Citizens should have a voice—especially in trying times.

The Citizens’ Panel on COVID-19 will bring together 30 everyday Americans from across the state of Michigan and from across the political spectrum. They will weigh testimony from health and economic experts, have honest conversations, and find common ground. Together, they will guide our communities, our state, and others.

This Citizens’ Panel is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit initiative.

Who can stand for the Citizens' Panel?

You do not need any special experience, expertise, or level of education.
You do not need to care about politics—this won’t look anything like ‘politics’.

You are eligible to serve on the Panel if:

  • You received an official invitation in the mail, or someone in your household did and has asked you to serve in their place
  • You are 18 years or older (as of August 28th, 2020)
  • You reside in Michigan for a majority of the year
  • You are not a current or former elected official, or live with someone who is
  • You can attend most Citizens’ Panel meetings (see below)
And you must RSVP by Saturday, September 12th.
(RSVP by clicking the green button at top and bottom of page)

Why should I stand to serve on the Panel?

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with your fellow Americans, have a voice, and find common ground on an issue that affects us all.

This will have an impact. The Panel’s work will be circulated to public officials, and shared with major press outlets. This act of citizen leadership will also be shared through a short documentary, in a way that respects Panelists’ privacy.

And if you become a Panelist, you will be supported in your service with:

  • A $1000 stipend (upon completion of the Panel)
  • Any equipment and tech support needed to ensure you can comfortably and confidently participate
  • Moderators to ensure civil and respectful dialogue on these topics
  • Testimony from a range of health and economic experts

How will the Panel be selected?

Of those who RSVP by Saturday, September 12th, a final Panel of 30 will be selected in a democratic lottery, conducted live at 6:30pm on Tuesday September 15th.

The lottery uses polling methods to ensure fairness and that the Panel of 30 reflects the makeup of Michigan in terms of demographics and political leanings.

Where will the Panel meet?

The Panel will meet online over video call, due to the COVID-19 situation.

When will the Panel meet?

The Panel will begin on Tuesday September 29th, and end one month later on Sunday November 1st.

During that time, it will meet from 7:30pm – 9:30pm (Eastern) on every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

If needed, Panelists can miss and make up a few of the 20 sessions.

What will it be like to be on the Panel?

If you RSVP by Saturday, September 12th, and are selected in the democratic lottery, you will be called by a member of our team who will make sure you are ready for the first meeting on September 29th.

All meetings will be online over video call. A typical meeting will last 2 hours with a break in the middle. As a Panel, you will be able call on the testimony of health and economic experts of your choosing, and of those who have been most affected. Most time will be spent discussing focused topics in a small group with 4 other Panelists and a moderator. There will also be time to get to know your fellow Panelists. And together you will find common ground and produce a Final Report for our state and our communities.

Panelists will meet online and mostly in small groups with a moderator

Other common questions

We worked with a direct mailing company to randomly select a representative list of adults from across Michigan. You were fortunate enough to be on the list, so you received an invitation. Only 1 in 1000 Michiganders (0.1%) received this invitation.

You just need to RSVP (below) with some basic information about yourself by Saturday, September 12th.

After that you will be entered into the democratic lottery, where the final panel of 30 will be drawn. The lottery will take place Tuesday September 15th at 6:30pm, and you will be able to watch it live online to see if you are selected.

Should I RSVP if...

Yes. We can loan you a laptop for the duration of the Panel that will have everything set up for you, and walk you through how to use it. 

Do you have a cell phone with a good 4G connection from inside your house? If so, then yes you should RSVP.

If you don't have high-speed internet nor a good cell connection at home, then unfortunately you won't be able to participate on the Citizens' Panel.

Of course. This will be nothing like 'politics'. There will be no politicians or political parties. Just everyday people finding common ground on the things that matter most.

Yes. We all stand to be affected by the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, so we all deserve to have a say. And you will have the chance to listen to experts and learn from others on the Panel.

Yes, you do not need to be a citizen, you just have to reside in Michigan.

Yes. We will work with you to ensure you can participate fully. And if calling with questions or concerns is a challenge, please reach out to us via email (

If you can attend most, then yes. Absolutely. We can work with you to help you catch up on a few sessions you may need to miss so that you do not fall behind. And we can do this at times that work for you.

Call us (517-234-5269). We are happy to speak with your employer to help them understand and how important it is.

We're also willing to acknowledge employers on our acknowledgments page who support their employees to serve their community and their state.

Yes. We can provide support for child care during meetings if you need that.

No. On the contrary, if you are selected in the democratic lottery, and you complete the month of service, you will be supported with a stipend of $1000. And we will be sure to support you with any other special needs you may have.

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 of Michigan. For example, half men and half women from across the state, who proportionately represent Michigan's different political leanings, education levels, and races/ethnicities.

Using a lottery also makes sure that unlike elected politicians, nobody comes into the Panel 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'.

After everyone RSVPs with their information, we use an open-source algorithm, developed by a team of computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon and Harvard, to generate a long list of possible panels. Each has a different mix of 30 citizens who reflect the makeup of Michigan with proper proportions of men and women, young and old, etc.

When you tune in to the democratic lottery on Tuesday September 15th, you'll be able to see all the possible panels you are on, identified by different numbers.

We will then use lottery machines, like those used for Powerball draws, to select the digits of the final panel. If you are on that panel, you become a citizen representative.

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

If you are selected for the Panel, only your first name and town/city will be made public. All of your other information is kept strictly confidential.

And no photos or videos of you will be shared publicly without your written consent.

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 health and economic experts, representing the full range of political positions, from a list backed by respected groups from across the political spectrum.

And if they want to hear from someone else, they won't be limited to that list.

Yes absolutely. If they meet the other requirements, they can RSVP (below) with your Personal RSVP Code.

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.

We explored partnering on this project with Michigan State University Extension. In the end, MSUE decided not to partner and is not currently involved.

This initiative is organized by a non-partisan non-profit called of by for.

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.

Call us: 517-234-5269

We're available 7 days a week from 10am - 9pm. And if that doesn't work leave us a voicemail with a specific time for us to call you back, or email us at

The lottery is publicly viewable by all and will take place on Tuesday, September 15th at 6:30pm Eastern.

A few minutes before, visit

If you are entered in the lottery, or a friend or family of someone who is, be sure to visit on the chrome or firefox browser on a desktop or laptop computer for the best experience of following along in real-time.

You have been called upon.

This is a chance to come together with your
fellow Americans and give a voice to people like you.

So click the green button below and RSVP by Saturday, September 12th.
It’s easy, and it only takes about 5 minutes.

This is a chance to come together with your
fellow Americans and give a voice to people like you.

So click the green button below and RSVP by Saturday, September 12th. It’s easy, and it only takes about 5 minutes.

This is a chance to come together with your fellow Americans and give a voice to people like you.

So click the green button below and RSVP by Saturday, September 12th. It’s easy, and it only takes about 5 minutes.