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Participatory budgeting is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, in which ordinary city residents decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting is usually characterized by several basic design features: identification of spending priorities by community members, election of budget delegates to represent different communities, facilitation and technical assistance by public employees, local and higher level assemblies to deliberate and vote on spending priorities, and the implementation of local direct-impact community projects. Various studies have suggested that participatory budgeting results in more equitable public spending, higher quality of life, increased satisfaction of basic needs, greater government transparency and accountability, increased levels of public participation (especially by marginalized residents), and democratic and citizenship learning.

Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre and Brazil Edit

The first full participatory budgeting process developed in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, starting in 1989. Participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre is an annual process of deliberation and decision-making, in which thousands of city residents decide how to allocate part of the municipal budget. In a series of neighbourhood, regional, and citywide assemblies, residents and elected budget delegates identify spending priorities and vote on which priorities to implement.

Many scholars (e.g. Rebecca Abers, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Leonardo Avritzer) have studied the impact of Participatory Budgeting both on government spending, allocation of resources and target areas. They have found that was a trend towards spending more in less favoured neighborhoods, inhabited by lower income families.

Participatory budgeting around the world Edit

Since its emergence in Porto Alegre, participatory budgeting has spread to hundreds of Latin American cities, and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. More than 200 municipalities are estimated to have initiated participatory budgeting. In some cities, participatory budgeting has been applied for school, university, and public housing budgets. These international approaches differ significantly, and they are shaped as much by their local contexts as by the Porto Alegre model.

In Europe, towns and cities in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have initiated participatory budgeting processes. Participatory budgeting has been implemented in Canada with public housing, neighborhood groups, and a public school, in the cities of Toronto, Guelph, and West Vancouver. Similar budget processes have been used in communities in India and Africa.

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  • Participatory budgeting, first developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1988 to engage the urban poor in setting community-level budgets, had spread to some 200 - 250 municipalities in Brazil by 2006 and been adapted in cities worldwide. Source:Worldwatch Institute
  • Between 2000 and 2006, the total number of cities with participatory budgets grew from 200 to roughly 1,200. Source:Worldwatch Institute / Community involvement

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