Co-production and Participatory Budgeting

SCN Learning Event, Thursday, 20th July 2017, Edinburg

This learning event explored the relationship between co-production, participatory budgeting and commissioning processes through real examples about what works in co-producing budgets.

Co-production is about involving people in the design and delivery of public services, helping to change their relationship with services to be more equal. Recently, we have seen a surge of activity in Scotland where communities are working together to decide how to allocate funding to community activity through participatory budgeting (PB). But how can we capitalise on this? How can we ensure that where communities are taking control of local budgets they are engaging in meaningful processes? How do we support a shift in power that enables them to continue to influence change in their communities?

At our most recent learning event, we heard from organisations which have been involved in developing participatory budgeting processes in their local communities. Participants had the opportunity for discussion with other network members to draw the learning from these examples and think about these questions.

Kenny Harrow, Community Learning and Development Worker, Scottish Borders Council, presented on behalf of the Burnfoot Community Futures group, members of which also contributed via pre-recorded video. Kenny shared the story of how the group, which aims to improve the well-being, quality of life and opportunities of the people of Burnfoot, had led and facilitated the distribution of a £30,000 grant from the Community Choices fund through a participatory budgeting process. The group had also secured a further £4,500 from the Healthy Living Network for proposals which had a health and wellbeing focus. 

The group described their PB process, in which they ran an information evening, circulated information on bids to the local community, and ran a highly successful voting event/community fun day.  A key area of learning for the group (which comprised 9 community members) was around the benefit of working in a small and committed group, ensuring that the process was community-led. The group reflected that throughout the process they took part to different degrees depending on their capacity and were able to work around different commitments and availability of individuals  

shaking_hands_crop.jpgOne of the key outcomes of the process was that the individuals involved in the steering group increased their confidence and their skills, and one of the members has since applied for a youth work position. Others from the steering group have become more actively involved with Burnfoot Community Futures, as volunteers, and have expressed their interest in joining the local Community Council.  A key point made by several members of the group was that while they enjoyed the PB process, they would not participate again to ensure that others in the community had the same opportunity to build skills and capacity, and this was important to the group in illustrating the principles of co-production, which they saw as core to the participatory process. You can download the full presentation from Kenny and Burnfoot Community Futures here

Kim Penman, Health and Wellbeing Lead, Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership presented about the ‘journey so far’ for the partnership in exploring approaches to further develop participation and engage the public in Health and Social Care Partnership service and budget decisions. Kim outlined the specific health and social care challenges within the area’s communities and how the Partnership seeks to respond to these through the outcomes set within its Strategic Plan. Key to achieving this, explained Kim, is working towards fully involving service users and carers in service design and improvement, and; working closely with community organisations to develop supportive, inclusive communities. Over the past 2 Years, the Partnership has tested out a number of participatory methods to engage with communities in budgetary decision making. With support from Scottish Government, the partnership led a process to distribute £200,000 of the Integrated Care Fund budget towards preventative health and wellbeing approaches through a participatory budgeting process in two communities. The process was very successful and a further 6 participatory processes have been tested out in year 2 of the programme within the community planning areas of Aberdeenshire. An external evaluation of this is currently underway and Kim shared with participants her perceptions of the learning they have gained and what this means for future planning around the scale to which PB should be embedded in budget planning in the area. The learning and successes of the processes to date will be shared and further deliberated through a series of planned workshops with local leaders and elected members. A test site for ‘mainstreaming PB’ is also underway in relation to the development of a community hospital site. Kim’s openness and reflections were greatly appreciated by participants who gained an insight into the challenges involved in planning for participatory engagement at a strategic level. You can download Kim’s presentation here. 

event.pngOverall participants evaluated the event as ‘excellent’ in relation to the relevance to their work, the quality of the inputs and organisation. 

"The discussions were really helpful to tease out some of the challenges and opportunities in co-production projects. Good examples given. Good presentations and time for questions"

"Being new to my role, getting examples from both speakers and in group discussion allowed me to put PB in context and gain a better understanding of how it works in practice"

In terms of learning from the day, participants told us they’d take away learning about:

  • The additional benefits of PB that are not just about funding projects i.e. networking and capacity building
  • How important process is – to consider what you want to do, why it will help inform which process
  • PB is a bigger process including wider CLD support/approaches 

For more information about co-production and participatory budgeting see: