Participatory Budgeting Polish-style. What kind of policy practice has travelled to Sopot, Poland?

Wojciech Keblowski, Mathieu Van Criekingen

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By the early 2000s, the idea of participatory budgeting (PB) in Poland exuded an air of a remote South American utopia. Today, only about a decade later, PB has become part of Polish political reality. As the number of cities engaged in PB is rising, the popularity of PB has surprised -- if not perplexed -- local and national politicians, policy advisors, urban activists and academics alike. It remains unclear what kind of policy practice has arrived to Poland and travelled across the country.
The first PB-like initiative occurred in the city of P?ock, a mid-sized city in the cen- tre of the country. Between 2003-2005, within the framework of the United Nations Development Programme a public-private partnership was formed between the municipality, local NGOs, PKN Orlen (i.e. major Polish petrochemicals and gasoline company, headquartered in P?ock), and Levi Strauss, allowing for the establishment of the Grant Fund for P?ock, in which projects submitted by NGOs were evaluat- ed by a jury (P?aszczyk, 2005). The first project labelled "participatory budgeting" emerged some years later, in 2011, in Sopot, a small city on the Baltic shore. The latter project is now widely and officially recognised as the first ever PB project in Poland. As of January 2014, PB has been embraced by approximately 80 cities -- in- cluding Warsaw, Kraków, ?odz, Wroc?aw, Pozna?, and Gda?sk. It is furthermore of- ficially supported by the Ministry of Administration and Digitization of Poland, as well as by Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
However, despite increased recognition and popularity, the debate concerning PB in Poland, while addressed at diverse grassroots and NGO conferences, policy papers as well as in the local and national media, has acquired a rather limited character: cap- tivated with the ever-increasing quantity of PB cases, various commentators sel- dom provide a consistent analysis of their quality. Few accounts (e.g. Gerwin, 2013, K?b?owski, 2013) have attempted to critically investigate the methodologies and im- pacts of PB in Polish cities. The key issue -- signalled by Ganuza & Baiocchi (2012) who provide examples from Europe, Latin America and Asia -- of what actually has travelled under the PB label, has not yet been fully addressed in Poland.
As in the case of other "travelling" policy models, we argue that the mobility of PB should be approached as an "acutely political" process (Ward, 2006, p. 70) that is historically, politically and socially constructed, "in which policies are subject to change and struggle as they are moved." (Ward, 2011, p. 90). In the Polish case, it remains unclear whether the sudden surge in political support for PB, as seen in the rocketing number of PB cases between 2011 and 2014 in the country, should either be interpreted as a sign of a participatory and deliberative turn in Polish urban policies - hence allowing for a lasting citizen influence over urban development, or rather as a "hype" among local policy-makers merely considering PB as an instrument of city marketing - or even as a way to boost one's chances in upcoming local elections in autumn 2014.
Herein lies the aim of this chapter: to help understand more comprehensively what kind of participatory policy and practice has actually travelled to and within Poland - or what PB Polish-style really is about. The chapter does not provide an analysis of all 80-odd PB cases in Poland (see Keblowski, forthcoming). Instead, we focus here on the case of Sopot as a symbolic case, not only due to its pioneer-like character, but also due the template-like role it has acquired in inspiring dozens of other PB projects across the country. We argue that looking at Sopot can provide key insights on the achievements and flaws of Polish PB.
Originele taal-2English
TitelHope for Democracy
Subtitel25 years of participatory budgeting in the world
RedacteurenNelson Dias
UitgeverijIn Loco Association
Pagina's369–377
ISBN van geprinte versie978-972-8262-09-9
StatusPublished - 2014

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