University of Westminster Students’ Union presents ‘ YOU Decide’ Budget Campaign First Participatory Budgeting Initiative in Higher Education in the UK Twitter logo#YOUDecide Faceboook logo YOUDecide Real Power Over Real Money Make a Difference in Your University
Pg 3-4 Addressing the Question of Students Participation. Challenges and Prospects Pg 5-6 Participatory Budgeting around the world and UK. PB in Schools Pg 7 What is ‘YOU Decide Pg 8 ‘YOU Decide’ Aims and Process Pg 9 ‘YOU Decide’ Evaluation Pg 10 10 Sources
Dear Student of University of Westminster, University is an incredibly enriching experience, and we hope that every student will realise and achieve it to the fullest. In order to to make sure that you are getting the most from your Westminster experience, the Student Union (with support of the School Students’ Association and Sabbatical Officers) are launching a new budget campaign ‘YOU Decide’. As a students’ body that promotes, represents, supports and advises the interests and welfare of students at the University of Westminster during their course of study, we are committed to the development of campaigns that promote students engagement and inclusivity across all campuses. ‘YOU Decide’ is a participatory budgeting initiative which allows students to directly influence £125,000- ten percent of SU overall budget. Most of our budget is utilised by sports clubs and societies. While supporting their events and initiatives remains one of our key priorities, UWSU believes that more needs to be done for students who are not part of clubs and societies, as they should have more chance to influence the spending priorities. Through ‘YOU Decide’, you will have the power to submit your ideas for projects, turn these ideas into real projects and vote in order to choose the best ones for realisation. In this way we hope to increase students’ democratic participation in Student Union affairs and promote the development of extracurricular activities. We also hope to promote transparency and accountability of student governing body so everyone can benefit from the funds. After all, the students themselves provide these funds by paying increased tuition fees and have to be the first beneficiaries.
What would you do with £125,000 in order to improve your student experience? You have the chance to tell us by joining your fellow University of Westminster students for the 'YOU Decide' Budget! Participatory Budgeting directly involves the local public in making decisions on the spending and priorities of the budget. Participatory Budgeting originated in Latin America is widely practised around the world. University of Westminster is now the first university in the UK to attempt it! 'YOU Decide' Budget is UWSUs new exciting budgeting initiative that gives you real power over real money to propose and vote on specific projects. It’s a chance to get the improvements you want to see in your university! Submit your projects and proposals directly by submitting online the Project Proposal Form from http://www.uwsu.com/ Proposal voting will take place on 1st of April 2015! Make history! Let your voice be heard!
It’s the first time a university in the UK will attempt Participatory Budgeting. Would you like to be part of the history? In this booklet at first you will find out the the challenges and prospects of students’ participation in University of Westminster in the context of wider situation in universities in the UK. The explanation about Participatory Budgeting in general and the way it is practiced in the UK will be followed . The experience of PB by children presents a case study of success of the method in education. The detailed account of ‘YOU Decide’ will be presented and we hope to clarify the aims and process of the initiative in order to encourage students to take part. Yours sincerely, University of Westminster Student Union.
Addressing the Question of Students Participation. Challenges and Prospects How would you describe the student participation in our university? Apathy? Disengagement? Disenfranchisement? While some of us will be more positive in our response as the number of societies and sports clubs in our university keep increasing every year and the number of events ranging from politics conferences and spoken word events creates a busy atmosphere of student engagement. Furthermore, some students passionately throw themselves into campaigning and the hundreds of colourful posters stuck on all imaginable free space during busy elections period creates the feeling that university is turned upside down and is buzzing from excitement. However you might feel astonished to find out that the voter turnout of 10% of overall number of students on four campuses(1),which is below average of national average of 14.5%, presents a bleak picture on the question of student participation for the majority of students. You might ask yourself why its such a case in our university, but truth to be said, the same pattern occurs throughout universities in the UK. The experience of the majority of unions in the country presents a situation in which student union affairs leave most students brimming with indifference. Such a problem is evident from the plans to close University of London Union due to fact that fewer than 3,000 of the 120,000-strong student body voted in the last election with suggestion that the best turnout ULU has ever managed was 2%.(2). University has long been historically the place for young people to engage in political issues varying from increases of student fees to anti-war demonstrations, so why does turnout at student union elections remain so embarrassingly low? Explaining Student Disengagement.
