22. Participatory Budgeting – A Method to Empower Local Citizens & Communities

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:

“Participatory Budgeting” (PB) is a process that allows citizens to decide directly how to allocate all or part of a public budget, typically through a series of meetings, work by community “delegates” or representatives and ultimately, a final vote. It was first implemented in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1990, and has since spread.

PB has recently taken root in Canadian and American soils.

Chicago’s 49th Ward, for example, uses this process to distribute $1.3 million of annual discretionary funds. The ward’s residents have praised the opportunity to make meaningful decisions, take ownership over the budget process, and win concrete improvements for their neighborhood – community gardens and sidewalk repairs to street lights and public murals. The initiative proved so popular that the ward’s alderman, Joe Moore, credits PB with helping to reverse his political fortunes.

The wave is not stopping in Chicago, either. Elected officials and community leaders elsewhere – from New York City to San Francisco and from Greensboro, N.C. to Springfield, Mass. – are considering launching similar initiatives.


“Government can’t solve budget battles? Let citizens do it,” Daniel Altschuler and Josh Lerner, The Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2011.  http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0405/Government-can-t-solve-budget-battles-Let-citizens-do-it

“Chicago’s Participatory Budgeting Experiment,” Nicole Summers, Shareable, April 6, 2011.  http://www.shareable.net/blog/chicagos-participatory-budgeting-experiment

Student Researcher: Allison Holt, San Francisco State University

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows, San Francisco State University