How What Works Scotland has inspired, informed and facilitated developments in participatory budgeting locally, nationally and internationally.


Contributing evidence

What Works Scotland has raised awareness and shared evidence about participatory budgeting (PB) through keynote speeches at national and international events including:

  • Scottish Leaders Forum (2014)
  • Community Planning National Conference (2014)
  • Annual Conference of the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators (2015)
  • International Participatory Budgeting Conference held by the Scottish Government (2016)
  • Annual Conference of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (2017)
  • Latin American Government and Public Administration International Conference (2017)
  • Annual Conference of the Scottish Centre of Procurement Expertise for Local Government in Scotland (2018).

Contributing to policy

What Works Scotland has contributed to the Scottish Government’s Participatory Budgeting Working Group since its creation in 2014 providing advice on the development of PB processes, practices and networks, as well as investment and capacity-building, across local authorities.

This has entailed ongoing collaboration across sectors including organisations such as the Scottish Community Development Centre, Glasgow Centre for Population Health, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Scottish Community Alliance and Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations to inform PB policy and practice in Scotland.

Graphic illustrating the Participatory Budgeting evaluation process. Four arrows point from one to the next starting with one labelled Aim, then Planning, then Process, then Impact. Underneath are pieces of text that relate to each arrow, as follows: Aim: What to do we want to achieve?, Planning: How good is our leadership?, Process: How good is our delivery of key processes? Impact: What key outcomes have we achieved? All four sections have smaller arrows in both directions up up to each individual section and down to a piece of text that underlies all four sections which asks ''What is out our capacity for improvement?Contributing to practice

What Works Scotland has provided advice on local PB policy and implementation across the country, including local authorities, community planning partnerships (CPPs) and/or third sector interfaces in Highlands & Islands, Moray, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, West Lothian, Stirling, Midlothian, Glasgow, Edinburgh, West Dunbartonshire and Fife.

What Works Scotland has also contributed to building capacity by supporting a cross-sector group of practitioners from Glasgow’s CPP to establish a PB Evaluation Group. Through a collaborative approach, they  developed Glasgow’s Participatory Budgeting Evaluation Toolkit to assess the impact of participatory budgeting activities and develop an improvement plan after implementation.

In Glasgow, implementation has morphed into the new Glasgow-wide PB Steering Group to oversee four pilots as a basis for mainstreaming PB in the city over the next two years –and in which What Works Scotland researchers are involved to provide advice and build capacity for evaluation.

What Works Scotland’s support for capacity-building included a fact-finding visit to Paris, by representatives of Glasgow and Fife CPPs to learn about mainstreaming PB options – so developing a cross-Scotland and cross-European connection. For two days, the workers visited Paris, Europe’s leading city for mainstreaming PB, and met with the Paris PB Steering group, the PB lead officer for Paris, and PB practitioners across the city.

Inquiry group members demonstrated learning by participating in a film of the visit, writing blogs, and offering presentations about the visit to convey the learning to others (e.g. to Community Planning Network in Scotland; LARIA; PB Scotland Conference; Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland; and Jam & Justice, Manchester).

Evidence of impact/changes


Graphic with data about participatory budgeting in ScotlandThe Scottish Government’s Community Choices program supports and promotes PB nationally. It is delivered in partnership with local authorities, communities and civil society organisations, and What Works Scotland’s role has been to support these developments through research, knowledge exchange and policy advice at the PB Working Group and through ongoing collaboration with the Scottish Government Community Empowerment Team. Since 2014/15, this has entailed providing evidence and advice to inform the investment of £4.7 million by the Scottish Government, and match-funding of £1.5 million from local authorities, which has brought the total to £6.2 million. This has resulted in the proliferation of PB processes from a handful in 2010 to 60 by 2016 and over 200 in 2018.

Additionally, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities agreed the mainstreaming of PB so that by 2021 all local authorities will allocate at least 1% of their budgets using PB. The impact of PB on people’s lives and communities across Scotland will have to be assessed once all these developments bed in, but What Works Scotland has contributed to lay strong foundations for current policy and the assessment of its implementation.


What Works Scotland publications on PB are widely used to inform research and practice and are among the top 10 all-time downloads from the What Works Scotland website (1033 total downloads by January 2019).

Other examples are:

  • Glasgow Caledonian University’s official evaluation of PB at national level, commissioned by the Scottish Government, uses analytical resources developed by What Works Scotland as a foundation for the evaluation program.
  • Stirling Council noted in its Council minutes that they are also using What What Scotland resources to inform their development of PB.

There is also indication of the use of the What Works Scotland evaluation toolkit developed in Glasgow:

Links are established and continue to flourish between Fife and Glasgow CPPs. Since the visit to Paris, Glasgow and Fife have been in close contact about their next PB steps, and hence the visit has stimulated a new cross-CPP policy and practice learning relationship. The international learning and connections developed in the two-day visit are therefore being sustained. Also, with What Works Scotland encouragement, they each met with Mr Ari Brodach, PB lead for Paris, when he visited Scotland in February 2017 to sustain their European relationship.

What Works Scotland has provided research skills training and mentoring to Glasgow Disability Alliance (GDA) in their Scottish Government-funded 2018 work to scope out ways in which disabled people can be better involved in PB initiatives, and building capacity amongst disabled people to conduct this research. The findings from the GDA collaborative action research process Budgeting for Equality were published in August 2018, acknowledging the What Works Scotland role. The report highlights the experiences and views of disabled people in relation to having their voices heard in decision making processes, in and beyond PB.

Throughout 2018 What Works Scotland continued working with practitioners in Glasgow by:

  • supporting Glasgow CPP with devising processes to involve practitioners and local people in conducting evaluation of their 2018-19 £1m four-area PB initiative.
  • advising the new administration in Glasgow City Council on the process of mainstreaming PB and building civic infrastructure to meet the national target for 2021.


What Works Scotland is recognized as an authoritative voice about PB policy and practice in Scotland and beyond. For example, we led the co-writing of the most comprehensive and up-to-date account of the evolution of PB, PB in Scotland: The interplay between public service reform, community empowerment and social justice, as part of the largest global collection of research on PB (open access book: Hope for democracy: 30 years of PB worldwide).

In another example, our recent article in BMC Public Health – The impact of participatory budgeting on health and wellbeing: A scoping review of evaluations – reached a global readership with 544 views in only two months following its publication in July 2018.

See all of our participatory budgeting resources