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Messaging Dos and Don'ts

Do's and don'ts for talking about citizens' assemblies

Based on research done for a number of democracy organisations including XR. You can find more detail in Reforming the political system - A Messaging Guide

Do say: "Politics" / "political system"
Don't say: "Democracy" / "democratic"
Democracy has positive connotations for many people, whereas politics does not. The root cause of our problem is the political system, not the politicians. Most people don’t want to get rid of our democratic system.

Do say: The system is old fashioned / Victorian / needs updating / upgrading
Don't say: Democracy is broken
People have some pride in the UK's democratic history. They don’t agree that democracy is broken. However, they agree that there is plenty of room for improvement to make it fit the 21st century. Talking about updating or upgrading makes it clear that the system is designed by human beings and can be changed.

Do say: Who will do right by us
Don't say: Who will make the best decision
"Best decision" makes us consider qualifications and competence - that decisions should be left to politicians and elites. "Who will do right by us" implies honesty, sincerity, and who has our best interests at heart. Politicians can’t compete with the public in this way, because as trust in politicians is so low.

Do say: We all have a right to contribute to decisions
Don't say: The public are shut out of decisions
Many people say that the opportunity to vote, lobby your MP and stand for election are examples of how ordinary people take part in politics. However, elections are only every few years and we could contribute much more.

Do say: We, us
Don't say: The public, they
We are the public! Don’t separate our interests and experiences from those of the public

Do say: People like us
“People like us” is a sticky phrase that people recall.

Do say: Teachers, doctors, scientists, shopkeepers. People from different walks of life
Specifying these groups reminds us that we already trust people from our communities with important decisions.

Do say: Like a jury. We all have an equal chance of being selected
Don't say: Random selection
"Random selection" tends to cue “randoms” i.e. odd, untrustworthy people. In comparison, a jury is understood and trusted by the public.