Bristol Citizens' Assembly

Assembly Update 21 June 2021

The report from Involve, describing Bristol’s citizens’ assembly journey and full detail of the recommendations have been formally received by Cabinet in June. Assembly members met with the Mayor to handover the final recommentdations. 

In January 2020 Bristol City Council decided to trial on deliberative process, Bristol’s first citizens’ assembly. Citizens assemblies places residents at the heart of decision-making by bringing together a randomly selected group of people with diverse experiences and perspectives and enabling them to make complex decisions which are rooted in the views and values of the public.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused great disruption to people’s lives and livelihoods. The health and economic impacts have fallen unequally and often hardest on people who already faced disadvantage. The major changes and disruption have also given people new perspectives on what the future could look like.

The aim of Bristol’s first citizens' assembly was to ensure that citizens’ ideas and priorities influence Bristol’s recovery from COVID-19 and help to shape Bristol’s future.

60 assembly members were recruited through a process of random selection to be reflective of Bristol’s population in terms of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, deprivation, employment type and home location in Bristol.

The assembly members heard evidence about the issues, held lively discussions and challenged each other's and their own views on the important question, “How do we recover from COVID-19 and create a better future for all in Bristol?”

Three specific topic questions were chosen, based on priorities identified by 6,535 respondents to the Your City Our Future survey :

  • Climate change and housing - How do we rapidly reduce the impact of our homes on climate change?
  • Transport - What changes should we make to our neighbourhoods to make how we travel easier, healthier and better for the environment?
  • Health  and social care - How should we tackle health inequalities in Bristol?

The final sessions of the assembly took place on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 March. The Mayor delivered the concluding days’ welcome on Sunday and was joined by Cllrs Asher Craig and Paula O’Rourke to share their reflections and let participants know what will happen after the assembly closes.

Thank you to all the participants for the time and energy that you have dedicated to Bristol’s first citizens’ assembly over the last few months. This has demonstrated a real enthusiasm and appetite to want to understand and inform what is happening in our city. Participants produced a comprehensive set of recommendations during the sessions, which Councillors Asher Craig and Paula O’Rourke announced at the City Gathering on 12 March.

The formal report from Involve, describing Bristol’s citizens’ assembly journey and full detail of the recommendations have been formally received by Cabinet in June. 

You can read the full report formally received at June Cabinet here

You can read the Equalities Impact Assessment for the citizens' assembly project here


Assembly sessions

Bristol’s citizens' assembly, where a group of residents are helping to shape the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, started on Saturday 16 January and Sunday 17 January. This first weekend introduced the assembly to the deliberative democracy process and how citizens’ assemblies work.

The second weekend saw the assembly split into three groups of 20 people each considering either climate change and housing, transport or health inequalities. 33 speakers delivered panel presentations to provide participants with information to inform deliberations.

The penultimate weekend of the citizens' assembly saw each of the three groups listen to a final panel of theme-specific speakers. The information presented addressed specific areas that the participants felt that they needed to know more about. This allowed them to spend the remainder of the weekend deliberating and working together to further develop recommendations. Participants focussed on putting together these recommendations in response to the questions. These were taken forward to the final weekend when the 60 participants came together for the last sessions to review and vote on the assembly’s concluding recommendations.