What is Participatory Budgeting?


What is Participatory BudgetingGood morning. Have you ever heard of participatory budgeting before? Most people probably haven’t. A couple of days ago, I hadn’t heard of it either. According to Wikipedia participatory budgeting is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making. Ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss and prioritize public spending products. Participatory budgeting sounds good so far.

How does participatory budgeting work?

PB involves meetings and votes. Each cities PB is adapted to its particular needs, but it generally follows these steps.

Design the process

The first step is to design the process. A committee and a representative of the community create the rules in partnership with the city officials to make sure the process is inclusive and meets the needs of the locals. This process shouldn’t take too long.

Come up with ideas

The next step is to come up with ideas. The city residents will brainstorm ideas. They will have the chance to share them through meetings in person and virtual. They will discuss ideas for the different projects.


The third step is to develop proposals. Volunteers usually called budget delegates, develop the ideas into actual proposals. Once the proposals are developed, city experts then take a look at them.

Cast votes

Next, the residents of the communities vote to divide the available between the proposals. It is a direct democratic voice in the city’s future.

Fund the winning projects

After the votes are cast, the winning projects will be financed. Examples of winning projects are safety improvements for the city, Wi-Fi in public parks and improvements on the conditions of roads.

PB was first developed in the 1980’s in Brazil. By 2016, thousands of cities have implemented participatory budgeting. People get excited about it for several different reasons. Below are three of the most common reasons.

Community Building

Because of the regular meetings, people get to their neighbors. They feel more connected to their city. The local organizations spend less time lobbying and more time deciding policies. The budget meetings help to connect community groups and help them bring in more members.

Public education

Participants become more active and informed citizens. That’s good for any community. Community members, officials, and staff learn democracy by doing it. There is no better way to learn something than by doing it. They gain a deeper understanding of complex political issues and community needs.

Deeper Democracy

The people of the community have a real say. They get to make real political decisions. What community wouldn’t like that? Because of that participation budgeting tends to engage many people who typically don’t care about the government. Politicians also have the chance to build close relationships with the community members.

Preparatory budgeting sounds interesting, to say the least. It seems to be working pretty good in some places. I wonder what the effect of it would be if more cities in the US attempt to try it.

Do you think PB would work nationwide?



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