G1000Amersfoort: Will civic lottery and dialogue refresh local democracy?

The philosophy

The G1000Amersfoort has three main elements: Civic lottery, Dialogue and Civic Council. Although earlier similar meetings have taken place in Belgium and Rotterdam, Amersfoort has added the Civic Council to the process. It is important to note that the implementation of the results of the agenda set out at the G1000Amersfoort 2014 to 2018, is not laid down with the government only. It is a common responsibility for the city and its citizens. The philosophy of G1000Amersfoort is partly based on the ideas of Van Reybrouck and other thinkers on the role of civic lottery in democracy . (see links, below) In addition to the civic lottery, the organization of the dialogue is the second main element. The knowledge about keeping a dialogue with such a large group, comes from the tradition of the World Café, facilitation and moderation . The third element, the Civic Council , is partly inspired by similar examples in Ireland and Iceland. Citizens from Amersfoort invited by civic lottery end up choosing the 10 proposals that make the Agenda 2014-2018 for their Municipality.

Civic lottery
The G1000Amersfoort chose civic lottery because it avoids the excesses of electoral democracy. There are no campaigns, there is no sharp debate, your background and education are not important and you do not need a lot of money to be chosen. Election campaigns have become more personal over the last decades. Spin Doctors advise candidates to what they can and cannot say and opinion surveys measure their popularity . The content disappears behind a curtain of controversy, spinning- and framing techniques . Such techniques are in contradiction with the dialogue and ownership where the initiators and participants of the G1000Amersfoort look for. By civic lottery every citizen has an equal chance to participate.

There is a growing need in the community to connect  through dialogue, work on content and feel ownership. Our current ‘energetic society ‘ as Maarten Hajer , director of the planning office for the environment calls it is “.. a society of responsible citizens and an unprecedented reaction, learning and creativity.” These responsible citizens need more than just elections once every four years to fulfill their involvement.  One would say that over the course of time other methods have been developed.

Indeed , there are plenty of tools available to shape democratic renewal. And it’s not just about the Internet and social media. Methods of participatory decision-making and dialogue were developed in the past 30 years by the American Institute of Cultural Affairs, The World Cafe, Open Space, and the so-called large group interventions. The techniques used in meetings make participants actively contribute to an event and feel ownership for the result. Many people know stickering as a method to set priorities with a group But that is only one of many tools available to a moderator or facilitator. It’s strange that there are still meetings where people listen sedentary to, often excessive, presentations and speeches, gazing at power point slides for hours. The G1000Amersfoort wants to show that it can be different. By organizing a participatory gathering with 800 citizens. First in a world café with a table of five and then in a town meeting with tables of 10 participants.

Citizens Council
A civic council is not a fixed institution and no replacement of the elected council. Usually, a Civic Council  is an advisory body, whether or not institutionalized. Many countries have a law on local self- government in which the possibility of a civic council is left open in one of the articles such as : ‘The citizens shall exercise their right to local self -government directly and through their representatives in the organs of the units of local self –government’ . There are municipalities where such a council also works. Examples of National citizen councils are set in Iceland and Ireland. In Iceland, a citizens council participated through social media actively in the drawing of a new constitution, which was eventually presented in a referendum for approval. In Belgium the first G1000 was organized when politicians failed to form a government. The Amersfoort Citizen Council exists of 500 citizens invited through civic lottery. They choose from 80 proposals,  ten that appeal to them the most and thus set an agenda for the period 2014-2018 for Amersfoort . This Agenda has no formal status but the way it has come to the community of Amersfoort residents , politicians , government officials , entrepreneurs and artists will inspire the joint realization of that agenda. This can be done through initiatives of citizens and/or businesses, whether or not in cooperation with the municipality. To this end, all participants are given the opportunity to comment on how they want to continue with a theme.

The G1000Amersfoort is the result of voluntary cooperation between residents, businesses, organizations and local authorities. In addition to the 800 participants, at least 500 volunteers contributed to the success of the day. Without the volunteer hours included, the value of the day can be estimated at 150,000 Euro’s , of which 35,000 are actually paid in euros. This latter is also largely donated by funds and companies. Everything else is sponsored in kind. The event can therefore rightly be called itself a joint effort of the Amersfoort community. But G1000Amersfoort is not an end in itself. After the participants shared their dreams, proposals have been developed and the Civic Council has chosen,  a final round follows, in which all participants are invited to stand next to one of the proposals.  They can then make arrangements for the future. It can happen that citizens, businesses , civil servants and politicians form a working group on one of the proposals to further development and implementation.

The dream
Autumn 2013 the initiators of the G1000Amersfoort had a dream, described as follows on the website:

On Saturday, March 22 , three days after the municipal elections, the Rijtuigenloods in Amersfoort flows full of citizens from Amersfoort. From all quarters and from all walks of life 600 civilians are drawn by lots and invited to participate in the G1000 Amersfoort. They are accompanied by 400 entrepreneurs, administrators , politicians, officials and artists . For a whole day dialogue takes place about the near future of Amersfoort .  At the end of the day the 600 citizens in the first real civic council of Amersfoort invited by civil lottery make a choice from the 100 proposals that day generated.

Ultimately, not 600 , but 500 civilians took the invitation. By the principle of proportionality , the total number of participants will be 800.

The beginning
The dream was the beginning of a rapidly growing group of citizens and businesses, willing to contribute  with their own social capital. In January 2014 some 12 people were active in the first meetings of the core team, the campaign team and the members team. Brainstorming took place on the campaign, tasks were divided and schedules made. Steps had to be taken rapidly because in less than two months the G1000 had to take place. In the period up to March 8 , the emphasis was on recruiting participants. Between 12 and 22 March, the focus is centered on the organization of the day.

The power of networking
During one of the many preparatory meetings with potential participants a lady, aged 83, expressed her admiration for the realization of such a dream. Another participant pointed out to her the power of networking . The G1000Amersfoort is a confirmation of the power of networking. Networking took place to mobilize people. Resources were found through people who knew people and companies who have approached their suppliers. In addition, district campaign evenings of artists, entrepreneurs , civil servants, politicians and ambassadors were important. Altogether some 500 people will have participated in these gatherings and preparatory briefings. By using the website, facebook and twitter also thousands of people were reached .

The G1000Amersfoort is not organized by an institution or organization. The organization was a network in itself. Within this network clusters existed around a number of key tasks. Representatives of the clusters spoke every Monday morning in the core team .


On  G1000

On Civic Lottery
Paul Lucardie (2012) Democratie via loting?
Alexander Guerrero (2013), Forget elections, lets pick reps by lottery
Oliver Dowlen, Sorted: Civic lotteries and the future of civic participation
David Van Reybrouck (2013) decorrespondent.nl/515/red de democratie loot het parlement