PB Scotland Conference 2019 #PBConf19

As with many of my posts, the following is based on my tweets from the event. For other views, you might search Twitter for #PBConf19 (but watch out for tweets about a pharmacy conference using the same hashtag) or go to PB Scotland’s website. This also has mini-biographies of the speakers and information about the workshops.

Asides and Bruce-thoughts at the time of tweeting are usually in (round brackets). Extra text added while writing this post is in [square brackets].

NB the content of photos of slides and similar is all © their creators or other relevant ©-holders.

Welcome (Martin Johnson, Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland)

I’m at PBScotland Conference 2019, #PBConf19. It’s being opened by Martin Johnstone of Church and Society Council, Church of Scotland. He says ‘we are in a mess’, referring lack of trust, being unable to see our way through the mess. But this happens around the world too.MJ says we can either sit around and moan, or try to do something about it. #participatorybudgeting is part of the way out. So it’s ‘phenomenal’ that we are all here. While Scotland is fab, most wisdom comes from elsewhere around the world.

MJ is doing housekeeping, and warning us we might be immortalised in photos! I’m afraid – for their cameras [because of my fizzog]. MJ says yesterday was first global PB hub gathering. MJ got into PB in mid- to late-90s when visiting #Brazil.

MJ says a library was built in every favela in this (so far un-named) place, and a public transport system, and **trusted** people to make decision on how to spend public money. (Hmm, does that mean that civil servants are **not** people?)

Hearing from Cit Lennox (SWAMP Glasgow), Josh Lerner (Participatory Budgeting Project, Paul Johnson (Scottish Government)

MJ now introduces Cit (pronounced ‘kit’) Lennox of https://swampglasgow.co.uk. She explains that this was for many participants the first time they were ‘given the reins’ on a thing. This involved £200,000.

CL says 20 very diverse people came together, in belief that young people have abilities and rights. (H’mmm reminds me of the original ideas behind #Scouting.

CL says people initially thought ‘huh! What’s the catch’ but were soon getting into big roles. Process took 8 months culminating in ‘big night in’. 18 applicants, each showing 1-minute video and giving 2-minute presentations, livestreamed via #Facebook. Netted 600 votes.

CL shows this slide of Facebook-cast. She says ‘[the whole thing] was an example of ordinary young people doing extraordinary things’. I like!!!!

MJ now introducing Josh Lerner, executive director of . He wants to talk about ‘ketchup’! But first recounts how he first met minister for local government ~5 years ago. He asks who likes ketchup, then ‘is ketchup a vegetable?

[I’ve just seen that Josh is a fellow vegan. Excellent!]
@joshalerner of @PBproject says that Ronald Reagan’s administration decided ketchup is a vegetable (something like one of UK’s 5 a day). So what makes something PB? The point of this question is that it has an effect on the quality of #PB.

@joshalerner of @PBproject says that UK and US don’t say this is PB but [that this is] consultation, but some countries say this is PB. I’m hence a north-atlanticist.

@joshalerner of @PBproject says hence this pic:

@joshalerner of @PBproject asks what should we measure about PB. He uses the ‘more bike lanes’ analogy in these pics:

@joshalerner of @PBproject asks what is our vision? What should we measure?

@joshalerner of @PBproject then tweaks the question:

@joshalerner of @PBproject‘s next question: Also school PB helps grow the #PB ‘pipeline’. Or is it about the charter/standards etc, or other things? (See photo.)

@joshalerner of @PBproject talks about Global PB hub, and closes by saying that such international conferences help exchange ideas and learning. (I like!!!)

@joshalerner of @PBproject‘s closing slide:

MJ asks ‘how do we keep PB fun?’ PJ says that at Tynecastle School he saw real engagement. @joshalerner mentions https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/making-democracy-fun, and says PB’s secret sauce is keeping it fun, competition but with collaboration. Need to see concrete changes in our community.

[Here are some photos of mentimeter being used to show questions from the floor. I didn’t tweet about them.]

Morning workshops

[I went to the ‘co-producing good PB with communities’ workshop because I wanted to learn more about how to do this. I’m not very wired into Leith communities,, yet my practical PB work is being on the steering group for £eithChooses!

I didn’t tweet from this workshop because I was trying to learn, and because I didn’t feel it was right to tweet from it anyway.

