This case details how Milton Keynes council in the UK initiated a participatory budgeting project where local communities engaged in the process of deciding how to allocate resources, thereby engaging with one another and democratic processes.
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Problems and Purpose
After low participation during a participatory budgeting event in September, Milton Keynes Council decided to re-launch the pilot project in December. Their goal was to establish PB as an ongoing innovation and to increase general involvement in community and democratic life on the Fishermead estate.
Background History and Context
This participatory budgeting voting event was originally run under the banner of “You Say, We Pay!” in September 2011 but low attendance led to a re-run in December 2011. Though the name changed it was clearly linked to the original “You Say, We Pay!” name in all advertising but incorporated a more fun element involving a youth choir, light sculptures, African drumming and a juggling Disco Stu on stilts. Following a light and song procession residents were led back to market stalls where the various projects “sold” their ideas and voting took place.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
- Milton Keynes Council
- Campbell Park Parish Council
Participant Recruitment and Selection
This initiative was a joint venture between Milton Keynes Council and Campbell Park Parish Council who jointly funded the project.
Support was also given by Inter-Action MK, an arts based organisation, who worked with local school children and residents on the estate to promote the project. Valuable support also came from Thames Valley Police local neighbourhood policing team and Community Action MK’s estate based Community Mobiliser.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative uses participatory budgeting, an increasingly common method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations .
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
£5,000 of the Parish Council's budget was matched by Milton Keyne's council making a total of £10,000 available for this PB project.
Following a launch event, and supporting publicity, residents and resident groups were encouraged and supported to apply for a small grant to finance/part finance a project that would benefit the Fishermead estates community. Grants ranging from £500 - £1,500 could be applied for.
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
From an initial 15 applications for funding 8 projects entered the voting process. From these the 5 projects that received the most votes were awarded funding.
Winning projects were:
- a community radio station
- the estates community café
- assistance towards providing an outdoor classroom/picnic area for the local infants school
- improvements to a sheltered housing schemes communal garden
- a new project to support and provide a hot evening meal to children on the estate who receive free school meals
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Original Source: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/case-studies/case-studies/glow-... [DEAD LINK]
This case study was originally submitted to the Participatory Budgeting Unit by the organisers of the project, using a template supplied by the PB Unit.
Lead Image: https://goo.gl/J7WhHY