In 2014, the City of Darebin Council used a participatory budgeting process to engage with the local community on how best to spend the $2 million infrastructure fund. Darebin, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, convened a 44-resident Citizens' Jury to develop recommendations.
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Problems and Purpose
Darebin Council decided to adopt a participatory budgeting approach to decide how to make the best use of its infrastructure fund. The fund was established in 2013 along with a commitment from then Darebin Mayor to consult the community on how it should be used. The PB took the form of a citizens jury of 44 people, who were asked to deliberate on the following question:
How should we best spend $2m to improve our community through use of infrastructure funding? 
Background History and Context
According to Darebin City Council, "every council in Victoria is dealing with issues of infrastructure. Some infrastructure is old and needs renewal. Some newer areas need a lot of infrastructure."  In 2013, Darebin chose to accomodate its growing population through the development of an infrastructure fund. Darebin’s "population grows by 5 people every week with 33% of Darebin’s residents born overseas and 38% speaking a language other than English at home." 
The "2013/14 Council budget sought to maximise the possibility of meeting a whole range of community expectations with a modest rate increase of 3.9 per cent, plus an additional 2 per cent for the creation of the infrastructure fund".  At first, the fund was just intended to supplement government funding; for instance, it contributed "$1.89 million in 2013/14 to the development of Keon Park Community Hub in Reservoir." 
On behalf of the Council, the Mayor committed to seeking to "consult the community to determine how the infrastructure fund will be utilised" in the future, as was "reported in the 2013/14 budget papers and published in The Leader newspaper."  In order to fulfil this objective, the city decided to implement a process of participatory budgeting.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The PB process was established and funded by City of Darebin Council. The recruitment, design and management of the jury was carried out by newDemocracy Foundation, whilst the facilitation was conducted by Annie Bolitho and Associates.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The 44 jurors were drawn from a random sample of 3,000 Darebin residents. From this a stratified sample is selected to ensure a representative group from the local community. Participant selection was conducted by newDemocracy Foundation, an independent, non partisan research organisation.
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. 
This initiative used a citizens' jury, broadly defined as a small group of randomly-selected individuals who come together to deliberate on an issue after hearing from experts in order to provide recommendations on future action for decision-makers.  The deliberative democratic process is intended to result in consensus.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The jury met four times over four months in 2014. The process was facilitated by Annie Bolitho and Associates, an independent group of expert facilitators specialising in community engagement.
The jury received submissions from the public, stakeholder groups and community organisations with proposed projects. They also heard evidence from external experts, senior managers and staff to help decide from 54 possible projects.
The following is a quote from David, a member of the Darebin jury, discussing the importance of good facilitation :
"We had spirited discussions but we never had an argument and worked well as a team. The greatest support was the facilitators who kept us on track, allowing for necessary diversions, and making sure everyone in the group had a say. Not everyone was confident enough to stand up in a room and express their views, but we found everyone had something important to contribute"
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The jurors presented their final eight recommendations to the council on August 26th 2014. The recommended infrastructure developments focussed on supporting disadvantaged areas of the community and comprised :
- a dedicated community centre in East Preston, a low socio-economic demographic area of Darebin with no current dedicated facility for the community.
- exercise equipment in parks, to improve health and wellbeing for all sections of the community, especially older and economically disadvantaged people.
- outdoor multi-purpose sports courts to encourage sports for all children and to increase interaction in the community.
- transforming part of All Nations Park from an unsafe area to a community-friendly area through various initiatives.
- Darebin pop-up piazza - aimed at creating space for people in Darebin to engage in different activities.
- creating a permanent bike path in a certain area to meet community requirements and to replace an informal track.
- provide a small grant to local hockey club to improve facilities.
- allocate any remaining funds to community gardens initiatives.
On 15th September 2014, the recommendations were presented to Darebin council for formal consideration. Notably, the council was required to accept recommendations on an “all or nothing” basis. This ‘rule’ was imposed to ensure they could not just select the ideas they liked and to ensure all the jurors support all the recommendations presented. The council unanimously supported all eight of the jury's recommendations.
Following evaluation, the council also decided to run the jury process approximately every two years.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
To evaluate the success of the process, two research projects were undertaken: one by City of Darebin Council and one by newDemocracy Foundation to consider how trust and confidence in deliberative activity changes with participation .
