Civic Engagement - Participatory Budgeting
Participatory Budgeting encompasses a range of methods designed to directly involve citizens in decision making.

Civic Engagement - Participatory Budgeting

24 March 2015

We have developed a Civic Activism Awards Programme to allow Northern Ireland based voluntary, community or social enterprise organisations to bid for the opportunity to try out one of the 29 tools from the Tools Directory.

Today we look further at Participatory Budgeting which encompasses a range of methods designed to directly involve citizens in decision making regarding spending and investment priorities for a local budget.

It first emerged in Brazil in the late 1980s, and now participatory budgeting occurs all over the world, primarily at the city level, as well as for counties, states, school systems and public agencies.


This exercise needs to be initiated by a range of organisations, including governments, civil society organisations and citizens.

As a budget will tend to belong to a local council or other statutory body and can range from a neighbourhood level up to a city or national level budget, this method will involve citizens and decisions makers working together to determine where resources should be spent.

The process can also contribute to a more engaged, educated and empowered community.

In 2014, Surrey County Council undertook a participatory budgeting exercise to share £1million of TravelSMART community funding between various communities in the county.

The funding was designed to improve public transport, encourage cycling and cut carbon emissions.

Applications for funding were made by community groups and other organisations, and local residents were then given the opportunity to discuss priorities, make proposals and vote on them.


Methodologies vary from place to place, but common features of the process tend to be a geographically defined area, regularly scheduled meetings or debates, a cycle of activity following the relevant budgeting cycle, and mobilisation network made up of individuals or organisations that help to train and inform local citizens about the process.

The exercise might involve the development of an initial list of spending ideas, followed by the development of related proposals, a vote on the proposals, and implementation of a certain number of the most popular ideas.

To find out more about the Trust’s Civic Activism Awards Programme click here.

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