Winnipeg "Let’s Talk" Budget Consultation 2016
- General Issues
- Planning & Development
- Specific Topics
- Budget - Local
- Government Spending
- Public Amenities
- Scope of Influence
- Parent of this Case
- Winnipeg Budget Consultations
- Start Date
- End Date
- Time Limited or Repeated?
- A single, defined period of time
- Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
- Types of Interaction Among Participants
- Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
- Decision Methods
- Idea Generation
- Type of Organizer/Manager
- Local Government
- For-Profit Business
- Type of Funder
- Local Government
- Evidence of Impact
- Implementers of Change
- Appointed Public Servants
- Formal Evaluation
The 2016 budget consultations were the first to be conducted by the newly established Winnipeg Office of Public Engagement. The consultations consisted of a survey tool, a wikisurvey tool, a telephone survey, and a picture-gathering campaign.
Problems and Purpose
The City of Winnipeg was interested in gathering spending priorities and preferences.
The consultation had four stated goals:
- To inform and educate participants about the current situation of the City, future needs, and how the City has come to the current financial situation;
- To invite participants to provide input on preferences, priorities and ideas of spending areas for the budget;
- To present a NEW WAY of working together, and a first step to building a better budget into the future; and
- To gather input on how to improve the engagement process going forward.
The campaign was limited in scope, with the stated goal “to get a general sense of direction for future decisions, rather than to work directly with participants to allocate spending”.
Background History and Context
In 2014, a new public budget consultation process was implemented in Winnipeg which encouraged citizens to provide feedback through public workshops, an on-line survey, a telephone survey, written submissions or by e-mail. This work was contracted out to a consulting arm which was generally perceived to have conducted an ineffective process with few shifts in spending as a result of community input. The following year another consulting arm conducted a similar exercise which included a series of town hall meetings and an online survey with the results ultimately not reported to council or released to the public. This rocky start to formal budget consultations in the city caught the attention of the incoming Mayor Brian Bowman (assumed office at the end of 2014), who had made a campaign promise to improve public consultation for both the budget and other projects. To this end, Bowman established an Office of Public Engagement in 2015 with a mandate to support all City activities and projects through public consultation and engagement.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The process was organized by the Office of Public Engagement with the help of Dialogue Partners, a for-profit consulting firm specializing in community engagement. Some limited support was provdided by the Winnipeg Public Library to host a kiosk to fill out the survey. The Office of Public Engagment and the budgeting process were funded through regular operations of the City of Winnipeg.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
All members of the public were free to participate. Basic demographic information was gathered as part of the process, with the 31-45 age category and full-time workers representing the bulk of participants. There was low participation of those under 20 and those who were currently not working or those seeking employment.
Methods and Tools Used
The two primary data-gathering mechanisms were:
- A survey tool which captured priorities and preferences of respondents.
- A wiki survey which allowed respondents to both submit ideas and vote on the ideas of others. Respondents were able to submit and vote on as many ideas as they wished.
There were also public workshops, a picture-gathering campaign and a hashtag associated with the process.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The public consultation process began on November 30, 2015 and ran until December 18, 2015. There was only nominal deliberation through the wiki survey tool, with this consultation mostly being an information gathering exercise.
That said, the ideas section gathered hundreds of ideas and thousands of votes with priorities such as the following emerging:
- Plant more native grasses and perennials instead of annuals on boulevards and city flower gardens and pots.
- Stop selling city owned resources for ineffective contracting out.
- Support homeless people.
- Build more pedestrian bridges and more protected bike lanes. The main obstacle to more people riding is safety.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
This process was explictly not tied to specific outcomes and instead was directed at gathering general input, it is difficult to point at specific influence, outcomes, or effects. In general, the media attention and citizen engagement with the consultation process was limited.
The consultation process did produce some ideas, however, these largely were about walk- and bikeability in the City and have been since implemented in the form of a significant investment in a bike strategy for the city.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The Office itself came up with a list of recommendations that includes:
- Give the public more notice that consultation is happening
- Advertise the engagement project through means such as the CBC radio, as not everyone uses social media and the internet as their news source
- A longer timeframe for engagement, a 3 week period was not sufficient
- The timing of this engagement project could be improved as the holiday season is not the ideal time to launch this type of process
- Face to face engagement opportunities would be welcomed and appreciated
- Enlist a committee of community stakeholders from government, business, labour and community groups that work on these issues daily to advise the consultant and the City’s community engagement efforts on the budget
- Utilize community champions to help raise project awareness and involve their neighbours and colleagues in the conversation
Several of these were attempted in subsequent years. See the entries for 2017, 2018, and 2019.
"What We Heard Report: 2016 Budget Consultation Process," City of Winnipeg, https://www.winnipeg.ca/interhom/pdfs/whatweheard.pdf
Dialogue Partners, "City of Winnipeg Case Study," https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58dabed46a4963608e4967cd/t/5afc95238a922d1d71dca5c2/1526502694695/City+of+Winnipeg+Budget+Eng+Case_Study+FINAL.pdf
Lead image: City of Winnipeg, https://goo.gl/TCUYo3