"Collaboration is an essential element of the organisation’s DNA"

Homeless Network Scotland (HNScot) is a ‘knowledge into action’ membership organisation with members who deliver homelessness services across the country. The organisation has several active partnerships including the flagship Housing First Scotland project with Turning Point Scotland, the Scottish Government and Social Bite. Other ongoing partnerships include community-based projects on homelessness prevention in partnership with the Scottish Community Development Centre and Unity Enterprises and a further tenancy sustainment project in partnership with four housing associations in the north of Glasgow. Being a membership organisation, partnerships are crucial to HNScot in terms of making change happen and collaboration is an essential element of the organisation’s DNA.

In terms of further activity, HNScot has a social enterprise arm called ‘All In’ which focuses on participation and co-production. The organisation started an exciting community involvement project in 2016 around participatory budgeting which saw active partnership with individuals and communities. HNScot ran a programme in nine communities in which 57 Community Budgeting Champions were trained to deliver workshops on participatory budgeting in their areas.

These Community Champions have now produced a toolkit, informed by their learning from the successes and challenges they have experienced, which acts as a guide for any local communities with an interest in participatory budgeting.

HNScot then engaged with over 90 community organisations and 1,340 community members, furthering engagement in participatory budgeting. Schools were also involved, seeing children as young as five taking part in activities and voting through budget decisions.

Michelle Major from HNScot explains the importance of the participatory budgeting initiative:

“Participatory budgeting is an opportunity for local people to become involved in decisions around local budgets. It’s a shift of power to give people more of a say on how money is being spent on what matters to them in their community.”

Working in partnership with communities was essential to the success of the project which can be both educational and inspire democratic action. Michelle states: “For some people it can give them a renewed faith in democracy. For young people it seemed it could really encourage buying in to democracy and for older people it gave some faith that they do have some power.”

In addition, Michelle says that the most important thing is that participatory budgeting improves the services available in the community, services that people really need and want to use.

Crucial to making the project work is preparatory work with individuals who take part in the budgeting sessions. For some people confidence needs to be built up, raising self-esteem in order that they can express themselves and their wishes during the sessions. In addition, the team at HNScot have found that attaching the sessions to existing community events such as community cafes or gala days enhances participation.

This partnership between HNScot and local community organisations opens up opportunities for those who have taken part. Michelle feels that participatory budgeting certainly has a role to play in other areas of public life, but only where genuine financial engagement can take place.

The success of the participatory budgeting project lies in partnership working, the strength of which has been shown in this instance. Where community financial planning may seem inaccessible, participatory budgeting turns this on its head and the work of HNScot across communities has shown that, with the right levels of engagement, people will take part and gain from the process.

 

Read the latest series of integration stories in our new publication ‘Integration in Action’ containing seven examples of progressive partnerships across Scotland.

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