How is democracy working out for us? Is our system of government as good as it can be? Or is there a need to rethink the way our views, needs and values are represented? The deepening of the UK’s Brexit stalemate – and the acknowledged coarsening of political debate – suggest we could do far better. 

Brett Hennig is an advocate for ‘sortition’ – the practice of randomly selecting citizens to share the task of government. One form of sortition is the ‘citizens’ assembly’ – a key demand of the Extinction Rebellion movement. Already trialled in several countries, including Ireland, it is argued that a body of people, representative of the wider population, is able to make informed, considered, transparent decisions around key issues of public concern. 

When we exchange professional politicians for ‘legislature by lot’, do we achieve a more honest, more effective version of democracy? Brett – author of ‘The End Of Politicians: Time for a Real Democracy’ – makes a convincing argument for deliberative democracy – asking each other to take a turn in making the decisions that matter. By capitalising on ‘the wisdom of crowds’ and truly embracing the diversity within our society, a revival of sortition (once practiced by the ancient Greeks) could help us reinvent the way we live together, allocating resources fairly and responsibly.

At Meaning, in addition to his talk, Brett will demonstrate how the idea of sortition may be more achievable than we think – and will offer us the chance to experience a citizens’ assembly for ourselves in an optional breakout session.

In a time when politics has never been more confusing and frustrating, we look forward to Brett’s explanation of an alternative system that may hold the key to tackling the climate crisis and societal injustice.

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