Effective engagement of community members in participatory budgeting is a months-long decision-making process that requires detailed preparation and staffing, including setting of communication and dissemination towards community, development of partnership and volunteer recruitment, facilitation and training, administrative and budgeting support and many other tasks. However, engaging the local citizens in participatory budgeting could be one of the core questions for municipalities.
Based on existing empirical practice, a deeper understanding of the motives, interests, and needs of local citizens and various groups they represent is essential to understand and decide on the tools and techniques that will be used to engage local citizens in participatory budgeting. Insights about the motives of populations’ social accountability are essential to developing adaptable communication and dissemination guidelines and recommendations.
The need for adaptable guidelines was determined by the fact that municipalities differ in many aspects, for example, number of population and density, education level of population, the diversity of local potential strategic partners, which could help municipalities to provide direct access to a specific target group, the human and financial resources available to each municipality and many others differences. These differences restrict the possibility of developing universal guidelines; instead, each municipality should employ a customised and adaptable approach, meaning that the current document serves only as guiding practice, while each municipality is responsible for creating the final document, namely – an individual plan.
Document prepared by the EmPaci project partners contains recommendations on planning and organising communication and dissemination activities to make the citizens’ information and engagement process as efficient as possible. The guidelines aim to strengthen the capacity of municipal employees and their respective institutions in planning, designing, and implementing part of the participative budgeting process and support other parties in reaching similar objectives by providing communication and dissemination guidance.
The document presents the recommendations for municipalities on how to develop their Communication and Dissemination Plan (CDP) and are focused on three different target groups – youth, elderly and unemployed citizens. The specific target groups are selected due to being recognised as the least active in the civic process; hence, their opinion is often missing when planning and executing activities targeted at municipal citizens. These guidelines will also serve as an example for planning communication and dissemination activities to reach, inform and engage other target groups. Municipality representatives are encouraged to modify and adapt guidelines based on the needs of specific audiences for local dissemination, communication and engagement.
Read the full text here: Guidelines on Communication and Dissemination Plan Participatory Budgeting EmPaci Project
Engagement versus Involvement in the participatory budgeting process
Assessing interaction between two main stakeholder groups – municipalities and citizens – within participatory budgeting, the difference between engagement and involvement has to be understood and concepts applied accordingly. The difference between engagement and involvement lays in the semantic meaning of both words.
Engagement is the fact of being involved with something, the process of
encouraging people to be interested in the work of an organization while involvement is the act
or process of taking part in something.
How does the distinction of terms relate to the participatory budgeting process? Participatory budgeting aims to involve citizens in deciding how a defined portion of public resources will be allocated.
Engagement refers to one’s degree of participation in decision making and it is commonly used to refer to one’s participation in the activities. It is important to understand that in the context of participatory governance, engagement does not happen without involvement. As a governance approach, community engagement is based on the rights of all community members to be informed, involved and empowered. In democratic states, community engagement empowers collective decision making and provides citizens with the opportunity to co-create their vision of the future.
Citizen engagement reflects development of a shared ambition among community members and encourages individuals to act together to achieve common goals. Creating the right environment, in which everyone is able and confident to contribute effectively to the shared team goal, is essential for effective community engagement. This, in turn, shapes the need for community involvement by the public bodies – in order to inform, involve and empower, as stated previously.