In 2008-2009, the English town of Wigan implemented participatory budgeting in order to distribute £20,000 to various community organisations whose projects were thought to improve the community. The initiative allowed democratic engagement in decision-making processes.
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Problems and Purpose
This case study reports on how Wigan used Participatory Budgeting principles to distribute £20,000 to community organisations who were members of the local community empowerment network. The Community Network members in Wigan, including Encompass, were eligible to bid for funds from the £20,000 allocation made by the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) to support the Networks during an interim period of 2008 - 2009 while long term funding was being sought.
Despite short timescales the event was successfully able to agree the relevant amounts each network would receive, using at its heart a voting matrix and agenda developed in conjunction with the PB Unit. It was hoped that it would encourage Wigan LSP to support the idea of a participatory methods of distributing funds in this case specially and also more generally.
Background History and Context
Community empowerment networks were set up accross England with direct central government funding under New Labour's New Deal for Communities programme around 2006. The aim w as to provide an independant voice for the voluntary sector. But funding for the networks, which were supposed to become local self sustaining was wound down around 2008. In Wigan, local funding enabled the continuation of the network whilst clarity on long term funding arrangements was being sought.
Members of Encompass had been to a PB event at Urban Forum and were attracted to the idea of PB. Encompass members met with the PB Unit to discuss options as to how the £20,000 made available from the LSP could be distributed. It was agreed that PB would be used. Joe Taylor (Encompass) liaised with Jez Hall (PB Unit) and members of the network to agree to a process for making 3 minute presentations. A simple matrix was developed to convert the scoring into percentage allocations.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Encompass is the Wigan Community Network's strategic body (and the local successor to the Community Empowerment Network.) Five of its members represent the community on the Local Strategic Partnership and one of it's members is the acting chair of Urban Forum.
The LSP was fully aware of how the work was planned and delivered through their officers who work closely with members of Encompass.
The community sector, supportive council officers and representatives from other arm’s length organisations (LINk and Social Housing) are all stakeholders to Encompass. The Ascend Network was a convenient forum to trial PB locally, and strengthen the newly formed Encompass organisation.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
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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
The members of Ascend (Association for Social, Community and Environmental Network Development), a forum that gives voice, support and capacity building opportunities to individuals, groups and organisations throughout the borough heard presentations from network members at a meeting held on the 26th November 2008. Participants were able to vote on the quality of the presentations made by the Community Network members.
An evening time decision event was held at Wigan town hall to support members of Encompass working across the Borough. There, around 25-30 network stakeholders from ASCEND and Encompass could hear presentations from the 6 networks seeking support. Resources were allocated on the basis of scorces out of 10 against some easily understood criteria .
In two cases members of the network then volunteered to donate part of their resources to others to allow the most effective use of the resources collectively available to them. This was an opportunity for the network to demonstrate working in partnership and show regard for the interests of all its members.
Final allocations included: Encompass (£4084); Wigan Borough Heritage Network (£2000); Over 50’s (£3296); Wigan & Leigh Disability Forum (£2756); Borough Wide Community Network (£3464); and World in Wigan (£4400).
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The process informed and involved members of the ASCEND network about how the money was to be spent. The project was planned and delivered in a very short timescale. However, feedback was very positive. It gave all concerned, including previous doubters, faith in the process. It cut out the need to disappoint people with a non-transparent panel of judges. This was a first in Wigan. The hope was that it would pave the way for larger events. It was to be reviewed by the LSP (four members were present on the evening).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 Original Source: Taylor, J. Participatory Budgeting in Wigan. Retrieved from https://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/case-studies/participatory-budgeting-in-wigan/. Accessed on:26/07/2013
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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