| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
At the time of its development, Fund My Community was the only deliberative, participatory budgeting-based programme being delivered in Australia. It is also globally unique in its geographic scope. It engages people from across South Australia, a jurisdiction of nearly one million square kilometres with a population density of 1.7 persons per square kilometre.
The Programme is also unique in that it draws on a range of theories in addition to participatory budgeting including behavioural science and psychology. For example, to overcome bias in decision making the allocation tool randomly loads projects in the ‘Browse Projects’ page and search functions. As a result, each user will view different projects, in a different order, overcoming the potential for placement bias.
South Australia has high levels of internet and smart phone penetration (above 80%). Designing and delivering Fund My Community as a digital platform has enabled widespread community participation while minimising programme administrative costs. The digital platform overcomes the geographic divide, regional participation averages 20%, similar to our regional population. It also supports participation by people with low-levels of English literacy. In 2017 a web-based multi-lingual application will support the participation of our citizens who speak English as a second language.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Fund My Community was developed and is managed and delivered by the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet (DPC). DPC leads the South Australian Government’s community engagement and collaboration agenda, through the Better Together and Reforming Democracy policies. This agenda is driving culture change across the government, from ‘expertism’ - where public servants and the Government make decisions in isolation to the community - to one that actively seeks and values community input, with particular emphasis on engaging the public in decisions that affect their lives.
DPC is a global leader in public sector engagement. It uses and builds-on many modern engagement practices including citizens’ juries and participatory budgeting, with an emphasis on digital platforms. For example, our YourSAy website invites all South Australians to engage with their government. The website currently has over 57,000 registered users, representing 3% of the State’s total population, with a target to reach 75,000 registered users by December 2017 (5% of the State’s population). We use social media extensively to share our activities with the public and encourage their involvement.
Fund My Community is delivered through the YourSAy website, allowing the Programme extensive reach into the community. For example, in 2016 the Fund My Community webpages received nearly 80,000 unique page views and nearly 4,000 YourSAy users actively took part in the community assessment.
Over 100,000 unique page views and nearly 10,000 users have actively taken part in the Programme to date (2015 and 2016). We anticipate that these numbers will increase by at least a third, to 150,000 and 15,000 respectively, by June of this year (the conclusion of the 2017 Programme).
This reach directly benefits the 150+ community groups that have applied for funding through increased awareness of their work in the general population, the soft marketing benefit (refer Q3).
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Between October 2014 and May 2015, DPC along with the Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) co-designed and delivered the pilot Programme. The pilot included a number of phases:
i) stakeholder and community consultation (October 2014 – January 2015, refer Q7)
ii) design (December – January 2015)
iii) submission and awareness raising (February – March 2015)
iv) community assessment (April – May 2015) and
v) evaluation and reporting (June – September 2015).
DCSI provided the AUD$1 million to be distributed in grant funding and 1.0 FTE staff member who was seconded to DPC to lead the project. DPC provided all other operational costs including the AUD$70,000 to design and build a sophisticated digital budget allocator tool.
The decision to invest in building a tool, as opposed to buying an off-the-shelf version, was taken to directly address concerns raised during the stakeholder and community consultation. The allocator incorporated elements to address concerns raised during the consultation and required participants to meet several minimum criteria (called a Plan) including:
i) allocating between $700,000 and $1 million
ii) choosing one small, one medium and one large project and
iii) choosing project’s from four categories.
One hundred and eighteen eligible applications were received during the submission phase from a diversity of organisations: small and large, volunteer and professional, metropolitan and regional.
Nearly 4,000 people took part in the pilot’s community assessment with just over 2,300 people successfully completing and submitting a Plan and therefore influencing the funding outcome. A further 1,500 people commenced but did not complete their Plan. This represents an abandonment rate of nearly 40%, significantly lower than industry averages which range between 60 and 80%.
The 14 projects that received the most community support were approved for funding for a total of $970,000. These organisations reflected the diversity in applicant organisations and included small and large, volunteer and professional, metropolitan and regional.
Between June and September 2015, DPC and DCSI evaluated the pilot from a range of perspectives - applicant organisation, participant and the government - and the findings were shared with all three groups. DPC also engaged an independent third party to review the digital allocator tool from a user perspective
The evaluation found the Programme was a highly effective mechanism to both allocate grant funding and engage the community in government decision making (refer 2015 Evaluation Report Part 2). The review of the digital tool concluded that it was a highly effective mechanism and user-centred. However, it provided a number of recommendations to improve the tool’s flow and functionality.
On the basis of these findings, in November 2015 the South Australian Cabinet adopted Fund My Community as an annual programme.
In January 2016, DPC invested a further $10,000 to refine the digital tool prior to the launch of the 2016 round. Sixty-two eligible applications were received and 3,700 people took part in the community assessment. The abandonment rate reduced to 18% in the second year, suggesting the refinements to the digital tool were effective. The evaluation of this round reinforced previous findings that Fund My Community is both highly efficient and effective.
In February 2017 the third round launched. The community will decide the funding outcome of this round between 18 April and 29 May 2017.
