eDemocracy Webinar Series - Social

Webinar Summary

1:08 - Host Andrea Reimer contextualizes the topic of Budgeting in the Time of Crisis and introduces the speakers. The first interactive poll question for the audience is: How controversial do you anticipate this year’s budget to be? (Poll results can be found in the link above). 

4:44 - Rebecca Alty, Mayor of Yellowknife, talks about the unique challenges of governance and budgeting up north in her municipality, both before and during COVID. 

9:41 - Second interactive polling question: What is holding you back from doing, or doing more, public engagement around budgeting?

12:08 - Khelsilem, Councillor for the Squamish Nation Council, explains the engagement process that went into a recent referendum on election rules. He also discusses the first ever budget consultation they held with the community. 

16:19 - Community engagement on budgets are not yet standard for First Nations, and though there are best practices to be learned from municipalities, there are fundamental differences to keep in mind. 

19:02 - COVID has disrupted revenue projections going into this year’s budget for the Squamish Nation. Despite this, they are trying to build the idea of community engagement on budgeting into the community especially for years to come.

“...if we're going to be in this for another two years until there's some treatment or vaccine, I really want to ensure that we're continuing to prioritize those big items that require action. And I think taking care of our community, investing in our future, building that infrastructure is going to be integral, and I don't want to put those things on hold. So I really want to find a way to continue to do those things, and engaging the community on the budget is going to be key to that.” 

21:40 - Andrea introduces John Richardson, founder and CEO of Ethelo, who speaks to the idea of integrating analog processes with digital tools for engagement. She asks a polling question: Why are budgeting engagements valuable for you? 

23:54 - Ethelo develops budget-related online public consultations for different clients, including Yellowknife and Squamish Nation. 

26:14 - John screen-shares a custom Ethelo module used by the Vancouver School Board, which approached budget engagement by narrowing down the public’s priorities around spending, expenses, and revenue generation options. This approach works in times of uncertainty when the numbers are not confirmed. He also walks through the Citizen Budget tool.

35:31 - Audience polling question: Are you planning to do a public engagement around budgeting this year?   

35:58 - Andrea asks the speakers to speak to engagement processes as a good opportunity to educate residents about the realities of budgeting. 

37:09 - Because the Squamish Nation works with many low-income community members, engagements can raise general awareness for concepts like financial planning, wealth management, and return on investment. This education can prepare people for community projects like large infrastructure investment. 

41:25 - For Mayor Alty, the engagement process helps residents connect the dots between the services they’re receiving and what they’re willing to pay, and opens conversations and discussions about these priorities. 

44:00 - Andrea asks John to talk about how the Ethelo platform can increase awareness and education about trade-offs and priorities in budgets. 

45:17 - John explains how the Ethelo platform can allow residents to put themselves in the shoes of elected officials and understand the hard choices that need to be made around spending priorities. 

47:15 - John and Mayor Alty talk about internal engagement on budgets, and how it can help  municipal departments better communicate with each other. 

51:30 - Khelsilem talks about Squamish Nation’s new budgeting policy has increased transparency and buy-in both internally and for the public. 

53:40 - Question for the guests: The people who most need attention in a budgeting process are those who are least likely to assert their interests. What strategies and values can you use to engage the vulnerable? 

55:02 - Khelsilem talks about how Squamish Nation is utilizing more online tools to help with the high cost of community engagement and higher levels of participation overall. Recently, an online survey for a COVID-response budget helped Council discover that the highest concerns for residents were food-related. 

“Now that we’re getting into the habit of doing this, I think we've got to get to that place where it's institutionalized within the organization. And then we [need to be] constantly improving the tools and the quality of the tools.”

57:51 - For Mayor Alty, digital engagement especially through social media has been more accessible to residents. Yellowknife also sees an opportunity to participate with local adult education programs to increase digital literacy. 

1:00:32 - Final thoughts and wrap-ups from host Andrea. 

Have any questions on budget engagements? Curious to learn more about Ethelo and Citizen Budget?

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