [27b] Participants may therefore have been more likely to speak without hesitation given their anonymity.
A final point about inclusion would be to analyse the Sortition Algorithm that chose the most deprived areas to draw participants from in return for equal representation.  Utilising empirical and mathematical data to match to the economic demographics of the county was another successful example of algorithmic sampling which has been evident before in citizens assemblies. 
In terms of popular control, the participants have a significant degree regarding the decision-making process. According to Smith, popular control refers to the “consideration of the degree to which participants are able to influence different aspects of the decision-making process.”  The Herefordshire Climate Assembly showed a degree of popular control by allowing the participants to weigh an influence over formulating recommendations and ideas through discussion and deliberation which were then submitted to the council to consider. Such extent of participation helps the quality of considered judgement as reflected by Fournier’s study.  This is because the more participants involved and dedicate themselves in discussion, the more they become interested and knowledgeable about the topic.
On the other hand, there are also few shortcomings to the aspect of popular control in the climate assembly. Firstly, there is no clear framework that allows them to enforce the outcomes of the deliberation which hinders the implementation of the recommendations and the resulting policy. Such a problem is further reflected by the lack of transparency of council’s decision to adopt some of the recommendations from the assembly in which the bases of such decisions are unknown. Secondly, even if there is a set of mechanisms that ensures the influence of the assembly, there is little information provided for the general public to review the mechanism behind the decision-making process which undermines the legitimacy of the popular control of the assembly. Thirdly, while the participants were able to deliberate their voices regarding the recommendations to tackle climate change in Herefordshire, the agenda of the assembly was solely decided by the council which undermines the participants’ control over the assembly’s purpose and its process.
Transparency requires that participants of public-focused democratic processes have a clear understanding of the conditions under which they are participating. This level of internal transparency ensures citizens will be able to make effective judgements. 
Participants were given a welcome talk at the start of the assembly by a cabinet member for economy and environment at Herefordshire Council.  The assembly was informed that they would address the greatest source of Herefordshire's greenhouse gas emissions (See ‘What Went On’) . This would have increased internal transparency by ensuring participants fully knew what was required of them, and why the council thought these issues were important. This step could have also increased the efficiency of the assembly by ensuring participants only discussed ideas related to the set agenda, thus not wasting any time forwarding ideas which would unlikely be supported.
External transparency refers to the transmission of information about decision-making to the wider public.  Decisions of bodies must be open to public scrutiny to encourage trust. . Following the conclusion of the citizen assembly, several complaints were made to the local newspaper Hereford Times regarding the anonymity of assembly participants. Members of the public argued that because participants were paid £300 to participate, it was in the public interest to release the details of those chosen.  Professor of Administration and Public Management at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies Armenia Androniceanu argues that public access to data regarding the use of public money is essential to develop public trust, especially in the interest of preventing corruption.  The refusal to provide details of the paid participants could have concerned the public about the efficient use of their tax money. However, the council made sure to provide ample information regarding the details of the assembly:
Firstly, the council published a short video detailing the aims of the citizen assembly. The video was accompanied by smart and colourful graphics to condense the information.  This extra step would have helped views of all ages and political awareness to understand the aims of the assembly.
Secondly, the Sortition Foundation provided a detailed description of their participation selection process on their website.  This could help increase external transparency by ensuring the public understood that the assembly was representative of Herefordshire's demographics.
Thirdly, all the meetings, with the exception of the breakout groups, were recorded and published on YouTube (See ‘What Went On’) This ensured that anyone who was not part of the assembly could still access all of the sessions. Making the sessions public increased transparency by not only allowing citizens to become more informed about the decisions of the assembly but to assess how their tax money was being spent. The sessions being uploaded to YouTube meant anybody with access to the website globally could watch them. This may help inspire other governments to plan their own citizen assemblies by providing valuable insight into the process. These videos therefore represent how the increase in transparency could lead to an increase in transferability.
Fourthly, the council provided a detailed list of the projects planned from the recommendation of the council. [18b] A detailed report of the recommendations was also provided on the same website.
Finally, Herefordshire Council are still accepting queries regarding the assembly. Researchers constructing this case study were easily able to get in touch with the Sustainability and Climate Change Manager at Herefordshire Council. The council official was more than happy to answer any questions researchers had regarding the nature of the assembly. The official even confirmed that additional projects had been taken on. Although this information was not on the website, the ability of a senior member of the council to candidly provide citizens with extra information represented a high level of transparency. To increase this, the council could have uploaded the information as soon as the decision to take on more projects was made, as it would clearly be in the public interest.
The fact that the citizens assembly utilised sortition algorithms to attain a balanced representation of the country proves that the technology is there to provide greater understanding of climate understanding in both demographic terms and personal opinions of the climate, re-establishing its utility as an elemental way to stratify areas for near-perfect representation.
As the assembly took place online, the method is highly transferable across councils and governing bodies that have access to computers and the internet. In addition, the fact that Herefordshire is a rural county shows that the technology and methods of deliberation are accessible across all areas of (at least) the UK. The control mechanisms of facilitation and equated time for each participating member (within their smaller groups) permitted greater and more free deliberation. As the main themes of deliberation were chosen specifically due to their effect on the local climate of Herefordshire (Transport, housing/building and agriculture/land use), the knowledge and future projects that arose from the assembly may only apply to reducing emissions in rural areas, not in the major cities of the country.  A drawback of this democratic innovation would be the political context differing on an international scale, especially considering the vast interpretations of climate knowledge. 
In relation to the design and output, it seems that a small citizen’s assembly was constructed near-perfectly to create 35 initiatives for Herefordshire, to which many have been sanctioned to develop as of writing. And, despite these projects looking extremely promising, there is still the threat of the information of the CA being manipulated or altered in actual policy making, especially with such discursive debates like climate change, in which alternative interpretations of public opinion could skew against the actual conclusions. 
Online meetings mean less resources and time wasted (cost of travel, renting a meeting place, time alignment), especially with the facilitators speeding up the process and having a set plan that was adhered to. Each participant was awarded £300 for the 2 days and 2 nights, which meant any participants that may have been working or losing out on overtime were at least financially compensated (See ‘Participant Recruitment’ and ‘What Went On’).
However, administration fees for both the councillors and Impact Consultancy would most likely be high due the precision of the event and logistics. In the future, Herefordshire County Council may find this difficult to replicate to the same level of effectiveness given the GDP per capita of Herefordshire is slightly lower than the UK average, and most citizens are of working age, unable to find the time for political deliberation. Plus, the fact that a facilitator catered and controlled the pace of each participant group which in turn could reduce efficiency with the power of the participants reduced for one moderator, who perhaps was unable to gain true opinions of some participants.
Similar to the Irish Citizen Assembly on Climate Change, effective communication is underlined by an issue that was simplified to reflect participant’s daily lives. Not only does this increase deliberation, it also allows for a bottom-up approach to climate action that succeeds in developing council-driven initiatives.  With 35 recommendations and projects planned, citizen assemblies on such broad and controversial topics can be created to engage otherwise broad and unmentioned areas, in this case the rural and low-populated county of Herefordshire.  The transparent nature of the facilitators to tell the participants about the process and outcomes would undoubtedly increase efficiency, especially with participants holding the knowledge that their input would go on to benefit their community and, potentially, climate.
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