Sustainability is not a one-dimensional theme. In a societal context, sustainable development is nowadays seen as a wider concept than the traditional ecological sustainability – being green. (Abdul Hameed Siddiqui 2018.) Economic and social sustainability are also important aspects to a modern, functional – sustainable society and therefore these themes were a part of this years’ Lahti Science Day 18.11.2021 – an annual event highlighting research and its’ outcomes in the Lahti Region (LAB 2021). Participatory budgeting “PB” where inhabitants are given a voice and power to make decisions on matters related to their home municipality is one concrete way to boost the sustainably of a municipality by strengthening the participation of individual inhabitants.
To make this happen, it is important to acknowledge that PB should be run in a way that all inhabitants can have their say and it doesn’t become a tool for a minority of active parties to run their own agendas in. Equality and transparency are important factors in the process, so the inhabitants trust the process and outcomes regardless of their own ideas being chosen or inhabitants feel that it is possible to take part whether they choose to do it or not.
Evaluating a participatory budgeting process has an important role in this scenario. Evaluation should be conducted from different viewpoints and include different target audiences to enable a wider and more comprehensive picture of the process at hand. The process can then be developed further to suite the wants and needs of the participants and municipalities by using the accumulated knowledge. (Heinonen et. al. 2021.)
Process Evaluation Verifies Results and Sharpens the Focus
To highlight the need for PB process evaluation and offer new insights, we, the Finnish partners of EmPaci – Empowering Participatory Budgeting in the Baltic Sea Region -project LAB University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University presented our finding from our two Finnish pilot cases cities of Lahti and Riihimäki at the Lahti Science Day event. The evaluation was based on two case studies – one from each city – conducted during winter 2020−2021. Data was collected from different sources such as online surveys and interviews from inhabitants, city officials and local politicians. A specific framework was set up to analyze the findings.
Results suggest that evaluation should be linked to the entire process to enable the best possible outcome. Communications, leading the process and providing resources are some of the key points in developing the process. Further information on the process and findings in a recent article in the LAB Innovations Annual Review 2021 -publication.
Annukka Heinonen, Master of Business Administration, works as an RDI-specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences, and as a project manager in the EU Interreg funded EmPaci – Empowering Participatory Budgeting in the Baltic Sea Region -project. There are altogether 17 partners working on improving PB at EmPaci. LAB University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University are supported by Association of Finnish Municipalities.
Abdul Hameed Siddiqui. 2018. A Sustainable Society: Its Meaning and Objectives. International Journal of Research and Scientific Innovation (IJRSI) | Volume V, Issue I, January 2018 | ISSN 2321–2705. [Cited 29 Nov 2021]. Available at: https://www.rsisinternational.org/journals/ijrsi/digital-library/volume-5-issue-1/128-131.pdf
Heinonen, A., Kurkela, K., Pulkkinen, M. & Sinervo, L-M. 2021. Towards a higher-quality participatory budgeting process through evaluation. In: Sallinen, N. & Juvonen, P. (eds.) LAB Innovations Annual Review. Lahti: LAB University of Applied Sciences. The Publication Series of LAB University of Applied Sciences, part 28. 12−23. [Cited 26 Nov 2021]. Available at: https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/506869/LAB_2021_28_en.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y
LAB. 2021. Lahden tiedepäivä 2021. [Cited 23d Nov 2021]. Available at: https://lab.fi/fi/tapahtumat/lahden-tiedepaiva-2021
Empaci. 2021. Empowering Participatory Budgeting in the Baltic Sea Region. Project. [Cited 23 Nov 2021]. Available at: http://www.empaci.eu/
Sallinen, N. & Juvonen, P. (eds.) 2021. LAB Innovations Annual Review. Lahti: LAB University of Applied Sciences. The Publication Series of LAB University of Applied Sciences, part 28. [Cited 23 Nov 2021]. Available at: https://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/506869/LAB_2021_28_en.pdf?sequence=2&isAllowed=y