‘Mapping Participation’ research by National Union of Students (NUS)(3) presented the findings that shed some light on this troubling question. In general research, the shows that students have mixed views about their student unions and its importance in the overall university experience. While for some the union is inclusive and representative (51% had voted in an election at least once), others expressed its irrelevance and insignificance in their lives and the feeling of overall exclusion. Students who were likely to vote were usually those under 25 years old, UK citizens, those living on campus or within 5 miles of campus, undergraduates and full-time students. In contrast, for students who are over 25 years of age, international students, postgraduate students and part-time students expressed barriers to involvement in the participation of students’ union activities. Furthermore, the majority of students spoke about a lack of knowledge about the purpose of students’ union, particularly in regard to the democratic structures(4).
The major factor of students disengagement that NUS research outlined was the perception of students about their union. The view about the central aspect of students’ union experience representation played a major role in students’ perceptions . Almost half of the students expressed doubts that union represented them compare to 34% who felt that they are sufficiently represented. Elected officers were often seen as unrepresentative of the larger student body and some of their campaigns were irrelevant to the needs of students. Students stated the need of more meaningful and representative campaigns that respond to the needs and wishes of students which shape their university experience. Furthermore, students felt that unions and students in general don’t have real power to make meaningful visible changes to the various activities and services within the university setting(5). Students’ union budgetary priority is mostly shaped by elected representatives. Traditionally this priority in terms of provision of activities and services are dictated by the needs of societies and sports clubs. As most students not are part of societies and sports clubs, it is not surprising that students feel that their union is exclusive and unrepresentative. Future Prospects The NUS report suggests that in order to encourage students involvement and participation it is important to make the priority for students’ union agenda more inclusive through a more clear and transparent democratic process, greater accountability and and less bureaucracy. It is evident that it s an urgent time for student unions to ask the question of low student participation and address these issues with new radical ideas and initiatives. Participation can be encouraged, supported and made more attractive by students’ unions. Through new initiatives students’ unions can provide motivation for participation. The motivations of students are often split between value-based motivations, such as a desire to improve inadequate things in our student union and university in general , and more pragmatic motivations, such as wanting to gain work experience or develop their CVs in the light of the current economic climate(6). It should be a priority for students’ unions to create opportunities for students participation not only value based but also pragmatic motivations. Both students and students’ unions will be strengthened through increasing and deepening participation, creating lasting effects on the overall university experience. It is time student unions think more creatively about students’ engagement in life in the campuses and UWSU is taking first major step to tackle the problem. Combining NUS research findings which suggests that particular groups of students have barriers to participation and the particularity of University of Westminster demographics, with such a large number of international students, the Participatory Budgeting initiative ‘YOU Decide’ is set to provide an opportunity to make a huge leap into making the process of students’ participation more democratic and inclusive.
What is Participatory Budgeting ?
1.Increased level of public participation.
Participatory Budgeting (PB) originated in 1989 in Brazil in order to allow non-elected citizens decision making on how public money should be best spent. PB is not a consultation exercise but rather the embodiment of participatory democracy as participation is essentially bottom up and grassroots. Following decades of PB in Brazil, citizen participation has been established as a right, which shows that democratization is a feasible process (7). The case of PB demonstrates that budgets, usually seen as an expert technical area, can be institutionalised as central elements of participatory democracy (8) .Due to the successful practices of PB in Brazil over the years, there are currently more than 1,500 participatory budgets around the world in more than 300 cities worldwide(9). Most PB are at the city levels however, it is used widely by county level organisations, housing authorities, schools, universities, and other public agencies. The models and structures of the budget allocation are complex and different - from funding community groups to deliver projects of local value to letting citizens shape mainstream services in their local areas (10).
