Citizen Assembly anyone?

This was a presentation to a Nesta conference at M Shed in Bristol on 26 March. They asked us to propose “the most important value of creativity” – they said if we could ask government to do one thing what would it be? There were answers from Amahra Spence (which was best one!), Ghislaine Boddington, Kadine James and me.

This is what I said…

Creativity is a superpower – and it’s democratic.

You don’t have to own a cape.

Everyone has access to their own supply.

Our creativity enables us to see things and do things differently.


The thing I value most about this democratic superpower is that it is subversive.

It can challenge the status quo – it can disrupt and agitate – it can question orthodoxy and hierarchy.

And it often does – from the periphery – from the outside. 

But what if we connected human creativity with power and policy?


My proposal is that we set up a network of citizen assemblies which take a creative approach.  

The idea would be to bring together communities and teams from local and central government. 

Creatively. And collaborate to co-create policy.

Across multiple areas, from education to health to housing.


Because why does most policy development exclude the people whose lives it affects?

Why isn’t policy development more human-centred and iterative?

Why isn’t policy development more creative: working in partnership with communities to co-conceive, test out (scratch!) and shape policy?


So quick summary:

1. I think the most extraordinary value of human creativity – that we should embrace rather than fear – is that it’s subversive.

2. I think the most tactical application of everyone’s creativity in government would be to set up assemblies in which communities can co-create policy and connect to power. 

3. I think artists, producers and others working in creative fields might be up for facilitating or supporting the assemblies which might just drive a creative revolution led by communities.


Together we could democratise the way we policy is developed and delivered. The assemblies could be open, public forums – perhaps based in community and cultural centres across the country.

As more people use their creativity to become co-creators of policy – rather than passive recipients of policy – we will create energy and agency. 

And I believe if these assemblies are creative in their approach then it is very likely that the co-created policies will also be more creative than what we have now.


And what better time to launch a programme of citizen-led creative change at a time when our political system is experiencing long-term distrust and decline?

Creative citizen assemblies could help to ensure that our political system is not overwhelmed by people who promise easy and often hateful answers to complex problems.

Instead, communities could lead a creative revolution – co-creating the future.


  1. Yes! I’ll write to you to let you know more about a plan I’m working on which hopes to be precisely what you are writing about here. Exciting!

  2. I’ve quietly been arguing for this kind of approach at D&D events etc. I’m talking to annrhsnisation about this too. We should hook up and swap thoughts. The post isnt signed btw. Who is the author? rebecca

    • Hi Rebecca, this is posted by me, David. Hope you’re well, keep fighting the fight!

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