15 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting

The 15 key metrics described in brief below capture important elements of the participatory budgeting (PB) process. We developed these metrics with the goal of encouraging and supporting common research goals across PB sites and informing local and national discussions about PB in the U.S. and Canada.

The key metrics address specific research questions and describe PB’s potential impacts in three areas: civic and political life, inclusion and equity, and government.

An amended version of the Key Metrics and associated documentation can be found on the Participatory Budgeting Project's website here.

Download the toolkit for PB evaluators and implementers for a fuller description of these metrics (you'll need to enter some information to access the PDF). The toolkit also includes a set of research instruments to collect the data that address the key PB metrics as well as a timeline for evaluating PB.

    Measuring PB's Impact on Civic and Political Life:

    To what extent does PB engage a significant and growing number of residents, including those who cannot or do not participate in mainstream political life?

  1. Number of PB participants and percentage of eligible residents who participate. Indicates PB’s reach and ability to engage the targeted population.
  2. Number and percentage of PB voters who are eligible to vote but did not vote in the most recent local election. Indicates PB’s potential to engage residents who don’t participate in the mainstream political process.
  3. Number and percentage of PB voters who are ineligible to vote in local elections. Indicates PB’s potential to engage people who are excluded from standard forms of political participation owing to age, immigration status or other reasons.
  4. Number and percentage of participants who report prior civic engagement or participation. Indicates PB’s potential to attract otherwise less civically engaged residents.
  5. Number and percentage of participants who report being new or returning to PB. Indicates both growth and retention of PB participants and various patterns of participation over time.
  6. To what extent does PB foster collaboration between civil society organizations and government?

  7. Number of nongovernmental and community-based organizations involved in PB. Indicates the extent to which PB engages civil society. Also an indicator of variation in how processes are implemented.
  8. Is PB associated with elected officials’ political careers?

  9. Number and percentage of elected officials re-elected. Helps to assess over time PB’s association with officials’ political careers.
  10. Impact on Inclusion and Equity:

    Is PB engaging traditionally marginalized communities?

  11. Number and percentage of participants who are of low socioeconomic status (SES) and/or people of color; and relative to demographics in the jurisdiction and in the most recent local election. Indicates PB’s potential to engage communities that are marginalized in the traditional political process.
  12. Through what means does PB facilitate participation?

  13. Accessibility indicators for idea collection phase, project development phase and voting. Captures aspects of the process implementation that increase access during the idea collection phase, the project development phase and the voting phase.
  14. Is PB fostering equitable distribution of resources?

  15. Allocation of PB funds by project type (to be compared with the allocation of comparable funds prior to PB). Describes how PB funds get allocated across types of projects. Informs study of differences in allocation and of equity in the distribution of PB funds.
  16. Impact on Government:

    How are the number of PB processes and dollar amounts allocated to PB changing from year to year?

  17. Number of new, continued and discontinued PB processes from year to year. Tracks growth and sustainability in PB processes over time.
  18. Amount and percentage of funds allocated to PB projects. Tracks the money allocated to PB projects in any one year.
  19. What is the implementation rate of winning PB projects?

  20. Project completion rates and final project costs. Highlights the # and % of winning ballot projects that are completed and how much money was spent on them (compared with how much was allocated).
  21. Are additional resources being allocated to projects or needs identified through PB?

  22. Amount of additional money allocated to projects and needs identified through PB. Indicates PB’s potential to bring additional funds to communities and/or to allocate funds differently by raising the importance of an issue.
  23. What is the cost to government of implementing PB?

  24. Dollar amount spent on PB implementation. Makes transparent how much money is spent on implementation and how that compares with the funds allocated to projects, with quality indicators of the process and with outcomes.

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