Based on various research both academics and practitioners agree that PB encourages citizen participation in decision-making(13)as opening up the budget process to direct involvement of the student is a guaranteed way of getting increased engagement . The practice of PB in Brazil shows clear effectiveness in engaging the more marginalised segments of the population such as women and lower incomes citizens. The redistributive process of PB shifts scarce resources to wider segments of the population in neighbourhoods. Furthermore, research shows that the high level of participation can be sustained. PB gives citizens an incentive to participate as levels of participation have an effect on the probability of investment. Particularly for small investments return as it is quick and visible which encourages communities to take part(14)
What are the benefits of PB? 1.Strengthening and renewing the democratic process Academics and participants agree that PB creates a dialogue between public authorities and citizens which deepens the exercise of democracy(11). The dialogue re-invigorates the role of local authorities and citizens creates mutual trust in public institutions and its processes. Ownership of the process builds citizens’ capacities and interest in being involved in other government and governance processes(12). PB opens up and creates spaces for political forums where citizens from different backgrounds meet, negotiate and take decisions together by pooling knowledge, skills and experience. Hence PB builds social capital and creates a democratic culture within the community..
1.Improvement of public services The effectiveness of public spending is improved by investing in services that are most essential to the needs of local citizens which creates more responsive and targeted budgets. The processes of PB also increase the knowledge available to public authority when undertaking service planning. This process is particularly valuable as there is sense of shared responsibility between the service providers and the residents on the receiving end. Particularly in the time of financial restraint and tough budget choices, PB can be used to prioritise budgets and target resources more effectively at key services. Collective prioritisation enables citizens to be part of the solution(15).
1.Transparency and accountability of decision-making 2. The implementation of PB was shown to improve transparency as public authorities must share economic and financial data with citizens. Demands of citizens through the PB platform allows them to be informed of the status of the work that was promised. PB represents a shift from the culture of ‘clientelism’ towards participation of more people which enhances transparency in budgeting. Public opinion has to be under adequate consideration from the authorities due to ongoing interaction with and constant pressure from the public which promotes accountability in the system(16). How is PB practiced in the UK? Practice of PB has developed into a highly dynamic process in Europe particularly in the UK there have been around 150 PB initiatives to date(17) Over £28 million has been allocated through PB processes in the UK in which budgets have varied from £500 to £4.8m (18). As one of the most successful participatory instruments for more than 30 years, PB is not limited to one model but rather it assumes different forms in different contexts and should be designed on the basis of local circumstances and objectives. The most successful and popular model in the UK is the Community Grant Pot(19).
This model is set to allocate a discreet pot of money for a particular area through PB. The amount of money in the pot is usually dictated by the funding. The amounts in the pot can be anything from hundreds to millions of pounds. Various groups of citizens prepare and propose projects at the decision day event where voting takes place among residents.
PB with Young People: Case Study. The number of successful PB initiatives which have involved children and young people took place in the UK. One of the most most notable was the Everyone Counts project involved working with children between the ages of 6-11 years old through the school council. Walsall New Deal for Communities Organisation worked with 8 local primary schools to collectively decide how to spend £15,000 (20). Children learned about PB, designed parts of the process, and ran it for their peers to vote on how finances were spent. The process allowed children to actively engage in conversations with one another which allowed them to develop their skills and knowledge, grow in confidence and encouraged active citizenship. During a series of consultations children decided to organise three activities for fellow peers. Street Dancing, Swimming and a visit to the Snow Dome in Tamworth. On the final decision day children voted upon which activity/activities to take forward. Children didn’t wear their school uniforms in order to encourage them to vote collectively focusing on all children and not to vote according to schools. Teachers expressed this opinion of the event: “the children were spending the money well, making good decisions that maximised the number of opportunities for children to take part in activities by selecting the ones they thought best value, not necessarily the ones most wanted(21). This example of how children have been given the responsibility on deciding finances should be spent provides an excellent example of how PB can be practised in public education. If pupils can do it, surely university students can do it too! Brooklyn College is the first university in United States to attempt PB(22) and the University of Westminster will make history too by being the first university to attempt this in the United Kingdom!
What is ‘YOU Decide’?
‘YOU Decide’ is a new budgeting plan developed by UWSU in collaboration with students of Department of Politics and International Relations. UWSU will dedicate £125 000- ten percent of its overall budget (£1,125,000) towards direct decision making through voting by students(23).
