The Canton of Zürich aims to strengthen participation. To this extent, the Cantonal authorities, together with the Centre for Democracy Aarau (ZDA), conducted a scientific pilot project for citizen panels on the municipal level in three different municipalities. Thalwil was one of the participating municipalities. The others were Winterthur and Uster.
The overarching topic in all panels was climate change policy. The issues discussed were context-specific. The assignment for the citizens was also slightly different. In Thawil, citizens deliberated on the acceptance of proposed actions in the climate master plan. In the other municipalities, the panels developed ideas and proposals for climate action and a sustainable food strategy.
In April 2022, 3,000 randomly selected residents of the municipality of Thalwil from the age of 16 were invited to participate in this project. From this random selection, over 200 interested people came forward. This selection included non-Swiss citizens and teenagers below the legal voting age of 18, generally excluded from political participation in Switzerland.
To ensure that the citizen panel represented Thalwil’s population, a second, electronically conducted and scientifically monitored drawing of lots took place in June 2022, whereby the 22 definitive participants of the “Citizens’ Panel Thalwil” were determined. Around 100 of the interested persons attended the drawing of lots on site.
The citizen panel took place on two weekends (4 full days) in August and September 2022. The citizens received compensation for their participation. The focus of the first weekend was on knowledge and information transfer on the topics of “mobility” and “buildings.”
In August 2022, the 22 participants met for the first time. Two discussion rounds with representatives of political parties and interest groups took place to include political views and perspectives in the deliberations of the citizens’ panel. Additionally, the participants had the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in both areas and to clarify any unanswered questions in an exchange with proven experts.
The second weekend’s focus was consultation and exchange among the participants and finalizing a report with recommendations to the municipal authorities. The citizens accepted and supported all of the actions proposed by the municipality. Only the reduction of car parks met a small minority of resistance. The citizens provided comments and remarks on the upcoming implementation of the actions.
The report of the citizens can be found here: Report for Thalwil
The overall pilot project determined the opportunities and challenges of citizen panels on the municipal level. It issued recommendations for the Cantonal authorities who want to support municipal-level citizen panels.
The pilot project resulted in a project report and guidelines for the organization of citizen panels: