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Participatory budgeting in Scotland: design choices & delivery principles

Date: December 2015
Category: Report
Work programme: Healthy urban planning
Author: Chris Harkins and Oliver Escobar

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At its core, participatory budgeting (PB) is about community members shaping local services to meet local priorities more effectively. PB is motivated by the desire to democratically reallocate public money at a community level to ‘priority services’ and initiatives identified by residents.

The central methodology used in this paper is a literature review. International research, evaluations, grey literature and commentary concerning PB have been reviewed. This paper specifically draws upon learning and insights from a PB pilot in Govanhill, Glasgow.

The authors; Chris Harkins (GCPH) and Oliver Escobar (What Works Scotland) have resisted previous attempts within PB literature at generating typologies or models of PB delivery designed to support the implementation process. Instead they have argued there is little value in practitioners attempting to import ‘off the shelf’ models. The paper instead outlines ten strategic PB design choices and ten principles for effective delivery. The metaphor here is not ‘transplanting’ but translating and adapting. PB delivery organisations, communities and citizens involved in the PB process are thus encouraged to use the design choices and principles selectively, flexibly and reflectively as meets their specific purpose, need and context.

The report outlines the relevance of PB within Scotland’s political, policy and public service delivery context, and provides an overview of some of the outcomes that have made PB such a popular democratic innovation across the globe. The main PB models that have been developed internationally are explored in order to offer an outline of ten strategic choices in the design of PB processes. Ten principles and considerations for effective delivery of PB specifically within a Scottish context are also presented and explained. In conclusion, the report outlines the key findings and the implications for the future of PB in Scotland.

Find out more about participatory budgeting in Scotland.