One Parent Families Scotland and Ardenglen Housing Association brought together two communities of interest, John Paul II and Miller Primaries to hear from pupils and parents on how each school should spend £10,000 to help lower the cost of the school day.
Problems and Purpose
In March of 2018, Scottish Government Community Choices funded allotted 20,000 GBP to John Paul II Primary School and Miller Primary School in the Castlemilk ward in Glasgow, Scotland. The schools put together an event with the help and direction of the Scottish Community Development Centre, One Parent Families Scotland, and Ardenglen Housing Association, in order to increase participation around how they should allocate the money. The goal of the event was to determine the most appropriate use for the 20,000 GBP allotted to the schools to lower the cost of a school day. This participatory budgeting process allowed for the participating members of the schools’ communities to devise their own possible solutions.
The cost of a school day is simply too high for some in Glasgow. While the anticipation of World Book Day brought this issue to light, the poverty in the Castlemilk ward had reached high levels.1 The purpose of the PB process event was to determine the most effective use of 20,000 GBP split between two different schools in Glasgow. Each school would be given 10,000 GBP and were free to use it based upon the outcome of their participatory budgeting session.
Background History and Context
Glasgow City Council demolished parts of the city in the 1950s, and relocated the displaced populations to neighborhoods like Castlemilk. John Paul II and Miller Primary Schools are both located in Castlemilk, Glasgow, which is known for its economic disparity. In Castlemilk, 44.4% of children live in poverty, and the children also makeup 20% of the population. Castlemilk is also known for having a higher proportion of student-age citizens than the rest of Glasgow. This means the number of people being affected by the cost of a school day is disproportionately high in Castlemilk compared to the rest of Glasgow.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
This participatory budgeting event was organized by One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) in partnership with Ardenglen Housing Association. The parents were informed through leaflets and school newsletters put in bookbags. OPFS also spent much time standing outside the school speaking to parents who came to pick up their children. There were also community briefing sessions held on participatory budgeting and school day poverty leading up to the event. They held several meetings, facilitated by the OPFS coordinator, which covered deliberation over the PB process and design, as well as topics like voting ages.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
This event was open to everyone with close ties to the school, including faculty, students, and students’ family members/guardians. They played a direct role by deliberating on how the funding should be spent. The participants were incentivized to attend and interact because the proceedings directly impacted either themselves, their jobs, or their children. There was no monetary incentivization but there was food served at the events.
Methods and Tools Used
This interaction used small group deliberation to implement participatory budgeting, a process in which all participants were given equal information, speaking ability, and voting power in order to deliberate and decide what the issues were, how to solve them, and what needed to be implemented to solve them. One Parent Families Scotland took on primary responsibility for facilitation to begin talks between the faculty and parents. They ran into the issue of the principal of one of the schools trying to dominate the conversation, but this was rectified by the parents making their voices heard and the principal acknowledging their points of view and how his proposed solution didn’t take them into account. Dynamic facilitation was used along with participatory budgeting to empower the community involved to have full agency in the situation.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The parents were committed to being a part of the deliberation. Following the introduction, the information on participatory budgeting information was given in a plain language in order to be accessible to everyone involved. However, there was an inefficiency when initially, some school staff told parents that they knew exactly what to do with the funds. Parents gradually grew in confidence in being heard and specifying that decisions would be taken jointly and that parents, children, and teachers would have an equal vote on where funds are spent.
While they had a role, teachers were less dominant than parents. Some stopped attending meetings, but others remained and contributed positively. The parents had the aptitude to handle a facilitation role with differing opinions and move forward effectively. In their dialogue, parents were confronted with situations where they had to deal with points, ideas or opinions that they disagreed with or had not encountered.
During the process, participants recognized an important question for their participatory budgeting decision-making, namely, could children be allowed to vote? Participants discussed this at the meeting, as it had not been previously agreed upon. With more time and dialogue, the participants came to the conclusion that there would not be a minimum voting age; instead, parents had the decision to whether or not allow their children to vote.
The children themselves had an opportunity to come up with different proposals to lower the cost of this World Book day and they came up with have a voting day where it decided how future actions would work. For example, there was one event, held on a Saturday afternoon in a community hall located between both schools and the event was marketed as a fun day, with food, face-painting, etc. At the event, people stood up on a stage to ‘pitch’ their idea for how the funding should be invested in lowering the cost of the school day.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
While initially, the event might have resulted in purchasing costumes for a single school activity, after the deliberation, the key outcome was to instead fund community activities where the intergenerational community and children would they would make costumes together. Some parents who had limited involvement went on to join the management committee of the housing association, supporting decent housing in the area. Parents grew in confidence, to where they would say that they could and should speak out because their view is as important as any other. At the end of the day, the money was used to fund the Uniform bank, hosting world book day, and putting in subsidies for school trips.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The participatory budgeting method helped the participants understand the situation, and therefore move forward in deliberation to determine the best allocation of the budget. The information given to the participants allowed them to have the confidence and enthusiasm throughout the deliberation. The decision was made after the deliberation and then executed later by listening to the voice of the community with a voting day.
For future events, the Scottish Community Development Centre staff reflected that there could be more awareness in terms of how they come across to the public with the recruitment of participants in order to avoid the speculation of parents. Additionally, clearer facilitation could be used to limit some individuals dominating the conversation.
The original submission of this case entry is based on an unpublished evaluation report written by David Reilly (Scottish Community Development Centre) for Participatory Budgeting Scotland. The first submission for Participedia was developed as part of an international learning seminar organised by Childrens Neighbourhoods Scotland, where Reilly was interviewed by Wabash College students Cristian Aleman, Jackson Baldwin, Andrew Castellano, and faculty member Sara Drury. Subsequent revisions and feedback were given by Reilly. It has since been edited and built upon by the Participedia community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the authors or organizations mentioned.