What if the People Governed? How Citizens’ Assemblies Can Restore Trust in LA City Government

December 8, 2022

10am Los Angeles, CA

Register here

Can the people govern? Are elections and representative democracy truly the best we can do? 

Citizens’ assemblies are a powerful way towards a more expansive and representative democracy that puts citizens at the center of governing.  This form of deliberative democracy has helped citizens resolve public issues since Ancient Greece. So why haven’t you heard of them, and what do you need to know about them?

Join us December 8 for an interactive introduction to citizens’ assemblies and how they can empower breakthroughs in local democracy.  Co-hosted by the Berggruen Institute, Healthy Democracy, The American Public Trust, Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, Abundant Housing LA, and Public Access Democracy, this 90-minute online teach-in will bring together advocates and experts on democratic theory and governance to introduce how democratic lotteries and citizen deliberation works and their relevance to LA’s biggest political challenges. (Check out some short videos here, here, here, here, and here for a preview.)

What if the People Governed?’s agenda includes: 

• Intro: What is a Citizens’ Assembly

• Case studies from California, Chile, and Paris

• How Citizen Assemblies can work for LA

Citizens’ assemblies are gaining traction in democracies around the world because of their effectiveness in rebuilding public trust, solving complex policy issues, and depolarizing communities. Similar to the way juries are convened to deliberate on matters of justice, citizens’ assemblies bring together a representative group of citizens to carefully consider important policy matters. Such deliberative processes generated successful policy breakthroughs on controversial topics such as climate change, transitioning to renewable energy, marriage equality, and reproductive freedom, as well as local policy areas like housing, city planning, flood mitigation, and transportation

A citizens’ assembly is a representative cross-section of residents according to demographic criteria such as gender, race, ethnicity, and age. Assembly members meet to examine an important public issue in an environment designed to reduce the influence of political bias and instead put the focus on collaborative problem solving and evidence. They take testimony from experts and stakeholders and deliberate among themselves in a structured process, ensuring that all voices are heard. 

This free event is for anyone who cares about the future of Los Angeles and democracy, and is curious to learn more about a breakthrough democratic process that is engaging citizens directly in government decision-making in cities around the world—from Petaluma, CA to Paris. The event will be recorded and available following the event. ASL interpreters, closed captions, and Spanish, Mandarin and Korean translators will be available at this event.

Guest Speakers:

Ieva Cesnulaityte | Founding Head of Research and Learning, DemocracyNext
Twitter: @icesnulaityte
Ieva Cesnulaityte is the Founding Head of Research and Learning at DemocracyNext. Previously she was a Policy Analyst at the OECD working of innovative citizen participation, co-authoring the OECD’s flagship report Catching the Deliberative Wave with Claudia Chwalisz, authoring the OECD’s Evaluation Guidelines for Representative Deliberative Processes, and editing a series on New Democratic Institutions for Participo. She also worked in Lithuania’s Prime Minister’s office, leading Lithuania’s participation in the Open Government Partnership Initiative.

Linn Davis | Program Co-Director, Healthy Democracy
Twitter: @healthydem
Linn co-leads program development and process design at Healthy Democracy, a US-based nonpartisan nonprofit that brings together everyday people – selected by democratic lottery – to tackle tough policy questions. He co-coordinates HD’s complex public processes and consults on deliberative democracy projects in the US and abroad.

Rahmin Sarabi || Co-Founder, Director, The American Public Trust
Twitter: @rahmin
Rahmin is the Co-Founder and Director of The American Public Trust, a non-partisan startup institution working to upgrade democracy across the US so it can bridge divides and help communities solve their most pressing challenges. His background includes for-profit and non-profit innovation, human-centered strategy, and facilitation for organizations such as Good Eggs, CivicMakers, and The Democracy R&D Network.

Leonora Camner | Democratic Lottery Advocate, co-director, Public Access Democracy
Twitter: @camnerleonora
Leonora Camner is a director of Public Access Democracy, a democratic lottery advocacy organization, and is on the steering committee of the Represent California project, a call for a state constitutional assembly. She is also the Executive Director of Abundant Housing LA, a pro-housing advocacy organization. In 2019, she led the effort for the Southern California Coastal Plan, a 1.4 million home goal concentrated in high-cost coastal areas.

Dawn Nakagawa | Executive Vice President, Berggruen Institute
Twitter: @dawn_naka
Dawn is the Executive Vice President of the Berggruen Institute which was launched in 2010 with Dawn as its first employee. The mission of the organization is to deepen understanding of the great transformations of our time and develop social, economic, and political institutions adapted to them. In addition, Dawn is the co-director of the directs the Future of Democracy program in which she works to develop new mechanisms for engaging citizens in the democratic process and harnessing collective intelligence for better governance and more resilient democracy. 

Tomás González | Founder, Tribu
Tomás González is the Founder of Tribu, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization promoting deliberative democracy and fighting political capture through innovation. In partnership with Stanford University’s Deliberative Democracy Lab, he led the design and implementation of the first country-wide deliberative process (Lxs 400) through random selection ever done in Latin America, and is currently scaling the experience throughout the region. In partnership with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, he also created the “Open Municipalities” initiative to promote open government standards in local governments in Chile and Latin America. He currently serves as part of the Advisory Council to the Governor of Santiago de Chile. Tomás graduated with distinction in Economics from the University of Chile.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE