Betty Chapman lives in Sheltered Housing in Partick, Glasgow’s west end, an area close to university life but with an invisible barrier between the new coffee houses and bars and the people who are Partick born and bred. At a participatory budgeting (PB) event Betty stood in front of friends and neighbours and told them that in their sheltered accommodation they had a lovely social club with lots of old records but no record player to play them on.
Looking for ideas ‘big and wee’ to make positive change in the community, Partick Housing Association teamed up with the health and wellbeing champions in Annex Communities to hold a Partick and Thornwood Ideas Fund.
With 30 ideas asking for a slice of £20,000 of public money from the Scottish Government’s Community Choices fund, bids came from established groups looking to brighten Partick though fun, creative activities to parents looking for funding for sensory equipment and day-time discos.
Pat McCowat (pictured below) received funding for community classes like ‘nit and natter’ after telling us how they are “good for the soul and lifts your spirits”.
Held in a cold December night, anyone over 8 years old living or working in Partick and Thornwood could vote for how they thought the £20,000 pot should be dispersed. Individuals could apply for grants of £150-£500 for their ideas, and groups or projects could apply for £150-£1,500. Applicants got help at a project development workshop to complete a pretty simple form setting out their idea, agreeing that it would be held in the local area and estimating who it would benefit. They had the opportunity drum up community support at a pop-up event in the local supermarket before coming to the voting night where they could display and explain their idea on a stall before being given a strict two minutes on the stage to make their ‘pitch’.
There was a lovely warm feeling to the night, as groups supported each other’s applications and each pitch was met with applause. Votes were cast on a key pad, explained as a chance to play your own version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Each application was rated on a scale, with those averaging out as most popular receiving funding. 22 of the applications were fully funded, with one being partially funded.
From speaking to people and hosting an evaluation wall two things were clear; there’s a strong desire in Partick and Thornwood for the community to make its own decisions, and that a little money can go a long way.
“Usually decisions are made by politicians. Fabulous for the community to decide, love it.”
“Learned more about what is going on in Partick.”
We make better decisions together than we do alone. That was born out when people in Partick voted to fund Betty’s record player. They might have been motivated by her explaining how listening to old records wards off, or breaks through, dementia and how residents like a wee dance to stay active. But really, they voted for the joy they could see the music would bring to Betty and her friends.
Too often, there’s no place for joy in a funding application form. Maybe there should be, because joy, like PB, can make for good decisions.