Parliament Watch Italy
Ministry of Space
Another member of our team works at the Croatian Institute of Public Finance. WeBudget was born as a prototype of the Citizens Lab network. The project's partners are all members of the network.
The aim of the project is to broaden the way citizens can interact with local authorities, thus influencing decision-making. We believe that creative IT solutions can strengthen local participation and democratic processes. Accordingly, we will create budget schools committed to advocate for budget transparency and participatory space in the budgeting process. With the participants we will co-create a tool that could help building trust between governments and citizens around public spending.
Communities in Budapest, Messina, Belgrade and Zagreb will be participating.
The European integration process can be achieved only if citizens are at its center. This transnational issue must be tackled starting from local contexts, where citizenship has to be strengthened through participation. Monitoring local budgets is a pivotal democratic transition, to have a say in public expenditures even more so. We are trying to foster this transition to reach point of no-return in good practices in dysfunctional contexts that show relevant signs of civic renaissance. European civil society is facing common issues but this awareness is still not sufficiently embodied in communities of practices, as ours, where different players support each other with mutual endorsements and by sharing narratives of local initiatives that tackles those issues.
In August 2019, there will be three basic outcomes:
1) Well trained local communities of practice, that can monitor the budgets and foster further participation, empowered with...
2) a tool co-created in collaboration with the project partners that allows them to run effective participatory processes and advocacy campaigns;
3) a transnational community of practice ready to share lesson learned with other stakeholders and to help activating new communities.
We will form multistakeholder local coalitions through invitations and open calls.
Every coalition will attend a “WeBudget school” during an entire budget cycle time span.
The school steps will allow peers to co-create a modular tool, while building the knowledge they need to:
1) understand the municipal budget, build storytelling on budget data (tool’s transparency module);
2) get other people on board, advocate for more detailed budget information and timeliness in information disclosure, co-create regulations on budget transparency and participatory budgeting (tool’s advocacy module);
3) understand basic participatory budget dynamics and co-design the module that can help to manage it (participatory module).
We are all committed in our local contexts where we have already set up transparency, anti-corruption, urban development and open government initiatives. For all of us monitoring local budget is part of a larger strategy to hold local governments accountable and to foster citizens’ engagement. The WeBudget initiative wants to:
1) bring transparency of public spending as a precondition to open space for meaningful participatory budget processes;
2) Fill the existing gap between online and offline engagement providing a tool as outcome of a face-to-face educational process.
Coming with different professional backgrounds, we have already prototyped this idea, we developed commitment and friendship and we feel enthusiastic to continue.
- Local decision makers and public servants interested in open government practices. This project already has at least one local government, Messina Municipality, strongly committed to experiment with the practices implemented by the WeBudget community;
- Citizens who don’t have insights into the public expenditures of their municipalities, but would be eager to participate;
- Activists who need a strong tool to advocate for a change;
- Local press facing the data driven journalism transition;
- Professionals that want to engage in urban development.
In dysfunctional contexts participatory budgeting is needed but difficult to reach, nonetheless it can be tried a bridging process that builds capacity on monitoring budget transparency and advocating for social responsibility as pre-conditions to set up meaningful participatory budgeting. To walk the path “from transparency to participation” a ready made tool cannot be enough. The “tool as outcome of a process” formula drove us to conceive a modular, easy-to-adapt software that will be implemented as a direct outcome of the WeBudget school activities.
The school and the tool will grow together allowing:
- nice and clear budget visualization
- storytelling on data
- advocacy campaign for budget disclosure and timeliness
- to bargain and manage more participatory space.
Funding requested from Advocate Europe
Funding granted from Advocate Europe
Travel and accomodation 5680 Communication strategy in 4 contexts and overall 20000 personnel costs 30000 technology 18150 events 3600 experts fees 1760
What similar projects are you aware of? What kind of participatory features do you think can be included in a platform dealing with budget participatory processes at the local level?
We're almost done! After one year of development we'll release the beta version of WeBudget software. We're proud of its innovative decentralized approach, that allows the creation of completely independent and fully localizable platforms, useful to analyze and explore the budget of a given municipality, that you can download and embed into your own website, even extending its core functionality, written in a well-known language named Angular.
At the same time this approach allows the federation of the data in a central site (our site, webudget.net!) where it will be shared through an open API, allowing the study of the data in a comparative way, useful to understand problems that are common in European municipalities. This site will allow, as well, the publication of 'stories', posts that explain and contextualize data, open to online discussion, and that will be referred from exported apps, with the aim of fostering open citizen discussion around urban policies and to increase awareness and participation in the way that budgets shape our cities.
So, stay tuned. Soon more news about this in WeBudget.
Hear the story about WeBudget project and the idea behind it. Project members and CSO representatives interested in public finaces transparency, are speaking about why is it important for citizens to understand local budgets?
We Budget grew from the need for instruments that make public finances transparent and help people co-decide how money is spent in their communities – a crucial element in the vision for more participative societies where citizens take more responsibilities in governing processes. Starting by co-creating an IT toolkit and school for participatory budgeting, the project will test these tools at the local level with communities in four cities in Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Serbia. The results can later be applied to other European contexts.
Institute for Urban Politics (collective Ministry of Space) started its School of Open Budget, a seminary for CSOs, activists and local political movement members interested in understanding budgeting procedures, transparency of local budgets and citizen participation in spending public funds.
The First Open Budget School was held at the Human Rights House, Kneza Milosa 4 in Belgrade.
The Open Budget School program and agenda are the result of a series of roundtables with possible interested organizations. As the knowledge of the budget process is found to be very different and ranges from a lack of basic concepts to the fact that some organizations have participated in serious budget research and analysis for their areas of activity (culture, cycling), the agenda has been set in such a way that cover as broad a range of knowledge as possible. Also, in special lectures on specific thematic areas, organizations that needed specific knowledge could participate further more.
1. Basic on budget and budget cycle, structure of local revenues and expenditures, budget reporting - lecturer: Branko Stanic
2. Budget planning and execution, understanding of four classifications of expenditures - (organizational, programmatic, functional and economic classifications) - lecturer: Aleksandar Marinković
3. Sample Budget Reading Example - Lecturer: Aleksandar Marinkovic
4. Budget Execution, Structure of Final Accounts of Local Self-Government Units - Lecturer: Mladen Ostojic
5. Presentation of the Analytical Service of Local Self-Government Units
- Lecturer: Mladen Ostojic
6. Fundamentals of participatory budgeting and successful examples in Europe and the region - lecturer: Branko Stanic
40 participants from 7 cities from Serbia participated in the event.
It has been a celebration day!
On the 1st of March, in the lecture hall of our University, in Messina, we presented Libellula (that stands for Dragonflies). It’s the official starting day for the project we have been working on for the last two years: a laboratory for civic monitoring of local public spending as the first step of a set of reforms to “open the government”.
The University Lecture Hall on the 1st of March
The event was quite a big one (and maybe it lasted a bit too long. Takeaway for next time: no more than two hours!). 200 citizens (among them journalists, students, professionals and business), 10 local and national CSOs, three Sicilian public administrations shared experiences and feedback about transparency and accountability practices. Transparency International Italia, ActionAid Italia, Amapola and Ondata shared with the participants stories about their civic monitoring activities in Sardinia, Calabria and Sicily. High representatives from the University of Messina, the Municipality of Palermo and the Sicilian Region stated their “openness” towards citizens’ collaboration in monitoring and designing public spending and officially committed with us, the participants and the Italian Ministry for Public Administration, represented at out meeting by the responsible for the Nation OpenGov Plan, to implement transparency and anticorruption tools.
From left to right, representatives of civic monitoring projects: Paola Liliana Buttiglione (ActionAid Italia), Paola Dottor (Transparency International Italia), Giuseppe D’Avella (Parliament Watch Italia), Cinzia Roma (A Scuola di Open Coesione), Valeria Ferraris (Amapola)
Our civic monitoring coalition, from Milan to Catania!
For our part, we presented Libellula as the space where to rebuild an alliance between the local government and citizens in Messina. In our city this alliance, made of trust and accountability, at the base of every true democratic context, has been broken and never recovered since many years. And it has been broken because politicians betrayed citizens' trust, of course, but also because civil society didn’t react enough. Civil society missed methodology and sustainability. So, Libellula is not only a laboratory for civic monitoring of local public spending but also a format to build and sustain local civic ecosystem. On the 1st of March we presented the sustainability model of the lab and the civic monitoring methodologies that are being implemented.
WeBudget represents a relevant part of this strategy, specifically allowing storytelling about civic monitoring actions in the city. The app, in fact, allows to relate stories to budget data. Libellula will stimulate stories to emerge, will help to link stories with the local budget data and to advocate for more transparent, better public spending. Libellula therefore mix civic control with narration and vision. In the Lab there will be a match between CSOs and activist’s causes and scholars and high qualified pro-bono professionals contributions. Groups of participant will collaborate to build stories of general interests that will be shared with the rest of the community both online and in the plenary sessions of the lab. Those stories, in our view, have to form the bases to formulate, further on, concrete scenarios of urban development on specific issues.
Francesco Saija, president of Parliament Watch Italia, presents Libellula. WeBudget is a relevant part of the civic monitoring strategy of the Lab.
Libellula is funded, at the moment, till June 2021. We are trying to ensure long term sustainability to show that in Messina, as well as in many other dysfunctional local contexts, unable to effectively spend resources, what is needed is a strong local civil society advocating for a real transition to a “open government ecosystem”.
This is what Libellula aims to be.
WeBudget grew from the need for instruments that make public finances transparent and help people co-decide how money is spent in their communities – a crucial element in the vision for more participative societies where citizens take more responsibilities in governing processes. Starting by co-creating an IT toolkit and school for participatory budgeting, the project will test these tools at the local level with communities in four cities in Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Serbia. The results can later be applied to other European contexts.