Participatory Budgeting Goes Translocal

Dmytro Khutkyy (Center of Innovations Development, Ukraine) visits Argyro Barata (FEAST, Greece) in June 2017 in Thessaloniki.

Despite politically declared values, in many cases local governance lacks civic participation. Luckily, there are always like-minded allies in civil society and authorities, who do want to empower citizens for engagement in local policy making. This is definitely the case for both Kyiv, Ukraine and Thessaloniki, Greece. Thereby, it was decided to organize the exchange of best practices on site.

The primary goal of the visit was to create an impetus for establishment of participatory budgeting in Thessaloniki city. This required suggesting a solution, based on best practices and fitting municipal development strategy, creating a multi-stakeholder core group, advocacy, identifying common grounds, and drafting a road map with the next steps, clear objectives, responsible persons, and deadlines. All the objectives were achieved. The meeting with the Deputy Mayor demonstrated a definite support for participatory budgeting for Thessaloniki city and willingness to pursue further.

Conclusions by host Argyro

My expertise was grounded on a set of best practices: UNDP community-based approach co-financing model in Ukraine; participatory budgeting in the Kyiv city in Ukraine; participatory budgeting in the cities of Brazil, United States, and Estonia. In response, Argyro Barata shared her hands-on experience of the FEAST Greece crowdfunding models and the knowledge of participatory budgeting in Lisbon, Portugal.

We have systematically discussed the topics of: the theory of change design; democratic participation at different stages of policy-making cycle; co-funding models; memoranda and statues; advocacy; fundraising; promotion; recommendations from best practices; experimental democracy tips; monitoring and evaluation formats.

Tactics debates
Tactics debates

It was really impressive that for the benefit of the city of Thessaloniki a wide coalition of over 2000 enthusiastic people from both civil society and authorities has elaborated a comprehensive 150-page strategy of municipal development up to the year of 2030.

Besides, I was surprised that civil servants in municipality didn’t have a dress code, were open and welcoming, and at the same time seemed busy and efficient.

Discussing the agenda with the Resilience team

Prior to the visit, I implied that authorities want to engage people to share responsibilities and create a better image of themselves. Actually, it turned out that their approach gradually developed over time. At first, they tried to implement policies on their own, in a top-down way, but it didn’t work out. Thus, they paid more attention to grassroots civil society and found plenty of local initiatives, with which they can cooperate. So, they created hubs to engage with them as partners generate a synergy effect.

In a way, Thessaloniki experience differs from what I am used to see in Kyiv. Despite the wide involvement of stakeholders, the role of drivers of change is credited to authorities. While in Ukraine, it is civil society, which pushes forward the agenda of participation.

Meeting with the Deputy Mayor

The promotion of participatory budgeting for Thessaloniki illuminated a set of questions, which I never thought before that thoroughly. For example, that the initiative can be done in many different ways. Inspired by this, I plan to learn and incorporate a wider range of best practice models of other cities, for sure, those of Lisbon, Paris, and Warsaw.

Moreover, I came to know that it is realistic to crowdsource a strategy of urban development for decades ahead. Resilient Thessaloniki: A Strategy for 2030 is a very vivid example. So, I plan to suggest a joint development of such a strategy for the Kyiv city.

Besides participatory budgeting, other tools can be employed too. In particular, grassroots crowdfunding, which can be done independently from authorities, and therefore it can be more prompt and flexible. FEAST Greece crowdfunding model is an excellent example of that.

During the visit to a local community space, Kipos, I had a conversation with the organizer of a community meeting and accidentally learned that it is a fully self-funded venue. They rent an indoor and outdoor space, which is sub-rented to other events, including crowdfunded lectures. Essentially, this is an impressive live public education space – a format, worth to be reproduced.

Dmytro and his host Argyro
Dmytro and his host Argyro

Overall, the experience exchange mobility turned to be a success – in terms of new knowledge, ideas, advocacy, and networking. Both the scholar and the host are inspired to implement the findings at the home cities.

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