The Panel generally reflected the different ages in the population, although it was 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 was based on the government’s 2019 census projections.
The Panel generally reflected 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 was based on the government’s 2019 census projections.
The Panel generally reflected the geographic makeup of Michigan, with slight over-representation of regions with very small percentages of the population. These regions came from the government’s MI Safe Start Plan.
The Panel reflected the different levels of concern in Michigan regarding coronavirus, as well as people’s feelings about the Governor’s response to the outbreak. This was based on June 2020 Nationscape data from Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group.
The Panel will meet online for a total of 40 hours during the month of October. They will call upon a range of speakers from diverse fields related to COVID-19.
To date, those who have offered to engage with and inform the Panel include:
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.
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
The Citizens’ Panel is organized, funded, and recruited by a grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit called of by for, in collaboration with of by for fund. 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.
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.
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 decide what they want to focus on and who they want to call on to testify.
They are supported by a diverse and skilled group of independent moderators, who 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 can call on expert and lay testimony of their choosing, representing the full range of political positions.
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.