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
While the commitment to trial participatory budgeting was made by the Premier in March 2014, the resulting Programme - Fund My Community – was designed following a three month consultation with Government agencies, the community services sector and the general public.
Individual consultations were held with representatives of a range of government agencies and 13 community sector organisations, including the peak bodies representing the major population groups who would be directly affected by the new approach to decision making.
Government agencies consulted included the Office for the Ageing (Department of Health) and the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources for their grant administration and management experience. DPC also worked closely with DCSI in designing and developing the Programme including seconding a staff member. Internal consultations also occurred with other divisions of DPC, for example the Economic Analysis Unit which at the time was investigating the feasibility of using Social Impact Bonds.
Community sector organisations that were engaged in the design process included:
• South Australian Council for Social Services
• Volunteering SA & NT
• Shelter SA
• Multicultural Communities Council of SA
• Mental Health Coalition of South Australia
• National Disability Services (SA)
• Youth Affairs Council of SA
• Uniting Care (representing the community services division of major church/religious organisations)
• The Australian Centre for Social Innovation
• Connecting Up Australia
• Red Cross South Australia and
• Council on the Ageing (SA).
In addition, a survey seeking input of the public into the design of the Programme and in particular the allocation tool and process was completed by almost 670 members of the public.
A broad approach is also taken in delivering the Programme with numerous government agencies, peak community organisations and other community-based organisations (community houses, public libraries, etc) contributing and proactively supporting promotional activities to increase awareness of the funding opportunity and the public’s participation.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Fund My Community contributes to the SDGs at two levels. At the administrative level it contributes to Goal 16 - build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The funding outcome is completely transparent, the result of a public deliberation in which the decisions of all participants are given equal weight and aggregated to determine the overall outcome. The simplified application process reduces the administrative burden to community groups applying for funding (refer Q10). As such, the Programme directly contributes to a transparent, inclusive, accountable and respectful public service.
In addition, the Programme contributes to achieving the SDGs associated with human development (Goals 1 – 5) through the impact of the grant funding. Concrete examples include:
1) Seal U Latte mobile barista cart (http://fmc.yoursay.sa.gov.au/projects/mobile-barista-4-at-risk-youth, https://www.seal-u-latte.com/our-history)
Salisbury East Alternative Learning (SEAL) Centre received $15,000 to establish a mobile barista business for at-risk youth. The grant represented a small portion of the overall cost of establishing the cart, with local businesses providing in-kind support. The value of these contributions far outweighed the Government’s investment and was a tangible demonstration of the community’s support for the initiative.
All money raised by the cart is re-invested back into training and skills for the students. To date the cart has raised sufficient funds to support 10 students complete a range of hospitality related vocational training. Participants are learning skills that are counting towards their formal education and a number of participants have exited the programme back into main stream education or employment.
2) Safe Kennels (www.yoursay.sa.gov.au/fmc_rounds/fund-my-community/fmc_ideas/194, http://www.rspcasa.org.au/issues/safe-kennels/)
Violence against women remains an issue in Australia with domestic violence the leading cause of injury and death of women. Evidence suggests that attachment to a family pet can be a deterrent to women leaving an abusive relationship. This project provides boarding and care for the pets of women escaping a violent situation.
3) Homeless Beans Coffee Cart (www.yoursay.sa.gov.au/fmc_rounds/fund-my-community/fmc_ideas/242, https://www.huttstcentre.org.au/how-we-help/beans-talk-coffee-cart)
Received funding for a coffee cart that provides training and vocational experience for homeless people to help them (re)enter the workforce. In its first year the programme has resulted in 85% of participants transitioning to paid employment. Additionally, the participants have benefitted from knowing that the community actively chose to invest in their future by selecting this project for funding.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
A key challenge to overcome was the initial reticence by the Board to fully devolve decision making capacity to the community. The Board wanted to retain final approval power. To overcome this impasse it was agreed that the Board would endorse the community’s selection unless significant irregularities in the process could be identified. We were confident in the robustness of our design and online tool that no irregularities would arise!
The consultation identified a number of assumptions about devolving decision making to the community: i) that some organisations would be disadvantaged through the approach and ii) that the outcome would be inequitable. These concerns were equally raised during the one-on-one consultations with agencies and organisations and the public survey.
To address these concerns a sophisticated digital allocation tool was designed and built, rather than using an off-the-shelf or third party program. For example, by including a random generator the tool overcomes the potential for placement bias by displaying projects in a randomised order to users. In addition, for a member of the public’s participation to be valid and influence the funding outcome, it must meet three minimum criteria that were incorporated into the tool’s functionality:
• Allocate between $700,000 and $1 million. This addresses the equity issue and overcomes the potential network affect (the biggest organisations get funding through activating their networks)
• Choose one small, one medium and one large project (with project size determined by the amount of funding sought). This promotes a diversity of organisations and projects receiving funding and
• Choose projects to benefit at least four categories.
The evaluation of the pilot disproved the assumptions, demonstrating that the community allocated funding fairly and equitably. To promote the positive findings of the evaluation, DPC held information sessions for stakeholders and has widely shared the evaluation reports.