On Monday June 13th, the think-tank What Works Scotland hosted the event “International Experiences on Participatory Budgeting (PB)” at the University of Edinburgh. The session included presentations by Kathleen Glazik, an academic expert in public policy, and Giovanni Allegrati, a representative of the Italian authority, a country where participatory budgeting already takes place.
Laura Medina y Tanausú Vilches
Participatory budgeting is a new concept in most countries. Essentially, it involves democratising the public’s administration budget by opening up the decision-making process to a citizen´s assembly. Some of the countries that have tried to implement it in recent years have taken Brazil as a reference.
Following a brief introduction by Oliver Escobar, the session began with Kathleen Glazik´s presentation, which examined the chronology of this movement in Scotland. Glazik emphasised the birth of this process in June 2014, which arose from the government´s proposal of using participatory budgeting as a new democratic tool. She highlighted two commitments towards participatory budgeting: the progressive investment of £2m for public use and community groups in a large number of councils around the country; and the drafting of a manifesto which specifies the distribution of at least a 1% allocation of the public budget to this particular collaborative process. The government representative also underlined the next steps planned, among them the National PB Conference taking place in autumn this year.
Following the presentation, the attendees organised themselves into discussion groups where they exchanged ideas and opinions. After this, Giovanni Allegrati presented a more globalised vision based on his 18 years of experience on the subject, which contributed to the discussion with a wider perspective of the issues. Allegrati represents the Independent Authority for the Guarantee and Promotion of Participation of Tuscany Region (Italy). He used Italy and Portugal as case studies in order to compare the evolution of different geographic areas, and underlined the different existing routes of participation. Additionally, he emphasized the fact that “the process itself is sometimes more important than action. We need to break the strong mistrust between the people and the institutions as well as taking into account the amount of influence that all the different actors play when contributing with their vision to this democratic process”, he said.
The event concluded with a relaxed lunch where the participants could socialise and engage in conversation. All in all, it was a productive session for all attendees, who were agreed that Participatory Budgeting is an increasingly important issue in Scotland.