In 2016, the Scottish Government launched a Community Choices Fund with the purpose of distributing £1.5m annually towards new participatory budgeting initiatives in Scotland. Interest in the fund was high, with 137 applications in the first year of the programme. In this article, Robert Docherty from one of the successful recipients, ng Homes, tells us about their north Glasgow initiative, ‘Your Voice – Young Choice’.
The ‘Your Voice – Young Choice’ project put decision-making responsibility for distributing £60k in grant funding in north Glasgow in the hands of 37 local young people.
Earlier this year, the 10-16 year olds dreamed up concepts and projects which could promote positive change and social inclusion in their communities. They came together to develop projects, present them to the local community and help people decide which of them should be allocated funding.
The inspiring local initiative was supported by the Scottish Government’s Community Choices Fund, led by ng Homes and facilitated by Space Unlimited. While our support process identified specific themes which the youngsters could develop and allocate funding too, the projects were exceptionally diverse. They included creative spaces, athletic and sports clubs, gardening and food workshops, music, drama and arts clubs, even a young person’s gym!
Local adults and organisations met with the young people to discuss their ideas and help progress them in a Community Dialogue event, which was held on the 1st March at Saracen House, ng Homes’ base in Possilpark. The ideas were then showcased at a Community Choices budgeting event in Springburn Academy on 28th March. At the event, young people from the area voted on the ideas to determine how much money each idea would receive.
The three voting sessions created a real buzz and excitement in the room with over 600 votes being placed on 11 local projects, resulting in a total of £57,942 in grants being allocated.
The most popular project, and the one which received the largest amount of grant funding, was Climb Up, a hillwalking club that provides equipment and qualified guides to get people out and active in our glorious Scottish hills. Interestingly, a number of the projects related to health and wellbeing, which really gives our young people a voice on what they think is missing from their local area.
The unique, creative and positive projects were greatly valuable in themselves, but they also enabled the young people to learn motivational, budgeting, leadership and project management skills. As Springburn Head Teacher Linda Hamilton noted, the project provided a real-life situation for these pupils to develop their capacities as effective contributors, successful learners, responsible citizens and confident individuals.
This is backed up by an evaluation from our partner Space Unlimited, which found that 94% of the young people who pitched their ideas said they had developed their skills. In addition, 72% reported the experience as being useful towards their future work or learning. Hopefully this experience will give young people the appetite to continue to get involved in their local community in the future.
The ‘Your Choice – Young Voice’ project is a strong example of the community reach, empowerment and decision-making benefits that participatory budgeting can bring to a community. The project fully engaged young people and local partners and proved to be a huge success, with some fantastic projects being implemented that are now having a positive impact on the community.
Young people fully embraced the project and have improved their confidence and skills as a consequence. Giving them a ‘voice’ in their community has clearly been very productive.
The legacy of the project is the creation of a Young Person’s Forum. This will allow young people, ng Homes and partners to further develop their relationships around the role of young people in north Glasgow, particularly around shaping and influencing services. Another possible progression route for the young participants is ng Homes Board Membership for young people and in influencing the development of ng Homes Regeneration Strategy. These approaches will build on the on-going ng Homes community regeneration work.
In keeping with the project theme, I will let one of the participants have the final word:
“Community Choices is a great opportunity, it helped me develop my idea for the project, which was an intergenerational outdoor community garden. Whilst doing this I met Friends of Springburn Park, who invited me to join their committee, which gave me a great opportunity to set up a sub group for our project Your Space in my School Springburn Academy”.
From Emma Porter (pupil and participant from Springburn Academy)
Further information on participatory budgeting in Scotland is available from the PB Scotland website, maintained by the Scottish Community Development Centre.