Constituent Assembly Rehearsal

Landmark action research ahead of remaking the Bolivian constitution

Against a backdrop of political and social turmoil in Bolivia, and clashing demands for regional autonomy and the redrafting of the entire constitution, we crafted and executed a 12-day Constitutional Assembly simulation with the participation of 40 semi-randomly selected national and regional political party, indigenous, labour union and corporatist stakeholders.

Damiana Espinoza, A mock constitution-maker representing the Bartolina Sisa National Confederation of Campesino, Indigenous, and Native Women of Bolivia

The aim was to study the interpersonal dynamics between opposing sets interests for reform, in a simulated environment, while dealing with fiercely contentious issues such as territorial organisation and regional autonomy, land tenure, and access and control over natural gas and oil resources.

Commissioned by the Bolivian National Congress in 2004 and informed by the South African experience in its design, the experiment received national and international acclaim for its unique insights into the strengths and possible pitfalls of the eventual process of rewriting the Bolivian constitution. Several mock delegates went on to run successfully for seats in the real Assembly (2006-2007).

Simulation delegates deliberated for 12 days at Maestrías para el Desarrollo (MpD), Universidad Católica Boliviana “San Pablo” in La Paz, Bolivia

The once in a lifetime privilege to craft and learn from a simulated constitution-making assembly with real stakes and stakeholders from all walks has deeply influenced everything I’ve designed, experimented with and taught since.