One of the amazing things about Participatory Budgeting(PB) is how it can push boundaries and break down walls.
Whether its in empowering young people by challenging expectations of how young people can be and also have a say, or towards supporting recovery, or tackling Islamophobia, any community, however marginalised can become more engaged and find greater voice through PB.
An example, small scale perhaps, shows how PB has been used as part of inmate reintegration programmes in Canada. Communitas Montreal carries a report on its PB process in its autumn 2018 newsletter, from which we have extracted the images below for ease of access.
There is an extensive write up on this case on the Participedia website too. Where its noted;
"In one case, a participant on his first outing from the penitentiary in decades had expressed at the outset that he felt quite unsure of himself; nonetheless, he fared well in group deliberations and seemed much more at ease in the subsequent session. In addition, the fact that many participants indicated a desire to use the process again with an even greater sum suggests a certain degree of added confidence as well".
"While some may doubt that those convicted of serious crimes are capable or interested in contributing to decision-making about the common good, this experiment adds further evidence to the contrary."
And this is not the only time the link between PB and prisoner reintegration has been made. Within the NYC PB process its been reported that in 2015 NY Council Member Mark Levine held the first targeted budget assembly for around 100 formerly incarcerated individuals at The Castle. Nearly all turned up to submit their ideas, that included erecting a statue of David Rothenberg, Broadway figure, LGBT activist and social justice campaigner.
“We’re a part of that community, we make that community safe, we are invested in that community. We should have a voice. The participatory budget process allows that to happen,” says Stanley Richards, who’s the first former inmate to join the New York City Board of Corrections. “For us, participating in the political process is about having access to full citizenship, both of New York and of the United States.”
Any budget can be more participatory. Its up to those holding the purse strings to have faith in the value of losing control and trusting the PB process.