An overview of the learning journey
An important and unusual feature of this Assembly has been the very broad nature of the remit and the requirement that members be involved in deciding what should be covered. Assembly design and planning has not been easy and it has not been possible to cover issues in the depth that would have come with a more narrowly drawn agenda. However, the approach has undoubtedly also brought significant benefits in putting members in charge and giving them the freedom to range widely across a broad spectrum of topics.
"Sometimes you sit at a table and get so frustrated, but at other times you feel so humbled by what you’ve learned at this Assembly. We’ve all learned to be more patient and tolerant. Every group I’ve been in we’ve come to an agreement at the end and nobody has left on bad terms and I think that’s proof that this works. We care about each other and this country."
At its core the Assembly journey has been about developing knowledge and awareness about the country, discussion about the things that matter most to citizens and setting an agenda for the future. It included exploration of challenges around a broad definition of building a sustainable country and on the resources to support this, specifically public finances and taxation.
The Assembly reflected on the impact of Covid-19 and prepared a collective vision for the future of the country and agreed priorities for action. These outputs have been informed by all that members heard, discussed and learned through the process. In structural terms, weekends 1 to 4 mainly involved learning, development of skills in deliberation and familiarisation with techniques, typically through presentation of evidence and discussion with experts, deliberation in small groups and agreement on interim outputs, often including voting to indicate levels of support for the range of outputs.
Weekend 5 involved considering the impact of Covid-19 and weekends 6 to 8 involved members working together in small groups to consider this earlier work, preparing statements of vision, developing the scope and text of recommendations and supporting materials, and voting to decide the final Assembly vision and recommendations.
The following diagrams summarise the deliberative process undertaken over the weekends.
Deliberative process: weekends 1-5.
Deliberative process: weekends 6-8
A key aspect of the journey has been the ways in which members have grown as informed, critical and committed citizens. Members’ skills and confidence in engaging with evidence and in deliberation and working together to prepare outputs, have grown enormously over the course of the Assembly. Members themselves have reflected in formal and informal feedback on the deeper complexity, volume and breadth of evidence that has been presented over the course of the Assembly, on how hard they were pushed and how they rose to the challenge, gaining new and deeper knowledge of the topics, insights into the complexities of policy making and a growing belief in the significance of their own and the Assembly’s collective views on these issues.
"People were confident within themselves…they knew they were allowed to be themselves. They knew they were ‘enough’ no matter who they were or what their background was."
Commitment to continuing as an Assembly member remained strong throughout the Assembly process, despite the delay in operations resulting from the lockdown and through the subsequent move online (the number of members ‘strongly agreeing’ that they would wanted to continue as an Assembly member ranged from 73-84% across the Assembly weekends). Whatever their background, age or experience, Assembly members engaged positively with complex evidence and with the tools and techniques of deliberation. Along the journey they produced a valuable set of interim outputs, including material which has not found its way fully into the final vision and recommendations, but which provides important insights into their thinking and the breadth and diversity of views. These outputs are discussed in chapters 4 and 5 below. The picture below provides a visual representation of the learning journey.
The picture below provides a visual overview of the breadth of evidence considered in the Assembly.