Trust at Imagine Belfast - Participatory Budgeting
For the second year running, the Trust is sponsoring one of Belfast’s most exciting festivals – the Imagine Festival of Politics and Ideas. This year we are running our Civic Activism Series which features a wide range of events.
Last up is ‘How would you spend your council’s money?’ which is being held at The Mac from 101m – 1pm on Friday 18th March.
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a process of democratic decision-making, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a public budget.
Done well, it gives citizens real decision making power over how public money is spent, which can lead to the better allocation of public resources, help identify and utilise new resources within communities, improve the quality and impact of initiatives, increase the transparency and accountability of public bodies, and improve levels of trust, engagement and empowerment.
First emerging from Brazil in the late 1980s, participatory budgeting now occurs all over the world, primarily at the city level, as well as for counties, states, school systems and public agencies.
Methodologies vary from place to place, but common features of the process tend to be a geographically defined area, regularly scheduled meetings or debates, a cycle of activity following the relevant budgeting cycle, and mobilisation network made up of individuals or organisations that help to train and inform local citizens about the process.
The exercise might involve the development of an initial list of spending ideas, followed by the development of related proposals, a vote on the proposals, and implementation of a certain number of the most popular ideas.
While PB has been used extensively in other parts of the UK, particularly Scotland, and around the world, the concept has yet to be adopted in Northern Ireland. In the context of recent local government reforms, it is an opportune moment to trial this new, innovative and engaging approach to budgeting.
NIOGN, with the support of the PB Network, Involve, the Democratic Society and Building Change Trust, will host a mock participatory budgeting exercise. A PB simulation will be undertaken using a simple scenario, whereby attendees will determine how Belfast City Council’s Budget could be spent.
This half day interactive event will aim to energise and stimulate the audience and identify community preferences for council spending. In addition to awakening citizens to possibilities for civic engagement in local decision making and budgeting, the session will also help raise awareness and capacity amongst council officials and elected representatives around this important civic participation tool. Following the event meetings will be held with relevant council officials to explore the potential for a participatory budgeting pilot.