Participatory Budgeting is a bit of a tricky area, and we recently found ourselves thinking about how we’d reinvent it. The team threw around a load of ideas, but nothing really made us excited. There didn’t seem to be much we could make that would engage citizens from start to finish, understanding the priorities, evaluating the options, and making decisions.
It felt like lots of little bits of tech woven through, rather than one tech solution, coupled with some really strong community management as a service. We were also frustrated how the conversation kept coming back to voting and either/or binary options. Do you prefer children or old people? You have to choose because there isn’t enough money for both. We all felt passionately that we should be thinking from a position of abundance, not scarcity. Communities have resources to offer and councils need to see themselves as an equal partner in an area, rather than the centre of the universe.
It’s a cake. Cos budgeting with a scarcity mindset is like cutting a cake, except less tasty #tenuous. Also this is a real life cake on offer at FutureGov’s base. Seriously.
There’s definitely something there though, the need to think differently about council budgets in particular. We got to thinking about our experiences of the budgeting process in councils from our experiences on The Inside. It made us wonder whether tech could actually be better used WITHIN councils, to disrupt the current budget process. We were all fans of Monmouthshire’s March Madness initiative, and it made us think that there must be some cheeky tech we could use to support things like that, in the process ideally bringing down vile systems like SAP which seem to go out of their way to irritate council staff with disgusting user interfaces.
We reached the conclusion that it would take a very brave chief exec and/or Leader to engage us in figuring out a genuinely different approach. Get in touch if you are one, or know one…