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Engagement through Participatory Budgeting

Engagement through Participatory Budgeting


How PB Works

Participatory Budgeting (PB) provides an opportunity for communities to participate in the distribution of their public budget. It is happening in many different countries, offering a big return on relatively small investments by building trust between communities and governments. Governments allocate a percentage of this budget to projects their community propose. These projects are put forward and the local community offer politicians a unique way to better understand their community’s needs. Officials then work with residents to help shape the viability of these projects. From here, residents vote for what they believe are the most important plans, demonstrating their priorities for their community. Depending on the exact nature of a chosen project, either the community, the government or a combination of both would undertake its delivery.

Who Does it?

Lots of different governments are involved in participatory budgeting, though it is a practice mostly undertaken by local governments, particularly in New York, Portugal and Brazil. Amelia recently spoke with PB expert César Silva, who outlines how PB works in local government, particularly in Portugal.

PB is implemented by all forms of governments as well as in schools. Take a look at one of NYC’s participatory budgeting champions Antonio Reynoso explain the benefits both his office and community gained from their PB processes here.

What Types of Budgets and Projects?

There are multiple forms of PB completed globally, ranging from government grants and infrastructure to community driven local projects. Below is a table summarising some of the key types of funds, projects and lessons from a number of different examples, it outlines some notable achievements which have advanced PB’s effectiveness.

ExampleType of FundsType of ProjectLessons
NYCCouncil Member discretionary funds.Local community projects using capital funds.
Programs or services using expense funds.
Small amounts go a long way: less than 0.5% of the total city budget used in 2018 with massive benefits from projects.
PortugalMix of funds
Interest in: National Funds.
First country to implement national PB   Intergenerational project design.Projects required to offer benefits to multiple generations.
BrazilCity funds in Porto Alegre.Service redistribution to lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods.Was the initial case that sparked a global movement towards PB in over 3,000 cities globally.
Australia$30 million AUD of state funds as community grants from a PB initiative in Victoria.Community safe spaces, anti-bullying programs, community solar hubs and more.More than just infrastructure: Community rallying against anti-social behaviour.
ParisTwo funding modes: Operational funds and Investment funds.Multiple different councils for various purposes: citizen council, future generations council and more.Increases educational opportunities.
Strong use of digital engagement tools.
South AfricaLocal municipal funds for community use.Create better divisions of jurisdiction between central and local government responsibilities.Led to the: Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plan (LASDAP).
CanadaCity budget funds utilised in the City of Hamilton.Improvements and cultural redesign to be more desirable as an international tourist hub.Instant return: Project to entice tourists to stop through the city during transit.
Credit: engage2.com.au/blog Benjamin Mouat

Why Engage in PB?

Politicians are able to see what ideas and projects their community really values, with the community better understanding the constraints of public budgets.

As participatory budgeting is often undertaken in a less formal manner and by local governments, it offers a chance for disenfranchised citizens and groups to be involved in decisions directly impacting on their community. Click To Tweet

For many in the general population, it often can strengthen their understanding of budgetary flows as well as removing pressures on authorities to make the best decisions on their community’s behalf. For example, In NYC the percentage of their public budget allocated for PB is extremely small in comparison to the benefits observed in community trust, making up around 0.5% of the city’s annual budget. Participatory budgeting is growing rapidly and is consistently creating new links between governments and their community, it showcases the growing need for trust and cohesion within this relationship.

It’s been wonderful to see Australian government organisations, such as the Victorian and South Australian State governments, trial PB in recent years with some great results. In the face of major uncertainty and disruption provided by events such as our recent bushfire crisis and COVID-19, PB would likely engage and activate both people and businesses looking for purposeful work in communities across Australia.

If you are interested in scoping out a participatory budgeting project for your community or school, please call Amelia Loye 0411 960 585 or Ben Mouat 0437 201 587. We would love to help get your project off the ground!

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