What is the process of ‘YOU Decide’? Through this new initiative students will meet together at Regents Campus on 1st of February, 2015 This event will inform what ‘YOU Decide’ involves in detail and the various stages of the process. Students will also discuss their needs and priorities and deliberate about their spending priorities. Based on discussions, students will propose and prepare specific projects to address these needs. In order to develop proposals, Students’ Union created a ‘YOU Decide’ Support Committee which will help students to develop their proposals into functional projects and make sure each proposal is financially and technically feasible. The Support Committee will include representatives from SU, faculties and administration. Students of University will cast their votes on the projects to fund at a special event at Regents Campus on 1st of April 2015. If you have ideas about how things could work better in your university, this is your chance to make those projects happen!
What are the aims of ‘YOU Decide’? 1.Increase and strengthen students’ democratic process. Empower students through participation. We aim to extend students participation beyond voting in elections and involvement in societies’ extracurricular activities, towards financial empowerment by putting real power over real money in the hands of students. We hope to transform the democratic process in the university by changing the way students can engage in it, by crafting processes.
The effectiveness of PB in general usually does not rely on one procedure but rather on a multitude of a practices(24) Based on the recommendations of PB Unit UK(25),in order to make ‘YOU Decide’ democratic and sustainable, it will be a repeated process rather than a one-off pilot. Based on evaluation reports and feedback after each cycle, the process will be refined and improved for more effective participation, and thus is it a learning process as well for both Students Union and students. ‘YOU Decide’ will create a new space for student politics, a space where participation becomes a new supporting structure for action. Through these processes ‘YOU Decide’ as PB will have time to grow, build the level of participation and win the confidence of all sections of the students on all campuses. 1. Build stronger students body. We aim to foster students cohesion and unite students from various campuses through the process of deliberation of PB. Its important continuously to inspire students to more deeply engage in the life on the campus by to build stronger communities and create new networks among students in order to make better decisions together . The deliberation process of ‘YOU Decide’ will allow students to pool knowledge, skills and experience to tackle their concerns and needs. 1. Improve student provision services. We aim to involve the wider body of students in PB about what services they need and want the most,which will make services provision more efficient and responsive. With the increase of student fees its important to make priorities for budgets based of students needs in order to get greater return on students’ investment in their education. This will also bring greater efficiency and deliver the shared responsibility between Student Union and students.
Addressing the challenges of ‘YOU Decide’ as a PB process. 1. Development of students skills through participation in projects. Through the assistance of ‘YOU Decide’ Support Committee creation and development of projects, it will allow students to build individual skills and knowledge. Particularly in the current economic climate CV development and preparation for work are often high priorities for students, with the focus, gaining variety of transferable skills and increase their employability(26). These practical skills and knowledge, such as project management, teamwork and leadership, are not only valuable for any future career prospects but also are vital for any personal development. 1. Promote transparency and accountability within the Student Union. 2. We aim to rebuild the relationship between Student Union and students as ‘YOU Decide’ has a potential to contribute to an improvement of communication between students and the sabbatical team, the elected student representatives. Traditionally, the sabbatical team determines the priorities for the SU budget for each year in which precedence is always given to the support and needs of societies and sports clubs. As most students in university don’t belong to societies a significant amount of spending is not relevant and their needs are often overlooked. Collective decision making in the SU finances will create new venues for transparency and accountability for the Student Union to the wider student body, a hot topic for students in the wake of the 2012 student union financial crisis and the controversial privatisation of the So Fresh ‘N’ So Clean SU events brand.
PB is still facing difficulty getting to the most disadvantaged citizens(27), so its important to recognise might be difficult to get on board some segments of the student population. Therefore the Student Union will launch a wide campaign across all campuses targeting various groups of students. The PB process shouldn’t become a way of ‘ masking power’ in which ‘the strong or the lucky get to establish unquestioned hegemony over others’(28)in which deliberation and discussion gets dominated by particular groups of students. Its also vital to recognise the importance of excellent quality facilitation during the initial event on 1st of February. Every student should have equal opportunity to participate in the process, hence the structure ‘must be explicit, not implicit’(29) ‘Having an established process for decision-making ensures that everyone can participate in it to some extent’ (30). The formalised rules of decision-making will be open and available to everyone. Frequent diffusion of information and open access of information will ensure equal participation (31). Furthermore, equal access to resources needed by the group must be provided during the development of project so the monopoly over a needed resources is not formed .Skills are also resources so its important that students gets sufficient level of support for the development of their projects and ideas. It’s also important to make sure that projects are not for the benefit of specific students or specific groups or minorities of students but rather is beneficial to the whole student body of University of Westminster. Hence the funds to be used for projects that are ‘infrastructural’ in nature.
