In 2011, just as the New Labour sponsored English National Strategy for PB was winding down, the evaluation of the programme undertaken by SQW was published. Though its no longer readily available on UK government websites, unless you know where to look. Therefore a copy of the report "Communities in the Driving Seat" has been uploaded onto this site.
Amongst the findings in the executive summary are:
- Participatory Budgeting was most effective when used in conjunction with other community engagement processes.
- Good decision-making processes need to be followed by the delivery of good projects.
In other words, Participatory Budgeting works as part of a package of community engagement and empowerment; but in order for everyone’s confidence in the approach to be maintained, it has to ensure those who receive funds do what they said they were going to do, when they said they were going to do it.
The research also found that Participatory Budgeting may:
- improve individuals’ and organisations’ self-confidence in tackling neighbourhood issues and in negotiating with public sector organisations
- bring together people from different backgrounds who might not normally meet,
- act as a spur to people to build local voluntary and community organisations,
- encourage participants to get more involved in their communities,
- improve inter-generational understanding,
- raise councillors’ awareness of issues in their wards, improving their ability to act as ‘community champions’,
- increase people’s confidence in local service providers,
- increase turnout at elections, where increased engagement in the political process was an objective of the Participatory Budgeting project.
The study looked at what it termed ‘Participatory Budgeting Version 1.0’ (PB 1.0).
In PB 1.0 most projects were concerned with relatively small area-based arrangements and the allocation of additional, discretionary funds to projects, rather than providing a process for commissioning mainstream services.
In order to apply Participatory Budgeting in new circumstances, policy-makers and practitioners needed to consider the development of ‘Participatory Budgeting Version 2.0’ (PB 2.0). This approach would apply the lessons outlined above to new national and local policy contexts. It would also devise new approaches to take account of changed requirements. For example:
- to inform the use of pooled budgets across a range of services.
- used as a vehicle to increase diversity of local service provision – by providing the opportunity and the means to discuss with communities and voluntary groups opportunities for bidding to provide services.
Furthermore, thereby providing an alternative form of decision-making to traditional commissioning processes, that may not lend themselves to enabling citizens to influence current patterns of provision.
- Download the report Communities in the Driving seat (2.3mb PDF) from this site
- Download direct from the UK Government website
NB: While the findings above are taken directly from the report they have been slightly amended to aid readability.