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Building the PB network: A report of the lunchtime session in Edinburgh on 21st october 2016

PB Network Session, as part of Engage, Think, Do!, the Edinburgh international PB conference fringe.

Delegates attending Engage, Think, Do on the 21st October 2016
Delegates attending Engage, Think, Do on the 21st October 2016


An update on the UK PB Network, by Susan Ritchie, acting chair of the UK PB Network.

PB Partners and PB Network colleagues helped to deliver day two of the very successful International PB conference held in Scotland on 20/21st October 2016.    It was organised mainly by our colleague Jez Hall who has maintained tenacity for PB that outstrips most that I know – big thanks to Jez!  He organised it to reflect the Edinburgh Fringe: we wandered from workshop to workshop across the city, connecting with people en route and in the sessions.  This second day was designed around the themes ‘think’, ‘engage’ and ‘do’ of PB.   It is testament to the design of the process and the passion of those in attendance that people stayed for the duration, and we were able to welcome people who hadn’t been part of day one!

It was a perfect time for the PB network to announce our progress to date: we held a lunchtime network session to bring people up to speed on our progress.  Yes, we are on the last hurdle of applying to be a constituted body (CIO) which will enable us to strengthen the PB Network ‘offer’ and welcome many more members.

We held our first virtual meeting last week where we welcomed some fabulous people to be trustees and steering group members: it is very exciting to anticipate where we might be in a few years time.

As you probably know we all do this on a voluntary basis and the network is funded through the 5% of our earnings, earned through PB training and support.  So we are not rich, and we have to work hard to take small steps forward.  We hope to change that when we are formally constituted.

So…in preparation for second generation UK PB network, we asked all those attending what one thing they would do if they were the Chair.  Here are some of their thoughts (with some clarification where we have it already):

Create a precise vision for people to sign up to:  This is the wording that is going into our CIO application and may help people understand our intentions:

To develop the capacity and skills of the public in the subject of Participatory Budgeting in particular, but not exclusively, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in such a way that the general public are better able to identify, and help meet, their needs and participate in democratic processes more fully.

To achieve advancement of community development by providing information, offering advice, raising awareness, organising events, carrying out research and disseminating the results of that research to members of the public, to public bodies, to educational institutions and to organisations that operate for the public benefit.

Build resources: Once we are constituted we will be able to apply for funding to support the aims above, and will be able to dedicate staff to deliver against those aspirations.  We want to be a robust and mature organisation, which might become a significant fund holder, either based on its own membership or from seeking external income. Or it may decide on taking on specific work under contract. Or form partnerships and collaborations. The specific shape, size and form is uncertain. But we do want to be sustainable and impactful network, which changes society for the better.

Clarify the difference between PB Partners and the UK PB Network:

The UK PB Network is currently a list of approximately 600 interested parties ranging from academics, practitioners and active citizens.

The PB Partners is a social enterprise coordinating and leading on PB consultancy support in the UK.  It is also the core group of people supporting the business of the network at the moment.  They do that by donating 5% of their earnings and crucially providing essential time, skills and knowledge.

Members of PB Partners produce and maintain the website, develop new resources, hold the finances, made donations from their income and provide secretarial support, and more generally kept the network talking to each other.

The network is a loose organisation, without clear representative structures or roles, and is often dependant on the work of the PB Partners to stimulate its activities.  It is this that we wish to change in the future but it has helped us keep the voice of PB alive in the UK to date.

Practical Ideas for the Network to consider included:

  • Make the most of this window and ACT NOW to gather interest
  • Seminars for citizens to learn more about PB and to call on those holding public funds to open up their decision making to PB;
  • Lobby government to create the conditions for PB across the UK
  • Increase the network’s visibility
  • Map existing PB processes
  • Draw on US evaluation processes and apply here
  • Be clear about how organisations and individuals can help the network achieve its aims
  • Consider the learning from Portugal – they have a PB magazine now but has taken 10 years to get to that stage as they have grappled with making the political and practical shift to PB

A big thank you to all those that attended and helped create that list – we look forward to welcoming you to the network and working closely with you as we grow and strengthen in the second generation of the PB Network!

  • If you would like to become a member of the UK PB network and shape our future get in touch