What is Participatory Budgeting?
Participatory budgeting ("PB" for short) is a deliberative democratic process wherein ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a public budget through a binding decision or vote. In PB ordinary people are context experts, project developers and direct decision-maker rather than spectators or advisors. It is both a more equitable way to allocate public funds and an investment in civic education and community building.
Each PB process is unique to the conditions of a specific community but the essential structure is the same. It begins by identifying needs or brainstorming specific ideas before working with each other and staff to distill and develop solutions into project proposals. The community then deliberates on the project proposals and their vote decides which ones will be funded and implemented.
PB is intentionally transparent so everyone has the same information and access. We think the best PB prioritizes participatory equity by making the least represented the experts in inclusive process design. Nevertheless PB can be designed to focus on specific outcomes such as civic or voter education, community building, repairing broken trust or informing broader spending priorities. PB has been used to allocate capital improvements (schools, parks, and transportation) or art and social services in the context of cities, schools, public housing authorities, and private foundations.