Communities making decisions about the things that matter to them

Last year Community Places was awarded National Lottery funding to support people and communities from across Northern Ireland to know how they can make decisions about the things that matter to them and have a say on how public funding is spent. Louise O’Kane from Community Places tells us how the two-year project is going.

What we’ve been doing  

We think Participatory Budgeting (PB) is great because it brings people together in a creative way to connect with others and develop ideas about the local issues that matter in their community such as youth activities, health and well-being and community safety to name just a few.

We were awarded a £124,798 grant at the start of 2020 to develop a Participatory Budgeting (PB) Charter. This will be a resource to guide and support any group or organisation who are designing or planning a PB activity to make sure they consider all the elements needed to deliver this successfully in their community.

Each PB activity should reflect what matters most to people in their local area and there are a number of key steps to follow to make sure it’s successful. These include; getting people involved right from the start in its planning and design; sharing, discussing and voting on the ideas that are agreed to proceed with; and, using feedback to shape further activities and celebrate any positive impacts of projects.

Successful groups come away from every PB activity with actions or projects which have the support and backing of the community, and which will make a real difference in their area. Some examples are walking programmes, intergenerational baking projects, digital awareness, gifting and kindness projects, mentoring and community leadership programmes, and gardening and nature projects.

COVID-19 has affected how we have been able to bring people together to develop our PB Charter. Instead, we have adapted our National Lottery project and brought people together to discuss PB’s role in recovery and renewal and what is possible digitally. This has supported communities to get involved in PB activities across Northern Ireland which were held digitally during the pandemic. See Workshop Reports on What role can PB play in Post Covid-19 Recovery and Digital Approaches to PB.

Some PB activities that successfully moved online include:

‘Community Cash’ delivered by the Fermanagh and Omagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership to make the community safer; 

Take£500’ delivered by the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Community Planning Partnership to support mental health and well-being through the TAKE 5 message; and

a second Armoy Open Pot, currently live and being led by Armoy Community Association to make the village great.

The Youth Making it Happen PB project is unique in that it was led and designed by young people. The council’s community planning partnership asked young people for creative ways to transform local communities for the better. Grants of up to £1,000 were available for young people, schools, sports clubs or community groups. The groups created a video of their idea and young people voted online for the ideas they wanted to support.

One of the young people involved in the project design said: “We’ve really enjoyed working on the project, we got to choose the themes and were involved in every aspect of the decisions – this has made it more youth centred and the process much more open. The fact that so many people will be involved in making the final decision about who will be funded makes it much more democratic. We’re not making assumptions about what people want, we’re letting them choose and that’s really important.”

Over 200 groups generated project ideas to these four PB projects and thousands of people have had the opportunity to vote for ideas to improve where they live. Learning from these are helping to shape the development of our PB Charter, which will be available as a reference and resource to anyone involved in PB so they can apply the best standards possible in their planning and preparation.

What’s happening next?

In the second year of our project we are continuing to raise awareness of PB and working with local communities and organisations to think about what they want to see in the PB Charter.

Find out more

Keep a look out on the PB Works website for information on upcoming events to have your say in developing our PB Charter. You can also find out about PB activities happening in your area or take some time to explore the videos, case studies, news items and lots of other resources available.

You can also connect to the PB Works Network to get involved and share your ideas and experience with others.

Contact Louise O’Kane to find out more. 

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