Sortition, Citizen Power, and Spaces of Freedom

A Hannah Arendt Center Educational Project on Citizen Assemblies



Sortition — the use of randomly selected citizen assemblies to advise legislators or make legislation — is not simply an abstract idea. Around the world, citizen assemblies comprised of randomly selected participants are meeting to discuss and decide upon important political controversies. The Arendt Center's 2021 conference brought together leading experts on democracy and on the use of citizen assemblies to ask how elements of lottery and citizen deliberation can help reenergize democracy. Questions asked at our conference include:

  • Can elements of lottery revitalize democracy today?
  • How can we make our representative democracies more participatory?
  • Should we be afraid of democratic populism?
  • How can we reinvigorate institutions of deliberative democracy?
  • What new institutions and practices can energize our politics?

Above all, we asked, how can we revitalize democracy in the 21st century?


As part of our ongoing Sortition project and in, conjunction with our 2021 conference, we produced a series of videos by leading authorities on democracy, citizen assemblies, and sortition. These include three intro videos by Hannah Arendt Director Roger Berkowirz, two videos by the Chairman of the G1000 David Van Reybrouck, as well as videos by Jane Suiter, Tracy Strong, Eva Ropers, Yasemin Sari, Shmuel Lederman, and Michael MacKenzie.

These videos will soon be offered in an open online course sponsored by the Open Society University Network (OSUN). We offer them now for free along with other open educational resources available on this website. You can also watch a livestream of the 2021 Arendt Center Conference here.

What is Sortition?

Roger Berkowitz

Greek Democracy

Roger Berkowitz

The Story of Sortition

Roger Berkowitz

Lessons From the Irish Citizen Assemblies

Jane Suiter

The Preferendum: When Sortition Hits the Masses

David Van Reybrouck

Institionalizing Sortition

David Van Reybrouck

Why & How to Organize Climate Citizens’ Assemblies

Eva Rovers

Representing the Future Through Sortition

Michael MacKenzie

How To Become a Demos

Yasemin Sari

Arendt and Council Democracy

Shmuel Lederman

America as a Project

Tracy Strong





10:00 AM


Leon Botstein

10:15 AM

Revitalizing Democracy, Sortition, and Citizen Power

Roger Berkowitz

10:30 AM

Is it too late to revitalize democracy? Democratic innovation at the eve of climate collapse

David Van Reybrouck

Moderator: Roger Berkowitz

12:00 PM

Citizen Assemblies in Ireland and Serbia

Jane Suiter, Gazela Pudar Draško, Irena Fiket, and Thamy Pogrebinschi

Moderator: Mark Williams Jr. ’18

1:00 PM


1:15PM - 2:00 PM

Breakout Session: (optional) Olin Room 201

Advocacy for Citizen Assemblies

David Van Reybrouck, Hans Kern ’14, and Jonas Kunz ’18

2:00 PM

Jackson Rising

Kali Akuno

Moderator: Mie Inouye

3:00 PM

Future Publics and Council Governance

Michael MacKenzie and Shmuel Lederman

Moderator: Yasemin Sari

4:00 PM


4:30 PM

Citizen Assemblies: Democracy’s Second Act

Peter MacLeod

Moderator: Eva Rovers

5:15 PM

Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America

Hollie Russon Gilman and James Barry Jr.

Moderator: Thomas Bartscherer

6:00 PM

Wine and cheese reception, Blithewood Mansion (outside)


9:45 AM


Roger Berkowitz

10:00 AM

Open Democracy: The French Climate Citizen Assembly

Heléne Landemore

Moderator: Uday Singh Mehta

11:30 AM

The Parallel Polis

Masha Gessen

Moderator: Peter Rosenblum

1:00 PM


1:15 PM - 2:00 PM

Breakout Session (optional), Olin 202

Citizen Activism

Kali Akuno and Jason Toney ’17

2:15 PM

Learning Our Native Tongue: America as a Project

Tracy B. Strong

Moderator: Allison Stanger

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Local Sortition Experiments

Mayor Kamal Johnson, Supervisor Robert McKeon, and Supervisor Darrah Cloud

Moderator: David Van Reybrouck

Joined by Bard students enrolled in Van Reybrouck’s course Beyond Elections: Revitalizing Democracy through Citizens’ Assemblies


Click here to find out more.


COVID protocols have made it necessary for us to limit capacity at the conference to ensure the safety of audiences, speakers, students, and staff. Registration will be first come first serve. By registering, you're pledging to attend the conference. Please do not register if you're not fully 100% committed to attending.


Covid-19 Vaccination is REQUIRED to attend the conference for all registrants, with no exceptions. Fully vaccinated means all registrants are two weeks beyond the date of their final COVID-19 vaccination shot. All registrants will be asked to provide their vaccination dates within the registration form. Additionally, please be prepared to show proof of vaccination, either your vaccination card or Excelsior Pass at the Registration Desk upon arrival.


The entire conference will be available via Live Webcast to accommodate individuals that cannot attend in person. Please click here to register for the live webcast.


“Representative government is in crisis today, partly because it has lost, in the course of time, all institutions that permitted the citizens’ actual participation, and partly because it is now gravely affected by the disease from which the party system suffers: bureaucratization and the two parties’ tendency to represent nobody except the party machines.”

— Hannah Arendt, 1970



Videos of the 2021 Conference Livestream Can be Accessed Here:

Click to Access Video Archive