tools directory

Alternative Budget Initiatives

What situations is this tool used in?

Alternative budget initiatives are used to take a fresh approach to public sector budgets. They involve a range of organisations coming together to analyse an existing budget, explore the positive and negative impacts on specific groups or issues, challenge the government on specific budgetary choices, and often to form a comprehensive parallel budget.

Who is this tool aimed at?

Alternative budget initiatives tend to be undertaken by a coalition or partnership of civil society organisations. This group may then engage researchers or specialists to assist with the technical analysis of a current budget. The outcomes of an alternative budget initiative – for example proposals for an alternative budget – are likely to be aimed at members of the public via media dissemination, as well as the original budget owners.

How Is the Tool Used?

Once the process is initiated via the development of a coalition, the group will determine the area of focus (for example education, environment) and the objectives – these might include raising public awareness, capacity building, and advocating changes to existing budgets.

There then follows a period of analysis and drafting: analysis of the existing budget, with a specific focus on its implications for the issue or sector of focus; and drafting of an alternative budget, including fully costed proposals.

Publicity is key to the alternative budget initiative. Media dissemination is an important mechanism for raising awareness and profile of the alternative budget, while the organisations involved may well arrange public meetings or education initiatives. This is followed by ongoing work to realise tangible impacts through changes in the current budgetary allocations.

Who has used the tool?

In 2013 and 2014 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives developed an Alternative Federal Budget, showing “what the federal government could do if it decided to seriously address Canadians’ largest social, economic, and environmental concerns”. The 2014 alternative budget cited a range of potential impacts, including 855,000 Canadians lifted out of poverty, reduction in income inequality, and reduction in unemployment to 5.4%.

Overview of Alternative Federal Budget: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/projects/alternative-federal-budget

2014 Alternative Federal Budget report: https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/alternative-federal-budget-2014

Where to find out more

Overview of alternative budget initiatives process: http://www.pgexchange.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=160&Itemid=155

Film of Hawaii Senate Minority alternative budget press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTP3PGki5xk

International Budget Partnership: http://internationalbudget.org/