In 2018, Newry, Mourne and Down Community Planning Partnership decided to implement Participatory Budgeting through the Communities Leading Change initiative, as a method of extending democracy and increasing civic engagement, by giving people in the district a say on allocating funding to address issues that matter most to them. For the first time young citizens of Newry, Mourne and Down District took part in a PB initiative called Youth Leading Change.
The overarching aim of the project was to help young people to lead and make real changes in their communities. Young people were encouraged to submit funding applications for ideas which benefitted youth/young people in the District. Successful applicants were invited to attend a community voting event to pitch their ideas for funding.
The only criteria on the expression of interest forms was that the projects would positively impact on the priority areas, improving the area, mental health and emotional wellbeing, social isolation, and improving the lives of young people.
The project saw 24 groups send their project ideas in short videos. These videos were uploaded online, and the local communities were asked to vote for their top three favourite projects. Over 5000 votes were cast online. The successful projects were announced at a special awards ceremony. 15 groups were successful in their bids and were awarded £500 each.
- Steering group made up of all funders & Council (Health and Social Care Trusts, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Police Service of Northern Ireland, as well as Community Engagement and Community Planning sections of the Council.
County Down Rural Community Network and the Confederation of Community Groups Newry provided in-kind support.
- Meetings took place in council facilities, organised by Council officer.
- PB event was hosted by local well-known personality.
- Online voting – all groups submitted a video to present their project ideas.
- A face-face event took place to announce the successful groups – as voted on by the public.
- Steering group met to agree and set out the rules.
- District Electoral Area co-ordinator assisted with call for applicants and press release also went out – online, newspapers and face – face promotion and awareness raising
- Project ideas were screened against agreed criteria
- Projects invited to send in videos of their project
- Council officers uploaded onto website (researched by council)
- Voting encouraged on social media / groups Facebook pages
- All groups invited to attend the event to announce successful group
Ways of engaging young people
Participated through school teachers / parents associations / youth groups & organisations – to access and engage with younger people.
Engaged with 24 youth groups from across the district. 21 project ideas were then submitted online via video and votes casted. Almost all groups represented at an event and 15 groups were awarded funding totalling £7,500. 120 young people attended the awards event.
Role of young people
Positive aspects of the project/process
- Young people voted online (with 3 votes for 3 projects) selecting from uploaded 90-second videos summarising the project, each made and uploaded by young people and / or school /youth club
- A high number of youth groups participated.
- Engaged a high number of people via voting.
- Drew on established connections and networks to reach out to younger people including Schools, teachers, parent associations and youth organisations working with children with disabilities to encourage wide participation.
- Steering Group Panel signed up to a Partnership Agreement to ensure clarity in roles and responsibilities and to enhance ownership of process.
- Ideas for the PB process were submitted via video to appeal to younger people, reduce barriers to participation and encourage on-line voting.
Main obstacles to the project/process
- Technology – we required a more bespoke voting website – Used free software www.pollmaker.com – ok as far as it goes but good to have something better designed in future to meet our needs
- No youth voice on steering group (need to improve representation)
Opinion after implementation
Good engagement of young people, with high participation of young people with disabilities through engaging with their social / support groups.
Accountability of resources
- Money came from external funders transferred to Council who had full responsibility over expenditure and audit.
- Assurance of financial governance in accordance with Council procedures was written into a funding partners’ agreement
- External funders recognised common interest in engaging with young people to articulate their ideas on local needs and to provide opportunity for being involved in deciding on resource allocation. Partners providing funding included local Health and Social Care Trusts, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, Police Service of Northern Ireland, as well as Community Engagement and Community Planning sections of the Council.
- County Down Rural Community Network and the Confederation of Community Groups Newry provided in-kind support.
1-3 tips (advices, warnings) from organizers or participants
- Make the event fun for young people
- Invest in a bespoke website if using technology for voting
- Spend time engaging with groups in the area and raising awareness of the process – wider range of projects and less well-known groups
Links to examples of application forms, voting styles, tools
- Video of Results Announcement Event: https://youtu.be/5aHdHWLugfI
- Report of the process: