Guten Tag! Buenas Noches! Bonsoir! Good evening! were the welcomes which kicked off the evening at Woodside Hall in Maryhill on Thursday 20th April 2017. The Language Hub – a group of parents seeking support for their pre-school libraries project which supports bilingualism, second language learning and maintaining mother tongue language skills - they were the first group to pitch their idea to the community at the Over to You participatory budgeting event.
Community groups of all sizes were invited by the Over to You steering group to submit proposals for under £1000 which could help empower local communities to promote inclusion and which would have a positive impact in Glasgow, North of the river. After a chance to browse the participating projects’ stalls and share a delicious meal, community members were all ears to hear the 12 projects pitch their ideas for engaging with local minority ethnic communities.
The groups were eager to get up on stage, and the entertainment was not in short supply as we heard an African song from the children’s choir of ACWA (African and Caribbean Women’s Association), a group of women who have been coming together since 1988 to share their cultural history, talk about shared issues as women and mothers, and support their children to learn about their African and Caribbean heritage.
“Hearing the children sing traditional songs also helps senior citizens connect with African myths and stories”
Jamilah Hussan Mahmud, Secretary of ACWA
As the evening progressed the groups pitched for funds to support events and activities which would bring together the diverse community of Glasgow North. Proposals included a Community Festival, a Social Cohesion event to engage minority ethnic communities in a new movement and physical activity centre, and an alternatives to violence project which promised “a more peaceful Glasgow North” by bringing people together to manage conflict.
Groups also sought funds for equipment, class instructors, and materials - including the production of a community directory - all ideas developed and presented by community members of all ages, and from a range of different communities through poetry, group presentations and testimonies of the impact that their groups and activities have.
“We are looking to be able to expand to include different social groups and so we have a series of events coming up that are all about community cohesion, so this event gave us the chance to come and bid for some funding to help us to be able to put that event on”
Jacqui Stone, Secretary, Movement Park
The Over to You participatory budgeting project is being led by the West of Scotland Regional Equalities Council (WSREC), who have developed 4 participatory budgeting pilots, each with a focus on engaging minority ethnic communities: Glasgow North, Glasgow South, North Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. Groups were invited to apply for between £100 and £1000 for project or activity costs and the process was open to local, community, voluntary or non-profit organisations, including informal groups.
“We stipulated that groups should have an income of less than £50,000 per year to apply to be eligible for the fund. This meant we had to turn some applicant groups away, but we really wanted to ensure that the process reached the groups who might not normally have the opportunity to apply for funding” Caroline McKoen, West of Scotland Regional Equalities Council
12 projects pitched in Glasgow North, with £10,000 distributed, and all applicants successful in receiving some funding towards their proposal, but the process across the 4 areas has had a total of 45 projects pitching their ideas to their local communities, with a total of £40,000 distributed for projects promoting inclusion and engaging minority ethnic communities.
“Bringing everyone together is a very good idea and having people have their say. It’s not just about a panel of judges being the ones to judge you but you have the community deciding whether or not you are going to have the funds.”
Jamilah Hussan Mahmud, Secretary of ACWA
Participants were asked to give a score for every project (from 1-5), and then the total scores for each were counted and the funds distributed in order. This ensured each project was given equal consideration and that the community listened to all of the pitches and learned about each of the projects in turn.
“I liked hearing all of what they are doing, I had never heard of most of them, in fact except for the two [projects] I support, I had never heard of the others at all. They were all excellent. What’s going on in Maryhill is wonderful!” Participant
As this participatory budgeting process asked groups to focus on engaging minority ethnic communities, it brought together a wide range of community-led activity representing the diverse range of groups in the communities of Glasgow North. As well as highlighting the groups who focus on support to specific minority communities, the process was a great opportunity for those who offer a broader service to focus on engaging those groups and promote greater inclusion:
So it’s Over to the communities Glasgow North now, to take forward their fantastic ideas with the funds distributed to them by the community, and share the inclusion, enthusiasm and creativity that we saw on Thursday night through this participatory process.
“As far as I am concerned it’s been a total joy! The whole process from start to finish, and getting the funding is just the icing on the cake… the cherry on the icing on the cake!”
Mary Kennedy, Alternatives to Violence Project