What Works Scotland and Glasgow Community Planning Partners collaboratively developed an evaluation approach to assess the impact of Participatory Budgeting (PB) activities.
Problems and Purpose
What Works Scotland and Glasgow Community Planning Partners recognised the need to develop an evaluation approach to assess the impact of Participatory Budgeting (PB) activities. Using a Collaborative Action Research (CAR) model, the group intended to devise an evaluation toolkit for PB activities in Glasgow.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
This initiative is part of the collaborative action research work between Glasgow Community Planning Partnership and What Works Scotland.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The group drew together professionals in Glasgow from different service areas and the third sector to develop the pilot toolkit. The collaborative action research process offered those involved the space to operate as a new team, and to learn together and from each other. The group included members from various community planning partners and was led by Evelyn O’Donnell from Glasgow City Council and Alex Byers from Glasgow Life. Other group members included representatives from the NHS, the Third Sector Forum and Foundation Scotland. What Works Scotland researchers Richard Brunner (University of Glasgow) and Oliver Escobar (University of Edinburgh) supported and facilitated the group.
Methods and Tools Used
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What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Participatory budgeting (PB) is growing fast in Scotland. As part of its collaborative action research programme in Glasgow, What Works Scotland and public service workers in Glasgow Community Planning Partnership (CPP) worked together to devise a bespoke PB evaluation framework for use in the city. The CAR group met 15 times from mid-2015 to December 2016. They worked together through dialogue and evidence-gathering to decide what was important for them to include in a pilot PB evaluation toolkit for Glasgow.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
During the 18 months that the project took place, the group undertook the following activities in the development of the toolkit:
- Heard evidence from Glasgow Libraries about their PB evaluation process for children’s books.
- Reviewed and discussed national and international PB evaluation literature, including:
- 15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting: A Toolkit for Evaluators and Implementers published by Public Agenda, the Participatory Budgeting Project and the North American Participatory Budgeting Research Board
- Participatory Budgeting in Scotland: An overview of strategic design choices and principles for effective delivery by Chris Harkins and Oliver Escobar.
- Analysed a variety of PB pilots in Glasgow.
- Considered PB evaluation frameworks emerging in the rest of Scotland.
- In collaboration with Fife CPP, visited the Paris PB team to learn about the technical and political dimensions of how they evaluate their Europe-leading PB processes. Evelyn O’Donnell, Fife CPP and What Works Scotland reflected on the learning in a set of public blog posts.
- Devised, drafted, and consulted on the content of the pilot PB evaluation toolkit.
- Learned how the toolkit needed to take a ‘pick and mix’ approach, able to be used by small PB projects in Glasgow for evaluating a small number of dimensions, and also be applied as a ‘full fat’ version by large PB initiatives. It needed to be useful for the community and the third sector as well as for the statutory sector.
- In collaboration with What Works Scotland, they finalised the design of the PB toolkit for use as a working pilot.
- Took ownership for updating the pilot toolkit in future, based on ongoing learning.
The key outcome was the toolkit itself, which can be found here. This toolkit is intended to support any individual or group organising a PB activity to plan how to evaluate their PB process, and to collate the evidence and information required. It offers a ‘pick and mix’ approach so that PB organisers can select what should be evaluated depending on the size and scale of the PB activity they are leading.
It allows PB organisers to determine how best to assess how their organisation or community group did at:
- Leadership and governance of the PB activity (planning)
- Delivery of key PB processes (process)
- Outcomes from the PB activity (impact)
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Through this process the group generated their own bespoke PB evaluation toolkit, rather than buying something ‘off the peg’. The process of doing this enabled the group participants to be able to fully own, understand, and advocate for the use of the Glasgow PB evaluation toolkit, based on evidence. This also meant that it was possible for the toolkit to specifically apply to the culture, context and needs of Glasgow.
One of the main challenges for the CAR process was maintaining involvement by the whole group throughout. Group members all had different priorities, and although the group met at different times and venues, core group involvement was limited to three or four professionals. As What Works Scotland observed in other cases, Collaborative Action Research and co-producing outputs and outcomes can be done but sustaining group member involvement throughout is very challenging.