Democracy in Practice from Games to Physical Exercise: The Example of Participatory Budgeting for the Featured Park in Xindian District of New Taipei City
In the past few years, Taiwan has had a rich experience of experimenting with participatory budgeting in democracy. Communitarianism is important to the establishment and operation of democracy. On the one hand, civic groups can serve as a tool for civil society to resist the intervention of state power, and on the other hand, they can also serve as a forum for people to learn civic skills and develop social connections. The aim of this study is to look at the practice of democracy in local government from the perspective of games to physical exercise. Through the operation of participatory budgeting, we will understand why and how local governments empower citizens to strive for government budgets as a process of civic activism. This study used in-depth interviews with a total of 16 people, including New Taipei City government officials, New Taipei City Council members, district office administrators, participatory budgeting proponents, local grassroots cadres and their accompanying teams. This paper finds that in communities where participatory budgeting is experimental, it is easier to develop the habit of participation and decision making by all because the local elite are not familiar with how participatory budgeting works and have not yet faced the difficulties of maintaining a community. The planning and design of participatory budgeting has changed the traditional Taiwanese park design from one that only focuses on play safety. From play to physical activity, the design of sports facilities in parks lacks the ability to train children's concentration, balance, muscular endurance and physical coordination. Civic participation has further changed the government's budgeting. In conclusion, non-elite led participatory budgeting is more in tune with the spirit of civic engagement, where local governments are less dominant in budgeting and give community members more opportunities to voice and decide.