Annie Bolitho, who led facilitation at Darebin, has written a blog reflecting on her involvement. The following is taken from her own analysis of the jury process and reflections on participatory budgeting and citizens' juries more widely :
"At Darebin there was strong evidence throughout the jury that members were in an unusual position to relate to council in productive roles: they became the initiators, for example by putting forward criteria for decision-making and initiating discussions with expert witnesses; they became critical analysts, approaching the selection of expert witnesses from the perspective of expertise available beyond council and undertaking critical examination of council strategies. They adopted the role of rational advocates, adopting evidence presented to them to inform the selection of decision-making criteria. Encouragers assisted older and younger members. A strong process observer called for clarification of process to ensure complete transparency in decision-making. Technicians took on reporting for the final presentation.
Darebin Council’s elected representatives unanimously accepted the Participatory Budgeting Jury’s recommendations. Of the eight projects recommended, six depended on the initiative, community worldview and deliberations of the jury. Council would not have thought of them. Implementing a project such as a pop-up piazza will involve crossing organizational silos. Councillors made statements such as this: ‘The jury has been a highlight of six years on Council.’ ‘The recommendations include a creative element, which is refreshing for us as councillors who often have to have their heads down on day-to-day business.’ One councillor noted that there was pride around the chamber in receiving the recommendations, since councillors had worked together closely on the project and fully supported the process. Perhaps the aspect of the jury’s work that was particularly appreciated was that the jury took a ‘whole of Darebin’ approach and put an equity lens to the fore in setting criteria for prioritising projects.
This is not to say that councillors, senior staff and jurors didn’t experience moments of anxiety and nerves, wondering if the jury was going to reach an outcome in the time available. Running a participatory budgeting process is an intensive, high investment process. Demands made on City of Melbourne and Darebin were significant. Jurors might request as many as 40 items of information at the end of a session, for complex pieces of work, such as costings for a community centre, modelling of rates scenarios or council policy positions on gaps in infrastructure provision.
However from my observation this approach mobilises new thinking, based on the development of new roles, by citizens, councillors and council staff alike. There is eagerness on the part of the citizen participants, such that juror retention rates and commitment are outstanding. Once an organisation has committed to the process there is willingness on the council’s part to hear from critical evaluators, and to value the attributes of citizens as spokespeople. Both the Darebin and City of Melbourne experiences demonstrate mutuality and respect between citizens and councillors around complex issues such as finite budgets, equity and long term planning. The beauty of participatory budgeting is that it was developed to ensure transparency in places experiencing budgetary constraints. With increasingly complex issues to be dealt with, councils and communities do have the capacity to work together productively, such that the community is able to enhance its elected representatives’ work. The participatory budgeting model shows potential to be tailored to specific requirements in different settings. Above all it generates qualities rare in contemporary politics, respect between the parties involved, and the effort to listen."
 Darebin Participatory Budgeting Process May-August 2014. (2014). Retrieved from https://goo.gl/gcLnUz
 Participant pack given to jury members. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/s434972/Downloads/Darebin%20Participatory%20Budgeting%20Participant%20Pack%20A2476299.pdf [dead link]
 Bolitho, A. (2015) Fresh conversations, new stances: deliberative democracy and participatory budgeting [online], Australian Policy Online, available at: http://apo.org.au/resource/fresh-conversations-new-stances-deliberative-...
 Darebin Participatory Budget 2014 (2014). Retrieved from http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/docs/activeprojects...
Annie Bolitho & Associates (facilitators): http://anniebolitho.com.au/citizens-juries/
Final jury recommendations: http://anniebolitho.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Item-901-Appendix-...
newDemocracy Foundation (overall running of the project): http://www.newdemocracy.com.au/ndf-work/182-darebin-participatory-budget...
Quick facts on Darebin Citizens' Jury: file:///C:/Users/s434972/Downloads/Darebin%20Participatory%20Budgeting%20Quick%20Facts%20A2476267%20(1).pdf
 At the time of writing, it was not possible to locate reports from these research projects for a more detailed evaluation.
Lead Image: Darebin Participatory Budgeting Jury https://goo.gl/DQWksd
Secondary Image: Citizens Jury in Darebin, Australia https://goo.gl/31WHLW