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Trust drives a citizen power storm - the Global Assembly

Imagine. You are walking to the shop in your village and the local community organizer approaches you. Would you like to participate in a climate assembly with 100 people from around the world for several weeks? This happened in October 2021.

The Global Assembly is not a one-off input for the COP26, but aims to give citizens from around the world a permanent seat at the table of international decision making. This process is guided by the following values:

  1. We build new decision-making infrastructure - We believe that people need to have a seat at the global governance table. We are establishing a new decision-making body that activates and involves as many people as possible in defining and addressing the challenges we face.

  2. We trust in people - We believe that our common global challenges require collective global solutions. When people can access the tools to meet, connect and come up with solutions together, they can and they do.

  3. We build empathy between people - We believe that we make better decisions when we understand each other. When people communicate at a fundamental level beyond opinions and debate we can overcome polarisation and division and create mutual respect.
  4. We focus on the means, not the ends - We believe the most urgent challenge we face is not to propose solutions, but to come up with better ways of generating solutions together. We seek never to impose our own views, but create a platform for people to think, talk, listen, co-create and act together.
  5. We recognize our biases - We believe that our values, experiences, contexts and identities influence our behaviours and perceptions and it is by actively surfacing and recognizing them that we can best serve others.
  6. We emphasize learning in practice - We believe that we don’t have all the answers, so we share all our findings and mistakes so that we can learn together.
  7. We are open - We believe in making available all our documentation, data, source code, methods, and materials.
  8. We are independent - We seek to understand and engage with existing power structures, while maintaining complete independence from them. Governments, funders and institutions have absolutely no influence over the process.

Beautiful how these values show that there is no ready-made answer as to how the vision of a permanent seat for citzens at the world stage will be realized. “We learn and you notice it from the way people engage with each other”, says Remco van der Stoep at a webinar organized by G1000 in the Netherlands.

Becoming a Regional Cluster Facilitator

For G1000 it all started over the summer of 2021, when Remco and his colleagues were invited to attend a webinar for partners of the Global Assembly. After the webinar they were asked if G1000 was interested to become a Regional Cluster Facilitator. They would provide leadership to recruitment of participants in 9 locations, which practicall meant indentifying and accompanying local Community Hosts. They said yes, without fully understanding what would be required, and were immediately entrusted with the task.

A snapshot of people of the world

The idea was to create a group of 100 people from around the world. NASA provided data related to the spread of the world population, which the Sortition Foundation used to drop 100 pins on the globe. The task of the cluster facilitators like G1000 was then to find a local organization in each of these diverse locations. They searched for organisations that would be willing to recruit 6 people in their community that represented a certain diversity: men and women, education levels, climate aware or not. From these 6 people per location, so 600 in total, the Sortition Foundation used an algorithm to make the final 100 as close to the world population statistics as possible.

Local hosts

To avoid bias in the recruitment of articipants, it was important that the local organisations did not have a climate activist agenda. The search was for local organisations that were respected and trusted by the community. In Belgium for instance, it was a group that accompanies socially marginalized people to a job. Next to recruiting 6 community members for the sortition, the local organisations would also be translating information that would be made available to the participants into the local language, and they would, where needed, organize interpretation. The working language of the Global Assembly was English.

Again, the key was trust. Find the organization and let them get on with the task. So, would you say yes – to participating in the Global Assembly when asked on the street? Perhaps when you were offered 600$ - which was the uniform remuneration offered to each of the participants all over the world? Enough people did say yes, though none of the clusters believed that in just a few months they would succeed in finding the 100 participants in this way. Everyone involved remembers the day in October when the zoom screen showed the 100 participants in the first Global Assembly. Wow! They did it, and without any control. “We moved at the speed of trust.”

The central circle
The group providing central leadership, had been working for a long time to source funding and create an environment in which the Global Assembly could be noticed. How do you sell a Global Assembly to donors? You can invest, but you are not buying anything… It was critical to have funding that was free of conditions. The group succeeded getting funds from the Scottish government, the host of the COP26, the UN, and a few funds for democracy and climate.

The group also organized experts who agreed on the climate information everyone would need to have, so that there was a level playing field. They organized embedding with the COP 26 by working with country delegations who could make it possible that the Global Assembly could be heard and participate in the COP 26. In the Assembly Lab they prepared and tested the software that could enable plenary sessions with 100 participants and their interpreters. How would it work in break-out rooms of 5 with an interpreter? Interpretation made things a bit slow, and sometimes due to Covid, the interpreter would be in another room. There was a lot of testing before the Assembly started in October. (For the full assembly process – see here: https://globalassembly.org/the-process )

Creating a movement of empowered citizens
To drum up public interest in the Global Assembly, there was much attention to “cultural channels” (e.g. youth and cultural groups), in particular to reach people who would not read the international news.

The Global Assembly also developed a community assembly toolkit with which every citizen could organise alocal assembly and provide input to the final product of the Global Assembly.

The 100 participants started their movement locally. “This happened by itself really. Participants started organizing actions in their community, started speaking with local politicians.” Remco gives the example of an older male with little education who felt quite overwhelmed at the start. The community host feared that he would step out, but three weeks into the Assembly, the host organization could hardly keep up with the actions of this assembly member towards to his community and local politicians. He would go round telling them what the problems, were, and what needed to be done.

During citizen assemblies we see time and time again that people change into engaged citizens. They discover that they have responsibility for the community, and that they can take this responsibility of co-creating a better future.

It was beautiful to hear that this shift to taking responsibility for a shared future does not just happen in local assemblies or national assemblies, it happens globally too. Assembly members who knew a lot  about climate change and may initially have been frustrated with the slow pace of getting to know each other through translators, of building up a common information base from which to start deliberations with people from hugely differing educational backgrounds, gradually settled into learning about the living environment of fellow citizens around the world. They discovered that people have different kinds of knowledge and can provide very interesting perspectives and feedback. We help eachother to move forward. “It was an emotional goodbye at the end of the Assembly. Everyone felt the connection that had been created,” according to Remco.

For now, the Global Assembly is about demonstrating what citizens think about climate change to those at the international decision making table who care to listen. It is about creating a different kind of movement in the way we make international decisions. The Global Assembly will continue supporting and growing this movement. The next one is already in the making.

Views: 65

Comment by Edcanela on February 17, 2022 at 1:44

Love this Lucia.

Comment by Lucia Nass on February 17, 2022 at 11:49

Thansk Ed, did you follow the Global Assembly?

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