From Brazil to Glasgow: Participatory Budgeting brings community successes

A walking bus for school children, a community litter pick and a knitting club are just some of the results of the Church of Scotland's Participatory Budgeting pilot scheme at Cranhill in Glasgow.

The original scheme set-up earlier this year shared £20,000 between Carrick Knowe Parish Church and Old Kirk Muirhouse in Edinburgh, St Andrews in Arbroath and Cranhill Parish Church in Glasgow.

Muirhouse event
Members of the community outside the church at the Old Kirk and Muirhouse Parish Church Your Voice Your Choice Participatory Budgeting Event in March 2017

Financial support for the project came from the Scottish Government's Community Choices Fund, which was given to different organisations across the country with strong local connections as well as some public bodies such as Local Authorities.

From Brazil to Glasgow

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a model originally from Brazil that has spread around the world.

It encourages groups with strong community ties to invite residents to vote on which local projects should benefit from funding.

Speaking about her experience of being involved with the first pilot, Rev Muriel Pearson of Cranhill Parish Church said:

"The benefits of participatory budgeting were far more reaching than I had ever imagined.

"More than 150 people took part in the voting, aged from eight upwards.

"It's a chance to give people a say.

"Each person had five votes and there were 17 projects to bid for.

"In the end eight projects received a share of £5000 funding.

"One of the benefits is groups learning how to put together funding applications and decide budgets.

"Sharing and collaborating is what matters in participatory budgeting - people starting supporting each other, helping each other in ways they wouldn't have before."

More churches can apply

In the most recent round of funding, the Church of Scotland has been allocated another £39,590 to distribute to churches so that communities can support more projects.

As the project continues into the next year it's hoped more churches will join the scheme.

Following the initial pilot, the Cranhill Development Trust, which has been supported by Cranhill Parish Church in the Church of Scotland pilot has also gone on to be awarded £39,590.

They will use the money to work with One Parent Scotland to help reduce the impact of school holidays
on family poverty and food insecurity.

A report on the work of the Cranhill Development Trust by Education Scotland praised the organisation as having "a positive life changing, and for some lifesaving, impact on local people."

A spokeswoman from the Cranhill Development Trust said:

"The funds have made a huge difference to the some ;projects one being Re-Tune that was awarded £1000, Re-Tune supports ex-services and refugees work together to make musical instruments.

"Following on from the main event three of the projects that pitched and were unsuccessful have received donations from an MSP who attended on the day.

"Overall the main event was an excellent day and it was great having as many local people involved"

Scottish Government backed

By 2021 the Scottish Government and COSLA plan for at least 1% of local government budgets to be decided by participatory budgeting, potentially making £100 million available.

Ms Pearson said: "I would encourage congregations to get involved when PB comes to your local area.

"It lets people see and share in the work the church is doing in the locality.

"I would also encourage congregations, perhaps in partnership with others, to host a PB event."

To find out more about Participatory Budgeting you can watch this short film, it is in two parts.

The first half is an animation explaining what Participatory Budgeting is and the second half features interviews with the ministers from two churches taking part in the project.

The Church and Society Council is currently inviting expressions of interest in a new Participatory Budgeting Project also funded by the Scottish Government.

For an informal discussion please contact Chloe Clemmons at