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What is Participatory Budgeting?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Participatory budgeting is an approach to budget development that calls for involving a wider range of people in the process of creating a viable budget. Often associated with the creation of a municipal budget, a truly participatory approach would allow citizens of the municipality to have direct involvement along with city leaders and planners in crafting the line items for each department. The approach can also be utilized as a means of making decisions on how to spend funds allocated to specific districts, wards, or councils within the framework of the municipality. An approach of this type increases transparency in how the local government functions and also provides opportunities for more citizens to actively participate in managing the budget process.

One of the main benefits of participatory budgeting is that ordinary citizens have the chance to not only be informed about how a budget is created, but also to have some direct involvement in that process. Public meetings that are overseen by city officials make it possible for citizens to make suggestions on how to allocate funds, based on the resources that the municipality will be able to use during the fiscal year. This often includes budgeting for everything from law enforcement to healthcare, all the way through to planning for education and even city park systems.

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From the perspective of the municipal government, the idea of participatory budgeting does have the potential to allow the local government to draw upon the collective experience of businesspeople as well as others within the community. That experience can sometimes provide additional insight into the benefits of key services or projects that help to increase the standard of living and the appeal of the municipality to others who may be looking for a home. While this approach can be somewhat more cumbersome than the creation and management of a budget by a few appointed or elected officials, participatory budgeting can also make the process of financial management of the city’s assets much easier over the long run.

While processes for participatory budgeting may vary slightly, depending on the size of the municipality or community involved, most approaches will involve a few basic steps. This begins with citizens and officials identifying priorities for inclusion within the budget, creating delegate committees to assist in the planning, working with officials to develop proposals that are presented to the city at large, based on the style of government involved, and finally a public vote on the allocations within the budget. Since this approach allows citizens from all economic classes and backgrounds to participate, the outcome usually has a greater share of support in the wider community than would be possible using other methods.

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