Here’s PBScotland’s descriptions of the workshops.]


I’ve drunk far too much coffee at #PBConf19but I’m still not properly awake.

Big thanks to #PBConf19 organisers for sorting me a vegan, diabetes-friendly lunch!

International panel discussion, chaired by Oliver Escobar, with Daniely Votto (Porto Alegre, Brazil), Giovanni Allegretti (Coimbra, Portugal) and John Maritim (Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya)

Before this started, we had 30 seconds of quiet to think about the the most important thing we heard [in the morning] that was **gosh**!

First question for panelists is ‘How was space created for PB in their countries?’
@danivotto says partici’n part of Brazilian 1988 constitution. But there are also elections for mayors. New mayor faced huge fiscal problems, yet elected on promises of doing good stuff.

JM says Kenya got new constitution. (Before that, citizens couldn’t really participate in budget decisions.) Local Govs could now make local laws, if I’m hearing correctly.

They realised they needed to go to source of/decision-makers about funding. Cash was skewed towards men and where majority of participants came from. (Lots more questions going up on the board by my effort to tweet a video just failed. Bah – bad Bruce or bad Twitter?)

JM says policies might look like wish-lists. Guarantees that PB projects are funded/implemented are needed. Need agreement on tax-levels too. (I like the qn ‘is PB forever or is it part of journey to better place?’

Oliver Escobar asks what [are] key lessons? Daniely Votto says PA relied only on political will and PB councils. With hindsight this was a mistake? She agrees that PB needs to be supported by all political parties, and adds there were no school- and gender-based PB processes.

Daniely Votto says PB was competing for same budget with other needs. So we must be careful not to be professionals, and commends link with 3rd sector.

Oliver Escobar asks if PB is good locally, why is it not good for national budget. Asks
@allegretto70: he says PB (done nationally in Portugal) must not be just a zero-point. Need to see what national level can do to support local PB, hence need NGOs, local community in it.

Giovani Allegretti says you need buy-in all over, if I understood. Oliver Escobar asks ‘what is role of elected representatives?’ He says it’s about [implenting?] politicians’ manifestos. I think that is that politicians need to do things people like to be elected.

Final 20 seconds for each panelist. JM says ‘don’t give up on challenges – I like them, being in government’. Giovani Allegretti says ‘not undervalue importance of tranparency, which is realising **meaningful** data, and mentions https://www.itmplatform.com/en/blog/transparency-in-project-management

Daniely Votto says ‘don’t take democracy for granted’ & gets large round of applause. She adds ‘stay vigilant – it’s too easy to fall into populists’ hands, cos PB in Brazil has fallen into hands of 2 populist parties’. Oliver Escobar mentions ‘will of the people’. Laughter!

Afternoon workshops

[I went to the workshop on ‘learning from evaluation’, presented by Glasgow Caledonian University researchers who had done a lot of work on evaluating Scottish PB. These include Angela O’Hagan and Chris Harkins. I’m mortified that I can’t remember their other colleague’s name!]

Angela O’Hagan and colleagues asked is it really transfer of responsibility [from state to people]? If so, where is it? Is it resource-power or just decisions being transferred?

[I don’t have tweet-captions for these photos:]

Report says ‘it’s not participatory and it’s not budgeting’ cos councils are still making decision. See slide-photo:

Such challenges [are being] put back to the Scottish Government. It must be about lived realities. Also found that folk doing PB didn’t have a [clear] model/vision of what PB is:

Where next? with Claire McPherson (Scottish Government), Fiona Garven (PB Scotland), Cllr Jennifer Layden (Glasgow City Council) and Tressa Burke (Glasgow Disability Alliance)

[Bah! Where have all my tweets from this session gone?]


Tables had to sum up thoughts from today in 20 words. Our table’s final composited thoughts: ‘PB must be about voting and **participation**!’

I was guilty of hijacking the last few of our tables words to say ‘Thank you for today!’ meaning thank you to **ALL** here!

MJ says ‘we can live in a time of light’, and the way we do things extinguishes the darkness. Imagining a different form of democracy where the least count as the most is the critical thing for us to do now.

PB is not the whole answer but it and **we** can be part of that answer. And there we ended, energised!


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