What is Participatory Budgeting? 

Participatory budgeting ("PB" for short) is a tool of deliberative democracy wherein ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a public budget through a binding decision or vote. In PB, ordinary participants are elevated to context experts, project developers and decision-makers rather than spectators or advisors. PB makes public decisions about public money more equitable and transparent while serving as an investment in civic education and community and leadership building.

Participatory budgeting begins with elected officials dedicating resources to the process and defines broad goals and constraints. From their PB process can vary widely depending on the specific community but the essential structure is the same. Usually, the municipality convenes a PB steering committee representing a diverse cross-section of the community. The Steering Committee works with staff to refine objectives and constraints, determine process rules and timelines, and develop an outreach plan. This information is assembled in a process "rule book" to ensure that everyone has the same access to information to impact the process. The formal process begins by inviting the community to brainstorm project ideas. Budget delegates and City staff distill ideas, refine project ideas, and develop them into feasible projects that come back to the community for deliberation and final, binding vote. The projects with the most votes are implemented. A key difference in PB is the public's participation is not advisory –  the vote itself decides which projects will be funded and implemented.

1. Community
defines objectives

2. Project proposal

3. Deliberation
and voting

Participatory Budgeting can be designed to focus on specific outcomes such as civic or voter education, community building, repairing broken trust, increasing transparency or informing broader spending priorities.  Participatory equity and social inclusion were clear priorities articulated by Oregonians at an April 2018 Community Forum "Bringing Participatory Budgeting to the Portland-region."  Past PB processes have been used to allocate capital improvements (for schools, parks, and transportation funds) or on art & social services (in the context of cities, schools, public housing authorities, and private foundations). However, research indicates the most impactful PB allocate fully discretionary funds which provide the widest latitude for the community to develop and select projects.

4. Winners are

Participatory Budgeting Oregon is fiscally sponsored by the Know Agenda Foundation, a tax-exempt 501c3 non-profit organization. Donate to support our work to bring participatory budgeting to Oregon. 

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