The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) is a non-profit that empowers citizens in the US and Canada to have a voice in deciding how to spend their public money. Participatory budgeting (PB) is a relatively new concept; however, it is spreading fast. The first PB evolved in Brazil in 1989, and now there are over 1,500 PBs in cities around the world.
PB includes the community in local government budget decisions, so that the people decide which projects are funded and how their tax money is spent. Participatory budgets can deepen democracy and allow for elected officials to build a stronger relationship with the citizens they serve. When community members are involved in the budget process they gain a better understanding of political issues and public education is increased overall. Local governments can benefit by making more informed decisions regarding how the city’s money is spent.
Some of the projects that towns and cities funded after the assistance of PBP include bike lanes, community gardens, playground improvements and street lights. These are all projects that communities wanted; however, prior to PBP’s presence, citizens had little say in where the government directed their money. Through workshops and trainings, PBP engages with community members in the participatory budgeting processes, empowering people to lead their community in the direction they envision. The work that PBP is doing is a leading example of how to effectively strengthen local participatory democracies within communities.