14 ibid. 15 The PB Unit (2010) Participatory Budgeting Toolkit [online] Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/Participatory%20Budgeting%20Toolkit.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014]. 16 World Bank (2004) Empowerment Case Studies: Participatory Budgeting in Brazil [online] Available at:http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT/Resources/14657_Partic-Budg-Brazilweb.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014]. 17 The PB Unit(2014) Did You Know? [online] Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/outcomes [Accessed 01/04/2014]. 18 ibid 19 The PB Unit (2010) Participatory Budgeting Toolkit [online ]Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/Participatory%20Budgeting%20Toolkit.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014]. 20 The PB Unit (2014) Everyone Counts, Walsall [online ]Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org. uk/case-studies/case-studies/everyone-counts-walsall [Accessed 02/04/2014].
Evaluation of ‘You Decide’ Based on recommendations of the PB Unit UK(32), UWSU is planning the evaluation from the start in order to assess if ‘YOU Decide meets its objectives and ensure that there is a case for future PB activity. Feedback from a wide body of students will be collected in order to access the success of the campaign to enhance student inexperience at the University of Westminster. The information will be gathered and analysed with the help of students of Department of Politics and International Relations. A report will be produced after each cycle which will be available for students.
1 Clark, T. (2014) Why Are Students So Disengaged With Student Union Elections? The Huffington Post UK [online] Available at: http:// www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/04/do-students-care-about-unionelections_n_4902141.html [Accessed 01/04/2014].
22 Brooklyn College (2014) Student Government Press Release. [online ]Available at: http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/web/about/offices/ studentaffairs/offices/ceo/government/budget/release.php [Accessed 02/04/2014].
2 National Union of Students (2013) Mapping Participation [online] Available at: http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/pageassets/charity/studentopportunities/training/lunchandlearn/Mapping-Participation-Report.pdf [Accessed 31/03/2014].
23 Smoke Radio (2013) Making it Simple: The 2013/14 UWSU Budget Changes.[online ]Available at: http://smokeradio. co.uk/2013/04/24/su-strategic-report-201314-budget/ [Accessed 02/04/2014].
24 http://www.cpa.zju.edu.cn/participatory_budgeting_conference/ english_articles/Paper2.pdf
4 ibid. 5 ibid. 6 ibid. 7 Pateman, C., (2012) Participatory Democracy Revisited. APSA Presidential Address. Vol. 10, No.1. 8 ibid. 9 Participatory Budgeting Project (2014) What is PB.[online] Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org/about-participatory-budgeting/what-is-pb/ [Accessed 31/03/2014]. 10 The PB Unit (2010) Participatory Budgeting Toolkit [online ] Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/Participatory%20Budgeting%20Toolkit.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014].
25 The PB Unit (2010) Participatory Budgeting Toolkit [online ]Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/Participatory%20Budgeting%20Toolkit.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014]. 26 National Union of Students (2013) Mapping Participation [online] Available at: http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/pageassets/charity/studentopportunities/training/lunchandlearn/Mapping-Participation-Report.pdf [Accessed 31/03/2014] 27 Smith,G., (2005)Beyond the Ballot.57 Democratic Innovations from Around the World [online] Available at:http://eprints.soton. ac.uk/34527/1/Beyond_the_Ballot.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014]. 28 Freeman, Jo (1972) The Tyranny of Structurelessnes. The Second Wave 2 (1). 29 ibid.
13 Smith , G., ( 2005) Beyond the Ballot.57 Democratic Innovations from Around the World [online] Available at:http://eprints.soton. ac.uk/34527/1/Beyond_the_Ballot.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014].
32 The PB Unit (2010) Participatory Budgeting Toolkit [online ] Available at: http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/documents/Participatory%20Budgeting%20Toolkit.pdf [Accessed 01/04/2014].