Group discussions: Mainstreaming PB is a transformation, not a process. What do we need to do to ensure it is a success?

NB I didn’t tweet during the actual discussions, mostly because I wanted to take part fully but partly because it would have been impolite! So what follows is mostly tweets sent during the reports of group discussions.

  • Si Cameron: This afternoon it’s time to state what we need! Let’s focus on the practical, be open and honest about how we create transformational change.
  • Niamh Webster: So good to be back in the world of participatory budgeting. PB feels to me like a real practical action of open government – one of the most difficult to do too. People here are storming ahead with this thinking about #PBmainstream.
  • Si Cameron: Great conversations taking place about the practical wants and needs to keep the Scottish PB journey moving.
  • Bruce Ryan: Anthony Zacharzewski leads the follow-up to table discussions. To transform public services, need to increase publicity, maybe some enforcement of audit and impact. Also maybe legislative measures or JFDI or frameworks and empowerment. Q: Whose job is it to champion or do PB?
  • Bruce RyanAnthony Zacharzewski says to transform public services, we need to move away from annual budget cycle to long-term. Also we need culture change, establishing business case for mainstream PB, leadership, transparency internally and externally, clearer comms, push for buy-in and education.
  • Bruce RyanAnthony Zacharzewski says to transform public services, we also need to promote good stories, tackle restrictions and empower officials to get things done, and remove barriers. Is [spending] 1% [of LA budgets via PB] helpful, or should this target  be moved or changed?
  • Bruce RyanAnthony Zacharzewski says to transform public services, we also need skills, culture, resourcing, trust, an [antidote to] fear of of giving away budgets, better language around/about PB. Time is needed to train people about PB, as is permission to fail at both LA and community level.
  • Bruce Ryan: summing up these thoughts about how to transform public services. Ethos and leadership and risk-tolerance are important. There is difference between culture and process. Also tension between resources needed to drive PB and resources to allocate via PB
  • Bruce Ryan: Now about Q2 – what communities need to participate. facilitator shows two sheets full of post-its. Need community engagement – what’s in it for them? What are rights around PB/decision-making, and do people know they have them. Need to show, not tell…
  • Bruce Ryan: …to combat scepticism. Share stories fo success and how to do it from locality to neighbouring locality. Needs to work at community’s own pace, e.g. when can **they** meet? Also institutional support needs to be genuine! And communities must be involved in PB
  • Bruce Ryan: … maybe a minister for PB? Also people need time to be involved – so how do we create volunteering opportunities. (I twinkle with that – how much time do I spend on LeithChooses! By the way ‘twinkle’ means I nod and smile in agreement – I think it comes from anarchist/green ideas I met in Fife green activism ages ago.)
  • Bruce Ryan: Each group challenged her question, says Angela O’Hagan. Why do communities need to be ready? What is community? Coms need clear understanding of process and results, need to recognise different types of and power around knowledge, and two-way comms. And need trust.
  • Bruce Ryan: Next table says: communities are ready but need good-quality engagement, and 21st century public servants. Also, need public knowledge of shared ambitions. There is a hostile media environment, so can we help news narrative to be positive?
  • Bruce Ryan: Jez Hall asks what mainstreaming means – there is some fear that it would end up bland/generic. But what is needed is: (1) continuity; (2) starting early (with communities); (3) trust in people and; (4) smashing the patriarchy and other power-barriers.
  • Bruce Ryan: Also, ensuring accountability, legitimacy, trust (people leading need respect from community). Need to make sure there is enough time to undertake planning. Also need to be outcome-focussed – be clear about what we are trying to achieve.
  • Bruce Ryan: Also, good practice is out there. Need resources to run PB. We also need to be on guard against gaming the process. Next table says we need momentum, maybe a route-map of where to start, e.g. what’s happening nationally. Need examples of success.
  • Bruce Ryan: Also, need to show folk what is democratically in it for them. “What is branding for PB?’ is interesting question. Also, need culture change, and enabling LAs to talk about engagement throughout year.
  • Bruce Ryan: NB PB is only one form of participation. So need to ask why we are doing PB. It might be messy but worthwhile to get elected members involved.
  • Bruce RyanAnthony Zacharzewski says he is struck by the ideas of ‘time’ and ‘momentum’. Annual budget process gets in the way, because we may end up with only a few months to do things. Also, branding is important. Should it be ‘SG community choices’, ‘<your local area> community choices’ etc? And also need respect.
  • Bruce RyanAnthony Zacharzewski says PB has two types of outcome: (1) immediate project outcome; (2) connected democracy in communities.
  • Bruce RyanAnthony Zacharzewski says notes from today will be written up and circulated. In the meantime, there are many opportunities to get involved!77