Setting up a new Participatory Budgeting (PB) process is challenging – and many decisions need to be made. No PB is like another, and each process is highly adapted to local laws, political goals, or the demography of citizens. However, this does not mean that it is not possible to learn from other initiatives.
Almost all of today’s processes, be it in the business or public sector, depend on information technology (IT) for their execution. PB is no exemption. IT can help create a more participative and interactive experience for citizens, and strengthen their engagement. The “Empowering PB in the Baltic Sea Region” (EmPaci) project (Klaipeda University one of the partners), supported by Rostock University, has conducted research on IT solutions best suited for the support of PB. The PB feature matrix tool and corresponding documents have been released and presented to the PB stakeholders on the EmPaci project webpage.
The feature matrix is an online tool that analyses 50 different cities for 47 process and usability criteria in total. The idea is to compare and learn from other PB initiatives all around the world. It is meant for cities that currently plan to implement or improve PB to be able to answer the following questions:
· What kinds of cities implement similar features? For example, which cities also implement an upload functionality for files?
· What can we learn from each particular example?
· Which capabilities are implemented by a majority of initiatives and can be considered “state of the art”?
· Where can we find the homepage of these cities and their PB initiatives online?
Three complementary documents have been released to describe the underlying data. Document 1 contains a manual of the feature matrix and describes the filter and download capabilities in detail. It helps to understand how to access the information and how it is structured. Document 2 presents usability analysis based on the feature matrix as the database. It derives state of the art usability features of participatory budgeting websites with an additional focus on e-inclusion criteria, to assess the accessibility of webpages for visually or physically impaired citizens. Document 3 provides a feature catalogue of process-related IT capabilities for PB initiatives. It allows cities that are interested in PB to inform themselves of the possible PB process items and their importance, as well as enables them to build an individual process that fits their needs. Follow the EmPaci project website www.empaci.eu to find out more about the project, which aims to get more municipalities and citizens involved in PB via building municipal capacities, transnational clusters and municipality/citizen cooperation all over the Baltic Sea Region. PB is a process of democratic decision-making that we believe in, where citizens take part in preparing and adopting a municipal or public budget. In the BSR, only a few municipalities have applied a PB process on a regular basis. If you are interested in getting support to develop your PB initiative, please contact your national or the nearest EmPaci partner. More information about the project can be found at www.empaci.eu.
Together we can gain more power in decision-making within local, regional or national public institutions!