Civic Engagement - Alternative Budget Initiatives
Alternative budget initiatives are designed to take a fresh approach to public sector budgets.

Civic Engagement - Alternative Budget Initiatives

04 February 2015

As we continue to profile our civic activism tools, which are all available in our online directory, we look at the impact that Alternative Budget Initiatives could have in Northern Ireland.

Alternative budget initiatives are designed to take a fresh approach to public sector budgets.

One of the most high profile uses of this tool was in 2013 and 2014 when the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives developed an Alternative Federal Budget which highlighted “what the federal government could do if it decided to seriously address Canadians’ largest social, economic, and environmental concerns”.

Following extensive research, this group were able to cite statistics outlining the range of potential impacts the alternative budget could have, including having 855,000 Canadians lifted out of poverty and a reduction in unemployment to 5.4%.


For an alternative budget to work, it will involve a range of organisations coming together, as a coalition or partnership of civil society organisations, to analyse an existing budget.

This tool opens up the opportunity to explore the positive and negative impacts on specific groups or issues, challenge the government on specific budgetary choices, and often to form a comprehensive parallel budget.

Once the process is initiated the group can determine the area of focus and the objectives which might include:

  • Raising public awareness
  • Capacity building
  • Advocating changes to existing budgets

Research and Support

To back up an argument with critical evidence, the group may engage researchers or specialists to assist with the technical analysis of a current budget.

There then follows a period of analysis of the existing budget, with a specific focus on its implications for the issue or sector of focus; and drafting of an alternative budget, including fully costed proposals.

Publicity is vital to the alternative budget initiative. Media dissemination is an important mechanism for raising awareness and profile of the alternative budget, while the organisations involved may well arrange public meetings or education initiatives. This is followed by ongoing work to realise tangible impacts through changes in the current budgetary allocations.

The outcomes and proposals of an alternative budget initiative are likely to be aimed at members of the public via media dissemination, as well as the original budget owners.

To find out more about this civic activism tool and access additional resources, please click here.

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