In a new blog by Jez Hall, published on the Shared Future CIC website outlines why he thinks PB and reducing social isolation go together. Highlights of his blog are below.
"Recently I’ve been coordinating a citizen inquiry on elderly care at home, where social isolation is a key emerging theme to promoting well-being and preventing pressure on public services, such as costly hospital admissions.
"With an elderly mother of my own who is increasingly needing care at home it’s a subject close to my heart."
"Not least because of my common interest in Participatory Budgeting (PB), that, like a citizens inquiry, aims to include citizen voice whenever and wherever public money is being spent. I believe PB can help reduce social isolation.
I think there are many examples where PB support social inclusion.
Both accidentally, in what emerged as an unintended consequence of a PB project; or by design, through the criteria used. PB grant making at the local level builds a sense of community spirit and connective-ness and allow members of ‘easy to ignore’ communities become more visible, and connect into things going on in their community.
The Edinburgh Canny Wi’ Cash example would fit this model. Nearly all the projects funded were around reducing social isolation among the elderly. “Our voice is being heard at last”, the title of their report spells it out I think. But its one of many examples that might make the case. Like the North Ayrshire Mental Health PB, where tackling social isolation was one of the core themes. Or the Richmond Fellowship Scotland’s “Outcomes are fun” process, where opportunities to socialise among those with learning difficulties was the key goal.
Always “do with, not to”.
I don’t think I am making a wild assumption that PB may be a preventative approach, in line with the Scottish Christie Commission’s recommendations to reform public services. By focussing on prevention we can free up much needed resource. A rough statistic being that up to a third of public money is wasted by not doing so.But the journey of trust from communities to officers is often shorter that the journey from those government officers to the community.
Do public officials want to change? Do they have to be encouraged? I believe the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. But can power be given, or does it have to also be taken? Sometimes the best of intentions falls short through the inevitable complexity of empowerment, inadequate resources, and from poor design choices.
I’ll finish by offering a few action points to choose from
If you are considering how to go about improving social inclusion, through PB, or through any citizen engagement strategy you need to be clear what matters, and how to demonstrate success.
The first action point is a quote from report by Oliver Escobar:
- “Evaluation: Despite increasing interest in PB, evaluations applying robust methods to analyse health and well-being outcomes are scarce, particularly beyond Brazil. Therefore, implementation of PB schemes should be accompanied by rigorous qualitative and quantitative evaluation to identify impacts and the processes by which they are realised.”
And my top choices would be:
- Design: In the design of PB processes, like any project designed to tackle social isolation and in line with best practice in co-production, it is important to include individuals or groups that come from, represent, or have lived experience of social isolation or other forms of exclusion. Always ‘do with, not to’.
- Action: PB processes should be considered a way to promote the value of civic action and encourage community cohesion, and thereby a mechanism for promoting social inclusion.
- Equality: PB processes, like all public policy should include consideration of equalities duties and focus on promoting of social inclusion to enable the broadest possible access and engagement,
and thereby prevent unintended exclusion.
Social inclusion, and a focus on equality, takes work… but is not a ‘nice too’… its a ‘must do’.
Jez Hall coordinates PB work for Shared Future CIC through their PB Partners project. He has been closely involved with PB since 2000, supports much of the work of this producing this website, and works across the UK and internationally on promoting best practice in community empowerment.