Fife is one of four community planning partnership areas working with What Works Scotland. In Fife the WWS enquiry has focused on exploring 3 themes at local level in Kirkcaldy: a school intervention initiative, the development of local welfare hub services, and different collaborative approaches to support families in neighbourhood development areas. One of Glasgow’s local enquiries has focused on participatory budgeting (PB), drawing on experiences from elsewhere including learning from Fife. Through opening up the learning to other What Works Scotland case study sites, Fife had a unique opportunity to accompany Glasgow in a three-day fact-finding visit to Paris: a rare chance to go out and look at how Participatory Budgeting is being delivered in an international context. Team Fife on the visit to Paris had a mix of experience in participating in and leading PB in Fife, and with different professional backgrounds – including research and community learning and development – which ensured Fife-wide, local, and community engagement lenses.

In this blog post Coryn Barclay, Julie Dickson, and David McGrath from Fife Council reflect on what they learned from the study trip.

Perceptions – our initial observations!

  • The openness and honesty of the Paris team was very useful to build a real picture of the work. The immersive experience was very different from just attending a presentation. It gave us the opportunity to ask questions, reflect on and discuss with colleagues from Glasgow, and go back and ask more!
  • The Paris PB process involves the public in making decisions about the Capital Budget (which is substantial, 75m €uros this year).
  • Each arrondissement (district) can allocate up to 30% of their Capital budget to be determined by the PB process. For every successful project there is a chance to lever 2€ for every 1€ committed by the arondissement – a strong incentive to get buy-in from both local neighbourhoods and services!
  • The people of Paris put forward their ideas, projects and improvements to be delivered by services from the City of Paris. Projects are fully costed before being put to the public vote and expected to have no ongoing revenue implications – interesting when a number of projects were playparks.Fife PB Blog photo 1
  • The scale of the investment in Paris is impressive – not just the budget but the ongoing staffing allocation to run what is a yearlong process. On top of the central PB team, each project goes through a fairly substantial assessment process for checking the feasibility, cost, political appetite and checking to see if the projects are within the remit of the City of Paris – this is reliant on the expertise of the relevant departments.
  • There were interesting differences in the approach to the voting which we found intriguing. Do we get hung up on a minority that may exploit the voting system, and is this to the detriment of maximising and widening civic and democratic participation?
  • There appeared to be a lack of evidence base of the impact of PB, and when we asked what the outcome was they were hoping to achieve or what success would look like it seemed to be mainly about the participation in voting and number of projects. There seems to be little information on how PB reduces the inequalities gap and delivery of service in low income neighbourhoods
  • It was clear to us that the success or otherwise for PB in the districts were dependent on political leadership and support as well as a foundation of good community development and community networks.

Participation

  • Paris has developed a really engaging online platform (interactive website) to widen public engagement in the PB process: from identifying a project, to showing support for a project (similar to a ‘like’ on Facebook), encouraging people to get involved in developing project ideas, through to the voting. Glasgow may develop their own – watch this space!
  • Where projects were similar, people were encouraged to work together and support was provided for this to happen – this allowed more people to get involved and, of course, more support for the final project.
  • Although online is a big part of the Paris model, they engage with communities in other ways. For example, bikes with ballot boxes went out and about in communities, giving a strong local presence to PB, and recognising that not everyone is active online.
  • People had the opportunity to suggest and vote both for projects in their neighbourhood and also for Citywide projects – widening the potential interest and participation. Could this model work at area level and then in targeted neighbourhoods in Fife?

Parallels – and considerations from a Fife perspective

  • We heard from the best practice example of the 10th arrondissement where they had people who worked locally in the neighbourhoods in a similar way to the Local Development Officers in Kirkcaldy and Inverkeithing.Fife PB Blog photo 2
  • Pace is important – there was significant political pressure to deliver this extraordinarily quickly which included the design and implementation of an online platform – this appeared to be at the expense of being clear about the outcomes and expected impact. We need to consider the participation of more marginalised neighbourhoods and communities of interest.
  • We need to make space to reflect on where we are with PB in Fife and what our ambition is. For example, as we develop Fife’s Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP), what is the role for PB within this?
  • We need to continue to share learning between Fife and Glasgow as we go forward.

See the other blogs about the study trip:

Also see other What Works Scotland resources about participatory budgeting here

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