Improving Participatory Budgeting in Scotland: A Collaborative Research Project
- General Issues
- Governance & Political Institutions
- Specific Topics
- Research & Development
- Start Date
- End Date
- Time Limited or Repeated?
- A single, defined period of time
- Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
- Total Number of Participants
- Open to All or Limited to Some?
- Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
- Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
- Targeted Demographics
- Appointed Public Servants
- Elected Public Officials
- Facilitator Training
- Professional Facilitators
- Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
- Types of Interaction Among Participants
- Ask & Answer Questions
- Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
- Information & Learning Resources
- Site Visits
- Decision Methods
- Not Applicable
- Communication of Insights & Outcomes
- Word of Mouth
- New Media
- Evidence of Impact
- Implementers of Change
- Appointed Public Servants
- Stakeholder Organizations
- Formal Evaluation
Practitioners from Scotland conducted an international visit to Paris in order to learn about their Participatory Budgeting procedure.
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Problems and Purpose
The purpose of this event was to foster learning about Participatory Budgeting (PB) from an exemplar proponent, namely Paris, and develop partnerships between potential practitioner sites, in this case Glasgow and Fife. This event resulted from work on producing a PB evaluation kit for Glasgow, which can be found here. The key questions about PB in Scotland that What Works Scotland aimed at were:
- What can Scotland learn from our international partners about how to mainstream PB?
- How well do international fact-finding visits work as a model for learning?
- How is learning on international visits adapted for domestic application?
- What are the efficiencies and inefficiencies of international fact-finding visits, including less tangible outcomes such as potential synergies from simply bringing people together with a common focus?
- To what extent might we see evidence of development of a community of practice amongst participants?
Background History and Context
As part of its evidence-gathering, the group discovered that Paris was Europe’s leading city for mainstreaming Participatory Budgeting with the current mayor allocating €100 million to be spent through PB processes each year for five years. They wanted to know how this worked in practice, in particular, what was required in order to scale up to such a large programme. For the officers planning the technical and political dimensions of PB in Glasgow, there were a number of aspects they could learn about from a comparable city that had already mainstreamed PB.
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 two-day study visit to Paris involved members of the Glasgow Participatory Budgeting Collaborative Action Research (CAR) group plus a Glasgow City Council elected member, along with staff from Fife Council and What Works Scotland. What Works Scotland took three officers and one councillor from Glasgow and three officers from Fife.
Methods and Tools Used
The visitors from Scotland were able to take a ‘backstage’ look at the PB process as it took place in Paris. The learning was documented in a video, with participants being interviewed about the trip and asked to reflect on the things they had learned.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
- How meeting officers from Paris allowed Glasgow and Fife into the ‘backstage’ of how the Paris PB mainstreaming model is organised – technically, structurally, politically and practically.
- The roles of language interpretation and of officer preparation and reflection in making international learning work well.
- Glasgow and Fife thinking about PB as a concept. Is it simply a different way of delivering services? Or is it a model to empower citizens, an exemplar of democratic innovation?
- Glasgow and Fife considering how the Paris approach to equality, diversity and PB is compatible with, or distinct from, the Scottish PB ethos.
- Glasgow and Fife learning from each other as a benefit of being together and mutually learning from Paris.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
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Analysis and Lessons Learned
There were a number of key learning points that the group took from the visit to Paris. The lead officer of PB in Glasgow identified the following learning points:
1. Mainstreaming PB
The Scottish Government has asked local authorities to allocate 1% of their budget to Participatory Budgeting. Lessons on how to accelerate from our small grants meant PB process delivered at a much larger scale; of potentially £24 million per annum or more.
PB cannot be delivered effectively at scale without sufficient staff resources. Paris has a team to co-ordinate the delivery of PB and they liaise directly with a designated member of staff in each council department. Paris relies on assistance from their Volunteer Service to boost their PB work; 16-25 year olds volunteer as part of a community assignment for at least 6 months, 24 hours a week and receive a €500 monthly allowance – 300 volunteers were involved in PB last year.
3. Participatory Democracy
Examples were given of how the local mayor; elected members; neighbourhood councils and officers work in collaboration with residents to generate ideas; support applications and implement successful PB projects. There are opportunities for people to come together; develop ideas and share ambitions/local vision; and collaborate with all parties to improve their neighbourhood through PB.
4. Co-producing Projects Using a Digital Platform
Once proposals are live on the PB website (), Parisians can comment and collaborate with the project proposer to further develop any proposal. Submissions with similar themes/geographies are asked to collaborate on and offline for a month to co-construct one proposal to go forward to the voting stage, including attending a workshop to further develop their idea before submitting a final proposal to the voting stage.
5. Do, Think, Review
Paris has adopted an approach which moves away from the standard risk-averse model of plan, do, review, to a do-then-think approach. There is a reasonable amount of planning in place to provide a framework and avoid risk but a willingness thereafter to let things go and deal with the consequences. In doing so they recognised this would inevitably lead to a period of uncertainty but on balance see this as a risk worth taking.
The exercise also gave three key insights into how public services learn on international visits:
Planning international visits is an intensive and collaborative process; In practical terms, this required: translation of multiple emails, negotiating visit dates that would suit both Scotland and Paris, agreeing a formal schedule with Paris, coordinating an interpreter to be part of the visit, and agreeing protocols with all parties, for example on use of social media during the visit.
International learning is about establishing relationships as much as about exchanging information; The long-term payoff from the visit for Glasgow and Fife will come from their ability to contact not only Paris but also each other on an ongoing basis.
Employing an interpreter with specific knowledge and experience beyond the language adds value; this means that they can interpret in formal meetings with knowledge of the both contexts, which saves time (e.g. ‘by Conseils they mean something like Community Councils’), and interpret and assist more effectively with technical details.
Pradeau, G. 2018. A third wave of Participatory Budgeting in France. in: Dias, N. (ed.) Hope for Democracy: 30 Years of Participatory Budgeting Worldwide Faro, Portugal Oficina de Texto. pp. 373-383
Lead Image: Reflections from Glasgow on the PB study visit to Paris/What Works Scotland https://bit.ly/2WS65QN