Participatory Budgeting (PB)
PB is a process whereby citizens provide their priorities for civic improvement and have direct influence over the budget allocations of their municipalities, often focused on construction and service budget allocations. The Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988, called the Citizen's Constitution, enabled communities to gain additional control over spending in their districts. Since an initial experiment in Porto Alegre in 1989, more than 250 municipalities in Brazil and more than 20 countries worldwide, have adopted PB policies. In the United States, PB has become a permanent fixture of the budgeting process in Chicago's 49th Ward, and it is being implemented in several districts in New York City.
PB has shown demonstrable results in improving the reach and distribution of government services (particularly in areas with high disparities in income), increasing information disclosure and improving perceptions of government responsiveness, attracting inclusion and participation of underrepresented areas or groups, and influencing long-term planning beyond election cycles.
How to Apply this Policy
While PB processes differ, several elements remain fairly similar worldwide. Community members are invited to neighborhood assemblies where PB is explained, community needs are identified, and delegates are selected. These delegates develop spending proposals, solicit feedback from their communities, and hold a round of community voting. Winning programs are implemented and monitored, and at the beginning of the next cycle, municipal representatives are required to report on the outcomes of projects to the community members.
Many municipalities begin the first cycle using a council member's discretionary funds for infrastructure improvement, gradually increasing the percentage of the city's budget directed through PB in subsequent years. Users continue to develop innovations in inclusion methods-this year, Porto Alegre developed an app to allow residents access to the PB process via mobile devices and the Internet.
Cecilia Salinas, Participatory Budgeting Coordinator, 49th Ward Phone: +1 (773) 338-5796 E-mail: Cecilia.Salinas@cityofchicago.org Website: http://participatorybudgeting49.wordpress.com/contact-us/ Participatory Budgeting in New York City Website: http://pbnyc.org/Contact
Through PB, Porto Alegre's residents influenced the city to turn down a five-star hotel investment on the site of an abandoned power plant, "instead using the valuable location as a public park and convention hall that now serves as a new symbol of the city."
The website http://www2.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/op/, the official site of the Porto Alegre PB system, includes more information, including an explanation of the technological access program. The site http://www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk/ hosts a wealth of information on models' outcomes and case studies of PB, and http://www.participatorybudgeting.org/ supports PB in North America.