The town of Adeyfield in Hertfordshire County, UK, initiated a participatory budgeting event referred to as "You Choose" in order to let local stakeholders democratically decide how £50,000 would be allocated in their community as part of their localism agenda.
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Problems and Purpose
As part of Hertfordshire County Council's localism agenda, £50,000 was allocated for an event in Adeyfield using participatory budgeting principles. Surveys on the percentage of people who feel they can influence decisions in their locality, had highlighted that the lowest scores throughout Hertfordshire were in Dacorum Borough and, within Dacorum, the lowest scores were to be found in the Adeyfield neighbourhood of Hemel Hempstead. The participatory budget was a way to increase feelings of civic trust and agency over community decisions.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The process was led by Dacorum Borough Council’s neighbourhood action team (working in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council) in this exercise, the first of its type in the county. As part of Hertfordshire County Council's localism agenda, £50,000 was put up for participatory allocation.
A steering group arranged the publicity, timetable criteria for bids and the arrangements for inviting bids and the subsequent voting event.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
A steering group, comprising local residents, local councillors and local staff from schools and the police was set up in summer 2010, invitations to local groups to bid for projects meeting local needs (as published in the Adeyfield neighbourhood action plan) were invited in September and the decision day held on 13th November. Various events were held to raise awareness during the summer and autumn and help residents understand the process. 20 bids were submitted and 176 people attended the decision day – far exceeding the organisers’ expectations.
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
Around 176 local people, of all ages, attended the event at the local community centre to decide on the bids that should be approved.
After presentations from all 20 bidders and a subsequent question and answer session, residents were asked to vote for the three projects they felt would best meet the needs of the area, in order of preference.
The successful bids included:
- An outdoor area at a local pre-school to be made safe for children and improve the environment locally.
- A nature area at the local primary school to be open to the local community
- A shelter for young people at the local adventure playground
- Half the cost of a new mini-bus for the local secondary school (to be used by community groups as well)
- New equipment for a boxing club
- Items for a bingo club based in one of the neighbourhood’s churches
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
The full evaluation of the exercise is now being carried out. This will include consideration of the feedback forms completed by those attending (whether as bidders or local residents voting on the day). However, there was no doubt about the enthusiasm of those participating and about the hope that such an event will be held again.
The high turnout was a tribute to the hard work of the very energetic Steering Group, the enthusiasm with which local schools joined in the initiative from the early days and the efforts of the council’s Neighbourhood Action team in communicating with people and organisations throughout the area.
Of particular note is that the steering group decided to reject the offer of using electronic voting devices in favour of traditional paper voting slips (with each voter given three preferential votes. This lengthened the count – but created an additional element of theatre (and fun) for all participants (bidders and voters) who gathered around the stage as the steering committee and local councillors conducted the count.
This was a pilot exercise with no guarantees of funding in future years. However, the success of the project has encouraged the organisers to seek funding from other sources, notably the business community in the area (which includes Hemel Hempstead’s large Maylands industrial and commercial area) upon which to base similar events in future.
The event was recorded on video and more photographs can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/38077137@N00/sets/72157625375112672/with/5171812463/
Dacorum Borough Council Official Website: https://www.dacorum.gov.uk/; Dacorum Borough Council Statement of Accounts 2010/11
Tomorrow's Councillor (p. 14)
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.
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