A documentary film exploring how community planning partners from two What Works Scotland case sites learnt about implementing participatory budgeting on a study trip to Paris,  a European leader in mainstreaming PB.

One of the goals of What Works Scotland is to understand how public services in Scotland can learn from international evidence. One approach to this is fact-finding visits by public services to international partners working on comparable policy and practice issues.

The context: evaluating participatory budgeting

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.

As part of its evidence-gathering, the group was interested to find that Paris was Europe’s leading city for mainstreaming PB with the current mayor allocating €100 million to be spent through PB processes each year for five years. But how did this work in practice? 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.

In accordance with the collaborative character of our research programme, What Works Scotland invited the other CPPs with whom we worked to join Glasgow on a two-day fact-finding visit to Paris to learn more about mainstreaming PB. Fife CPP was at the right stage to participate. What Works Scotland took three officers and one councillor from Glasgow and three officers from Fife to Paris in December 2016.

How public services learn from international evidence

The visit involved four meetings over two days with lead, technical and operational officers from the Paris PB team, and observation of the Paris PB Steering Group.

Richard Brunner and Nick Watson from What Works Scotland accompanied the group, capturing understanding of how public services officers learn on international visits.

These were the key questions for What Works Scotland:

  • 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?

Documenting the learning process

We filmed the visit to document the learning process and our film-maker Gil Pradeau  interviewed the participants to get their reflections on their learning.

In the film you will see:

  • 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.

Watch the film

Transcript: Public Service Reform and Participatory Budgeting: What Can Scotland Learn from International Evidence? (PDF)

More details

Filming and editing: Gil Pradeau, Chargé de mission, GIS Participation du public, décision, démocratie participative, Paris

Review: Richard Brunner, What Works Scotland and University of Glasgow


Date: Filmed in December 2016. Published in July 2017.

Type of publication: Resource


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Related resources

Paris and Participatory Budgeting: three insights into how public services learn on international visits

Blog post by What Works Scotland research associate Richard Brunner which describes how the Paris visit arose and offers three early insights into how public services learn through international visits. It complements two other blogs by participants in the Paris visit from public services in Glasgow and Fife.

See all participatory budgeting resources from What Works Scotland

Get our reviews, reports, blogs and an evaluation toolkit developed by Glasgow community planning partners.