Initiative: Fund My Community
Institution: Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Government of South Australia
Problem: Australia is one of the wealthiest nations. Average annual income is over $80,000 AUD (approximately 57,000 USD) and the population enjoys free education and health care. Despite this, sections of the population experience economic or social disadvantage. Over 6 per cent of our population are living in poverty (<50 per cent of median income) and 8.6 per cent are without a recognized educational attainment. Community Benefit SA (CBSA) is the public name of the Charitable and Social Welfare Fund, a grant program operated by the Government of South Australia. When program administration assessed applications and made funding recommendations, it was noticed there was little diversity in funded organizations or initiatives. Many organizations received multiple grants, especially the larger organizations with access to professional grant writers. As such, the process was biased against smaller organizations. However, little impact was evident from the Government's large investment. Despite allocating nearly $70 million AUD (approximately 50 million USD) in the programms and services over 20 years, there was no change in the communities with the highest levels of disadvantage and no reduction in the percent of the population experiencing disadvantage.
Solution: Fund My Community (https://yoursay.sa.gov.au/fmc rounds/fund-my-community-2017) is a capacity-building grant program that uses digital participatory budgeting to allocate $1 million AUD (approximately 700,000 USD) annually to improve the lives of disadvantaged, isolated or vulnerable South Australians. For six weeks in February and March of each year, not-for-profit community groups submit applications for funding between $10,000 and $100,000 AUD for projects or services that will improve the lives of disadvantaged, isolated or vulnerable South Australians. For six weeks in April and May, South Australians are invited to take part in what is called the 'community assessment', during which citizens review the applications and select the projects or services that they think will have the biggest impact.
Impact: Fund My Community contributes to the SDGs at two levels. At the administrative level, it contributes to Goal 16 - building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The funding outcome is transparent, as 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. The Program directly contributes to a transparent, inclusive, accountable and respectful public service. In addition, the Program contributes to achieving the SDGs associated with human development (Goals 1 - 5) through the impact of the grant funding. By requiring members of the public to allocate the funding to a broad range of population groups the Program has benefitted some of the poorest and most vulnerable South Australians.