Faculty members Dr. Chul Hyun Park and Dr. Robert C. Richards, Jr., and second-year student Katerina Noori of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service recently delivered a presentation to members of the Washington State Legislature on their evaluation of the Washington State Climate Assembly. The group offered an independent, comprehensive evaluation of the climate assembly process.
Starting in January, Park, Richards and Noori, along with Dr. John Rountree of the University of Houston-Downtown, conducted an evaluation of the Washington State Climate Assembly, a collection of 80 Washington residents selected through a lottery process to learn about, discuss, deliberate, and recommend climate change solutions for consideration by their State Legislature in Olympia, Wash. In short, the group of residents worked together to reach a consensus on how to mitigate the effects of climate change in Washington.
Although several climate assemblies have been held in Europe, the Washington State Climate Assembly is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States.
“This is a nice example of our research on citizens' participation in governance, applied to a novel form of citizen engagement and a very current policy issue,” Richards said.
The Washington residents deliberated online for seven weeks, starting January 12 and ending February 27, in a facilitated and structured process about how climate change impacts people in their state. The Assembly participants wrote a set of policy recommendations for the Washington State Legislature about how to address the impacts of climate change in Washington. The recommendations were publicly released on March 1, and the assembly’s final report was released on March 19.
The Clinton School group and Dr. Rountree used a mix of quantitative and qualitative research, utilizing surveys, observations, and interviews to evaluate the Assembly.
During the group’s presentation, Noori delivered preliminary findings on participants’ improved engagement and investment in the process as the Assembly’s meetings continued into February. Park discussed preliminary findings that showed a decrease in sensitivity to polarization, and a willingness to work together by groups with different viewpoints and political identities.
The Clinton School Speaker Series not only enhances the education of Clinton School students, but also provides a venue for the public to engage in intellectual discussions on the issues of the day.