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Participatory Budgeting

Giving ordinary residents a role in deciding how to allocate part of municipal or public budgets

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Participatory budgeting emerged in Porto Alegre, Brazil – as a result of severe inequality in living standards amongst city residents. The process occurs annually, starting with a series of neighbourhood, regional and citywide assemblies – where residents and elected budget delegates identify spending priorities and vote on which priorities to implement. Around fifty thousand residents of Porto Alegre now take part in the participatory budgeting process, with the number of participants growing year on year since 1989. Participants are from diverse economic and political backgrounds.

Participatory budgeting has spread to hundreds of Latin American cities and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. More than 1200 municipalities are estimated to have initiated participatory budgeting.

How might we empower and enable citizens – thus motivating them to play an active role in their communities? What other participatory methods might engage folks to get more involved in community initiatives?


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This way to structure budgeting is remarkable! I think it could also be linked to environmental concerns, as well. In the U.S., for example, a certain segment of the population adopted "Drill, baby, drill" as a motto to encourage more drilling for oil and job opportunities that could come with it....however, if citizens were presented with the ultimate environmental costs, they may feel that money could be better spent elsewhere once they see the long-term consequences of addressing their immediate needs with that solution. Would a community rather spend money to increase jobs in the oil industry with xx amount of pollution down the road, or invest in greener job opportunities with less clean-up cost to the next generation?

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