Participatory Budgeting podcast: balancing online and offline voting in Antwerp

As part of our work developing the use of digital participatory budgeting (PB) in Scotland, Demsoc is shining a light on some of the innovative ways other people across the world use digital PB. We recently shared a blog post about digital PB in New York City. This time we’re doing things a little differently and have an interview with Hanne Bastiaensen about her work on Antwerp’s Participatory Budget.

What’s interesting about Antwerp’s PB?

A lot. Antwerp’s Participatory Budget is built around offline discussions in which members of the public have to reach consensus to make their voice count. Over time they’ve carefully monitored who they are reaching, and used targeted activities to include those who are missing.

Last year, they took the step of including an option to cast a vote online. This addition is designed to be as straightforward as possible. The idea is that it gives people an easy way to get involved and find out more, and hopefully from here they’ll go on to take part in the offline consensus-building events. The online vote is given only a 20% weighting against an 80% weighting for votes cast collectively through offline events to push people towards these discussions. And it’s worked – the addition of this step has brought new people along to offline events where they sit down with their neighbours and trash out what projects should be prioritised in their city.

How was Hanne involved?

Hanne was project lead for Antwerp’s PB process, from first designing the process in 2013 to delivering it for the next four and half years. Last year she joined our team at Demsoc and is now the Country Manager for Belgium and The Netherlands. Annie Cook has taken the opportunity to ask her a bit more about Antwerp’s process and how a digital vote was used within this.

What’s in the interview?

The first part of this short interview focuses on how Antwerp’s process works, before looking at the addition of an online vote in the second half. With the interview carried out over the internet between Scotland and Belgium the quality has suffered in a few places, but there’s some great insight nonetheless.