Citizens should have a voice,
especially in trying times.

Citizens should have a voice, especially in trying times.

The Citizens' Panel on COVID-19 is bringing together 30 everyday Americans from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum. They will weigh testimony from a range of experts, find common ground, and help guide their communities, their state, and others across our country.

The Panel is being convened in Michigan, one of the states that most reflects our country's makeup as well as its deep divide.

30 everyday Americans
were selected without
campaigns, parties, or donors

30 everyday Americans were selected without campaigns, parties, or donors

Black Play-min

to truly
represent
the people

to truly represent the people

The Panel was selected through a democratic lottery (see above video), to avoid the corruption, polarization, and disenfranchisement that always accompany elections.
 
First, invitations were mailed to 10,000 randomly selected adults across Michigan. From the hundreds who volunteered to serve on the Panel, a team of computer scientists from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon University used their open-source algorithm to generate 1,000 different combinations of 30 that each reflected the demographics and views of the state.
 
Then on Tuesday September 15th, we conducted a lottery that selected one of those 1,000 possible panels. Here you can see how this panel’s demographics and views compare to the state of Michigan as a whole.
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Schooling
  • Geography
  • Politics
  • Views

The Panel generally reflects the different ages in the population, although it is slightly more middle-aged than Michigan as a whole. More flexibility was afforded here than with gender, race, or people’s views on politics and coronavirus. This is based off of the government’s 2019 census projections.

The Panel has an even gender balance, with 15 men and 15 women, which reflects the population. This is based off of the government’s 2019 census projections.

The Panel closely reflects the proportions of different racial backgrounds of Michigan. This is based off of the government’s 2019 census projections.

The Panel generally reflects the amount of schooling in the population, with a slight over-representation of those with some college or a degree. More flexibility was afforded here than with gender, race, or people’s views on politics and coronavirus. This is based off of the government’s 2019 census projections.

The Panel generally reflects the geographic makeup of Michigan, with slight over-representation of regions with very small percentages of the population. These regions come from the government’s MI Safe Start Plan.

The Panel accurately reflects the political views of the population. This is based off of Gallup’s State Ideological Identification data from 2018.

The Panel reflects the different levels of concern in Michigan regarding coronavirus, as well as people’s feelings about the Governor’s response to the outbreak. This is based off of June 2020 Nationscape data from Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group.

They will weigh expert and lay testimony and find common ground

The Panel will meet online for a total of 40 hours during the month of October. They will call upon a range of experts from diverse fields to present and answer their questions. And with the support of moderators, they will have honest but civil conversations and align on a set of recommendations.

The Panel will produce a Final Report that will be shared with government and institutions across Michigan and across the country. The process and the story of the Panel will also be shared with major press outlets and in a short documentary.

Democratic Lottery
September 15, 2020

First Session
September 29, 2020

Final Session
November 1, 2020

Documentary Release
December 2020

This may be the first time you’ve ever heard of a Citizens’ Panel or democratic lottery. But over the past decade, dozens of lottery-drawn Citizens’ Panels and Citizens’ Assemblies have shaped important policy around the world. For a long list of examples, click here.

Again and again, these groups have successfully sidestepped divisive, dysfunctional politics and empowered everyday people to address difficult problems head-on.

Organizations working with Citizens’ Panels & Assemblies

This is a
proven practice

organized
by the people
for the people

The Citizens’ Panel is organized, funded, and recruited by a grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit called of by for. The Panel moderation is designed and overseen by Robin Harkless, a professional moderator who has facilitated similar Citizens’ Juries and Citizens’ Initiative Review processes in Oregon, Minnesota, California, and Arizona.

Adam Cronkright

Co-Coordinator

George Zisiadis

Co-Coordinator

Robin Harkless

Lead Moderator

Austin Talley

Lead Producer

Jeff Hayes

Moderator

Becca Kearl

Moderator

Tina Patterson

Moderator

Lauren Rauch

Moderator

Payton Silket

Moderator

Ben Whiting

Moderator

We conducted the democratic lottery in partnership with Panelot, a team of computer scientists from Harvard and Carnegie Mellon University who used their open-source algorithm to randomly generate possible panels that all reflected the state of Michigan.

Common questions

It is a way of fairly selecting people to serve on Citizens' Panels like this one, and of making sure that the group reflects the population at large. For example, half men and half women, who proportionately represent different political leanings, education levels, ages, and races/ethnicities.

Using a lottery also makes sure that unlike elected politicians, nobody comes in with political debts or partisan pressures. So they are free to listen to and learn from others and follow their conscience.

And to be clear, a democratic lottery has nothing to do with the Democratic Party. It is just like a 'democratic election'.

First, we mailed out invitations to 10,000 randomly selected households across Michigan. This list was 'stratified', meaning it accurately reflected the state's geographic spread, ages, genders, races, levels of income and education, and political affiliation.

From those who responded to that invitation, a team of computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon and Harvard called Panelot, randomly generated 1,000 different possible panels. Each had a different mix of 30 citizens who reflected the makeup of Michigan, with proper proportions of men and women, young and old, etc.

We then conducted a lottery, similar to the Powerball to select the digits of the final panel.

So the final selection is random, yet we are able to achieve representation because not every step in a democratic lottery is.

The citizen representatives on the Panel will decide what they want to focus on and who they want to call on to testify.

They will be supported by a diverse and skilled group of independent moderators, who will give structure to meetings and ensure civil dialogue.

If Panelists feel that a moderator is biasing the process, they can remove them. And Panelists will take turns serving on a Steering Committee that oversees the larger process.

The citizen-representatives in the Citizens' Panel will be able to call on expert and lay testimony of their choosing, representing the full range of political positions.

We will be publishing the list of possible presenters soon, although the Panel will not be limited to that list.

Michigan is a state that generally reflects the country's demographics and political divide. It has also been among the hardest hit by COVID-19, both in terms of health and the economy. So finding common ground in Michigan will be important for Michiganders, and it will also provide a powerful example for the rest of the country.

This initiative is organized by a non-partisan non-profit called of by for. We are a member of Democracy R&D, the leading international network of practitioners and researchers working with Citizens' Panels and Citizens' Assemblies.

It is funded by of by for, through medium and large donations from private citizens across the political spectrum. 

of by for doesn't take sides on any issues or take money with strings attached. Our only focus is putting everyday people front and center. We know that sounds hard to believe in these polarized times, but if you serve on or follow this Citizens' Panel, you'll see that it's true.

So if you're ready to feel inspired for a change,
you won't want to miss this

So if you're ready to feel inspired for a change, you won't want to miss this