Participatory Budgeting in Wales: Lessons from the UK and Beyond (Webinar)
On 27th September the Open Government Cymru network held a webinar on participatory budgeting. The webinar heard from four amazing speakers from Scotland, Portugal, Northern Ireland and Wales, who have all worked collaboratively with their local communities, local authorities and governments to help develop and deliver participatory budgeting (PB) projects that demonstrate the positive impact this approach can have on people’s everyday lives. Our speakers were:
- Alun Budge, PB Partners
- José Manuel Ribeiro, Mayor, Government of Valongo Municipality
- Noeleen Diver, Triangle Housing Association
- Emma Smith, Welsh Government
As well as giving an overview of their work on PB, our speakers discussed the following topics:
- Youth engagement and the importance of investing in face-to-face engagement
- Digital PB methods and how you incorporate things like managing voter integrity
- Resources – effective PB can be resource intensive
- The importance of testing and piloting ideas – ever evolving process
- One size does not fit all – cannot simply roll things out
- How making PB fun can empower and encourage further participation
- The taking part being more important than winning a pot of money
- Political appetite, budget and will
- Building and maintaining trust – hard to build, easy to lose
- Participative democracy
- Bright ideas come from everyone!
You can watch the full discussion by clicking on the link below to listen to the recording of the webinar: Participatory Budgeting- Lessons from the UK & Beyond
More information on our speakers, including contact details can be found below:
Alan Budge, PB Partners – Scotland
Alan Budge has been working on a number of pioneering PB projects since 2004 and has experienced first-hand the extraordinary effect that this approach can have on engaging and involving hundreds of people around a common cause.
In 2014, following the Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish Government recognised PB as an interesting tool to help promote ‘democratic, deliberation, discussion and discussion making’. Alan tells the story of how Scottish Government support has exceeded expectation and has now enabled all 32 local authorities to carry out some form of PB. As importantly the buy-in from the Local Authorities and greater community involvement are, I think, equally important to PB’s success and future sustainability.
Alan also describes the ‘holy grail moment’ where Cosla and Scottish Government committed to a 1% minimum of local authority budget allocated through PB, across Scotland by 2021. A real sense of PB being embedded in a more sustainable way!
José Manuel Ribeiro, Government of Valongo Municipality – Portugal
Portugal has a long history and experience in developing PB opportunities for its citizens and also has its own PB network. José was elected as Mayor in October as Mayor of the Valongo Municipality where they had big financial problems, with no money to make traditional PB work. They recognised the potential of youth participation and the exciting energy and ideas they bring and the opportunity to engage them in their local PB budget.
José shares their experience on how they successfully created a youth participatory budget, tapping into this ‘youth energy’, bringing together intergenerational groups ranging from 6-36 years old!
The initial PB initiative started with a maximum budget of 10,000 euros – but José explains how the most important question is not the amount of money but the system, the project and a way to tip the minds of people to think creatively how they might solve the local community problems. In 2014 around 20 projects were submitted, but only one project was successful – why? Because it’s an important part of the democratic process that people have to choose to vote for practical and achievable projects.
Since 2014 the PB budget has almost doubled year on year, from 10,000 to 120,000 euros in 2018. This increase in budget, along with the increase in learning, participation and most importantly trust is a crucial element in the growth of PB projects.
Noeleen Diver, Triangle Housing Association / The Big Dish Out – Northern Ireland
Noeleen talks about Triangle Housing’s journey into participatory budgeting and how the PB process is helping to support tenants with learning difficulties and complex needs. From their very first PB exercise with the simple brief of ‘making life better’, the project has gone from strength to strength. In 2018 they were very pleased to join a consortium of partners to pilot PB, with the local council and others, in two areas. ‘The Big Dish Out’ project – held two events that helped to generate 34 ideas from the community. Noeleen talks about how the the real success is not about the money but about the celebration, collaboration and sense of community spirit that PB brings.
Her story starts with an introduction to Jez Hall from PB Partners in 2016, where her and her team were ‘blown away’ by the possibilities of PB, and how his ongoing mentoring and support has helped to turn theory into practice, enabling them to develop and test a rolling programme of PB projects.
They have since joined with others to launch the network in March this year as part of the Civic Engagement Programme run by Building Change Trust and funded by the Big Lottery. As well as running themed workshops, the network is mentoring three other PB projects where people are able to test PB tools and processes. They are delighted that more projects are now in the planning stages.
Big Dish Out Consortium wastenotime.net/the-big-dish-out
Emma Smith, Welsh Government – Wales
Emma Smith talks about how the Welsh Government is looking to increase participation and engagement in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act – which requires that public bodies to apply the five ways of working – one of which is participation.
She shares how they looked to Scotland’s approach to PB, as well as drawing on global examples through their own research through the Public Policy Institute for Wales (now Wales Centre for Public Policy).
Recent pilot project results, initiated by Welsh Government have led to a better understanding on public perception around where public money (e.g taxes, funding) comes from and where it goes to. As a developed administration with money coming from both Welsh and UK governments, this is complicated and key to PB moving forward in Wales is the need to develop peoples understanding around this first.
Their research has also identified that people in Wales were more interested in their local area rather than whole country approaches, which were less meaningful to them. Finally Emma shared an experience of testing new digital engagement methods at a grassroots community council level which has proved successful, with 25% of the target population responding.
Read the report: PPIW Report Publication: Participatory Budgeting