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Participatory budgeting

Calendar icon Communities

Folder icon Jan 2010 - Ongoing

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a process that includes citizens in deciding how to spend public money. It tends to centre around inequalities, driven by the desire to reallocate public money, locally and democratically, within disadvantaged communities, to priority initiatives, projects and services identified by local people.  

PB is particularly relevant to population health as it is a mechanism which seeks to redress the power inequalities which underpin social and health inequalities.  

objectives icon Project objectives

The overarching objective of the GCPH work on PB has been to support the development and implementation of PB nationally. Working with a range of partner agencies and in different communities across Glasgow City, the core approach has been to evaluate grassroots PB processes and to translate this community-based learning into national strategic recommendations and implications for PB policy and practice.  

involved icon What is involved

With the exception of our 2016 review of PB across Scotland, 2018 briefing paper concerning how to evaluate PB processes, and the reflective book chapter within “Hope for Democracy” (2018), all GCPH-led PB projects have been community-based evaluations. These have involved primarily qualitative methodologies to describe the PB context and key elements of the PB process including community engagement, quality of democratic process, and how these steps in the process relate to the projects funded and potential impacts.  

Evaluating PB can be extremely challenging as it is a varied, complex and context-driven process. It is and should be unique to each community within which it is implemented. Consequently, generalising PB learning across regions, or even the nation as a whole, has been done with care. 

The 2016 national review of PB across Scotland was a primarily desk-based analysis of PB monitoring data held by the Scottish Government. The 2018 briefing paper on PB evaluation was written to support community-based organisations by providing a framework which would support self-evaluation and monitoring. GCPH also co-authored a chapter within a global review of PB processes entitled “Hope for Democracy, which reflected on a range of PB developments across Scotland and the development of PB policy, practice and research. 

findings icon Findings & outcomes

Overall, our evaluation work on PB has found that it has the potential to energise and empower communities and to transform and enrich the relationships between citizens, community groups, community anchor organisations, and all levels of government and public service.  

PB can be an effective and adaptive means of deepening democratic processes and enhancing local participation. It can illuminate community aspirations and priorities, and provide clear direction as to the ways in which service delivery can be improved and potentially co-produced. Our evaluations have reported strong, positive impacts of PB and present a range of important learning and considerations moving forward. One such aspect of learning across the evaluation has been the potential frictions between democratic innovations such as PB and the established institutions of representative democracy. Strategic attention must be paid to how these different principles and practice can complement each other to strengthen democracy overall. 

Our work highlights that, like all democratic processes, PB is not perfect. However, when it works well, PB can be a process of significant learning and collaborative development for those involved. 

Specific findings and outcomes from each individual evaluation project can be found in the relevant evaluation reports below. 

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Evaluation of Sistema Scotland

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