Understanding the policy impact of Citizens’ Assemblies: a dispatch from Gdansk

Article by Adela Gąsiorowska: “Whilst Citizens’ Assemblies are spreading in practice, significant doubts remain about the extent to which they and similar processes actually influence public policies. My research investigates Poland’s first Citizens’ Assemblies, finding that although on the surface, they seemed to achieve a high level of policy impact, a closer look reveals a less clear-cut picture, and reasons to be cautious about the claims we can make about them.

The Gdansk Citizens Assemblies in 2016-17 were the first Citizens’ Assemblies organised in Poland and they led to popularisation of this participatory tool in other Polish cities. After Gdansk, nine more Citizens’ Assemblies were organised in seven different Polish municipalities. The Gdansk Assemblies are an interesting case study to analyse policy impact for two reasons. Firstly, sufficient time has elapsed to allow us to track the implementation of policy recommendations. Secondly, the president of the city claimed that the recommendations would be treated as binding.

Such a declaration could suggest that policy impact of the Gdansk Assemblies would be stronger than in case of other, non-binding assemblies. However, my research suggests that the general impact of these processes was in fact, limited for several reasons. In particular, not all their recommendations influenced public policies to the same extent, and the process was perceived by some of its participants as a tool for legitimating the decisions made by public officials…(More)”.