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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.

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

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.

Participatory budgeting in Toronto

Participatory Budgeting in Toronto to involve community housing tenents

Participatory Budgeting in Toronto’s public housing has been used to help deliver trust, empowerment and new stoves! Since 2001, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) has used a participatory budgeting process to involve tenants in budget decision-making. The budgeting process has meant tenants get to decide how to spend $9 million per year, or 13% of the TCHC’s capital budget. The TCHC is the largest social housing provider in Canada and the second largest in North America, with 164,000 tenants housed in over 350 high and low-rise apartment buildings and 800 houses and duplexes. With an average income of $15,400, TCHC residents are generally low-income individuals and families. Many residents are new immigrants, elderly, disabled, or single parent families – some of the most marginalised populations in Toronto. In 2000, staff developed a participatory budgeting process in response to tenant demands and budget pressures. Based on the Porto Alegre model, a small team of staff developed a new participatory budget process. After developing the basic process, staff and tenants revised the model through experimentation in two pilot projects. Tenants began the first participatory budgeting cycle in 2001 and finished in December 2003. In 2004, the TCHC undertook an extensive evaluation…

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Participatory budgeting in Chicago

Participatory Budgeting in Chicago to allocate $1.3m infrastructure budget

North America’s first municipal participatory budgeting in Chicago was used to allocate $1.3m infrastructure budget In 2009, residents of the diverse 49th Ward of Chicago collaborated to determine how best to spend a $1.3 million infrastructure budget of Alderman Joe Moore. It was a landmark move and the diverse Ward has gone down in history as the first political jurisdiction in the USA to employ participatory budgeting. The rules and leadership of the PB process were developed when Alderman Moore brought together 40 community leaders from civic, religious, and political organizations to form a participatory budgetary Steering Committee. A series of nine neighbourhood assemblies kicked off the process, eight in different neighbourhoods and one “ward-wide” meeting that catered to Spanish-speaking constituents.  Here, residents identified spending ideas, selected community representatives and voted on which projects to fund. Over 100 volunteers worked to develop a total of 36 projects. Of these, 14 were selected in a vote by over 1600 members of the community to receive a total of $1.3 million in funding which constituted the entire capital infrastructure budget. Members of the 2009-10 Participatory Budgeting Steering Committee and many of the “Community Representatives” formed a “Leadership Committee” that will lead the…

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