Participatory Budgeting Blog

Discover How 4% of Governments Are Leading the World in Budget Accountability

Discover How 4% of Governments Are Leading the World in Budget Accountability

If a public company misses a forecast by a fraction, markets respond mercilessly. A company’s market value can drop millions – sometimes billions – of dollars in a few hours. Everyone with a corner office is put on high alert, and it’s even possible that a few jobs are lost. This, despite even turning a profit, but nevertheless neglecting to deliver the total profit that was promised. In other words, you accomplished 109%, but the public only rewards 110% or better. When a government runs a deficit, there’s usually a gnashing of teeth, a grumbling over coffee, and it usually ends with a heavy sigh. Everyone then goes about their business and generally hopes the next bit of news isn’t as glum. “Oh, you spent more than you made? Six consecutive quarters in a row? Carry on then.”  And that’s it: not with a bang, but a whimper. Now, to be fair, I understand that governments can’t be held accountable by corporate profit motives. Government revenues are generally tied to taxes, service fees, transfer payments and grants. They have an obligation to provide social services and help the poor, the sick and the infirm. They can’t arbitrarily shut down emergency services…

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Participatory Budgeting in North America

Is North America Finally Ready to Embrace Participatory Budgeting?

Around the world, governments large and small are exploring Participatory Budgeting. This is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, and a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory Budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritise public spending projects and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent. Put another way, it’s like crowdsourcing feedback on the spending of public funds. When Participatory Budgeting is taken seriously and is based on mutual trust, local governments and citizens can benefit equally. In some cases, Participatory Budgeting even raised people’s willingness to pay taxes. Until recently, North Americans have lagged behind their European and South American counterparts at apathetically low rates. By the end of 2012, North America was estimated as having completed barely a handful of Participatory Budgeting projects while the rest of the world had completed thousands – (see graphic, below).  While it was estimated that the current world total of projects completed is somewhere around 1500, Canadians and Americans had probably delivered around ten – and that’s being generous. As the self-proclaimed purveyors and protectors of democracy, surely North Americans would have found these statistics…

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Is participatory budgeting risky

Is participatory budgeting risky?

“Is participatory budgeting risky?” It’s the obvious any good manager asks when considering a new approach that opens up the budgeting process.

Examples of participatory budgeting

Ten examples of participatory budgeting from around the world

Examples of participatory budgeting are becoming more and more common as Governments gradually embrace transparency.

Participatory budgeting strategy

Participatory budgeting strategy adds up for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council

A thoughtful online and offline participatory budgeting strategy helped Port Macquarie-Hastings Council rekindle its community’s trust. “We’ve never had a financial conversation like this before,” notes Communications Manager Lyndal Harper on Council’s “Budget Priorities” engagement strategy.  “The community support we’ve had for it has been reflected in the comments arriving on our online forum; such as “Thanks for providing us with the opportunity to have our say” and “I’ve learned a lot.” It’s gratifying after such a challenging few years.” While it’s been a steady, hard climb over the past three years, Lyndal feels that the Council’s renewed commitment to community engagement is having a positive effect. In 2008, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council was dismissed after a full public enquiry found that the council had failed to consult adequately or control the costs related to a cultural and entertainment centre that ended up costing over $50million. “The community lost faith in us,” reflects Lyndal. “But as an organisation we’ve learned a lot and the upshot is that we have now become an organisation that is genuinely committed to authentic community engagement processes.” “It’s fair to say that it was a big leap forward to get Council sign off on online engagement.…

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Online participatory budgeting

Online participatory budgeting in five easy steps

Online participatory budgeting need not be difficult. Here are five easy steps to get you started

Halifax Tax participatory budget to simulate $400m of municipal spending

Halifax Tax was established to support Halifax Regional Municipality’s “Shape your Budget” community engagement program. The Halifax Tax Budget Allocator site was established to allow the community to simulate adjusting municipal tax dollars supporting various services: transit, municipal streets and sidewalks, parks, garbage collection, fire and emergency protection, policing, recreation and libraries. The site instructions state that “by increasing, decreasing or maintaining the allocations to each service, you can play with different scenarios as you try to balance the service demands against the tax dollars residents and business pay.”       Halifax Tax allowed community members to increase or decrease spending across nineteen budget line items across four broad budgetary areas. For example, under the area of “infrastructure”, the community was asked to consider spending on four individual line items: (1) roadway maintenance; (2) Right of way and traffic management; (3) snow removal and ice control; and (4) solid waste. The consequences of each spending option were very clearly set out on the site making it easy for community members to make educated choices. The “Shape your Budget” program of community engagement was also supported by a series of fantastic videos about the nature of the services delivered by each…

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Funbobulator - Wagga Council

Funbobulator: Wagga Council’s playgrounds participatory budget

The Funbobulator was created by Wagga Wagga Council in regional NSW to gather input about playgrounds Wagga Wagga City Council was looking for a fun way to engage the city’s young and young at heart about the future design of its playgrounds. Council established a consultation portal for the project under the branding, Swing into Action, on its main online community engagement site, Love your City, Have your Say. The project introduction states: Wagga Wagga City Council currently manages 90 playgrounds within the city and across its rural villages including 87 local playgrounds, 2 district playgrounds and 1 regional playground. In addition to providing playgrounds in new developments Council provides funds to replace approximately 4 of the older playgrounds throughout the network each year. Over the next 5 years Council plans to upgrade a number of playgrounds. We need your input! Help us design playgrounds for you and your friends. Council has developed a brand new machine to design playgrounds called a funbobulator which is specifically designed to be operated by kids. This funbobulator uses the latest technologies to match play equipment with different parks. The machine relies on your input to determine the best amount of fun per kid…

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community development participatory budget

Robin Hood: Melville Council’s community development participatory budget

The Robin Hood project was a participatory budgeting process that helped Council to choose between several dozen proposed community development projects The City of Melville sits on the southern shores of the Swan River, Perth, Western Australia. Council has been engaging its community online for many years via its permanent community engagement web-portal, We’re Listening Melville. In 2013 Council established the Robin Hood Project Budget Allocator to help work out how to spend $100,000. In Council’s own words: In 2013, the City of Melville provided $100,000 to be distributed amongst a number of small grants ($1,000 – $20,000) for projects presented by community groups, not-for-profit organisations, businesses and individuals. Unlike traditional funding programs, approval of the grants was conducted by the community through an online (and offline) voting process. All project applications were open to the public for voting on which projects they wanted to implement in their community. The project was facilitated by the City of Melville’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC). Council also held an online discussion and Q&A session as well as a series of face-to-face events with young people to help inform the decision-making process. The consultation process was an outstanding success: Over the past couple of…

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Hamburg participatory budget

Hamburg Participatory Budget used to address a large budget deficit

Participatory budgeting in Hamburg was introduced in 2006 by city politician Rüdiger Kruse, Christian Democratic Party spokesman for finance and the environment in the hope that it would address the city’s large budget deficit.

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