REPORTS & SURVEYS | MAY 10TH, 2016
Participatory Budgeting in the United States and Canada in 2014 - 15
From 2014 to 2015, more than 70,000 residents across the United States and Canada directly decided how their cities and districts should spend nearly $50 million in public funds through a process known as participatory budgeting (PB). PB is among the fastest growing forms of public engagement in local governance, having expanded to 46 communities in the U.S. and Canada in just 6 years.
PB is a young practice in the U.S. and Canada. Until now, there's been no way for people to get a general understanding of how communities across the U.S. implement PB, who participates, and what sorts of projects get funded. Our report, "Public Spending, By the People" offers the first-ever comprehensive analysis of PB in the U.S. and Canada.
Here's a summary of what we found:
Overall, communities using PB have invested substantially in the process and have seen diverse participation. But cities and districts vary widely in how they implemented their processes, who participated and what projects voters decided to fund. Officials vary in how much money they allocate to PB and some communities lag far behind in their representation of lower-income and less educated residents.
The data in this report came from 46 different PB processes across the U.S. and Canada. The report is a collaboration with local PB evaluators and practitioners. The work was funded by the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation, and completed through a research partnership with the Kettering Foundation.
You can read the findings in brief below, download a PDF of the executive summary, download the full report or scroll through charts and graphics from the report. This report is also part of an ongoing Public Agenda project on participatory budgeting - you can read about the project here.
Part 1: What Happened? Facts and Figures About How PB Was Implemented
How exactly did communities implement PB? How did communities differ from one another in their adaptation of PB to local needs and resources? And how successful were different council districts and cities in getting the word out and encouraging residents to take part?
Part 2: Who Participated? The Demographic Profile of Voter Survey Respondents
What do we know about the demographics of PB voters? How representative were PB voters of their local communities? How successful were communities in engaging groups that are often marginalized from the political process?
Part 3: What Got Funded? Ballots and Winning Projects
What kinds of projects made it on the ballot? What types of projects received the largest amount of PB allocations? And what kinds of projects were most and least likely to win residents’ votes?
We hope this publication will stimulate national and local discussion about PB and its potential to positively impact individuals, communities and governments across the U.S. and Canada. The report therefore concludes with some important questions for national and local stakeholders who are debating PB’s current state and potential impacts, are working on refining its implementation or are conducting further research and evaluations. Following are these questions in brief.
Questions about PB’s potential to spread and scale:
Questions about implementation:
Questions about participation:
Questions about ballot items and winning projects:
Questions about long-term impacts:
In current forms of PB in the U.S. and Canada, residents of a city or a city council district have the opportunity to directly participate in government decision making by deciding how designated parts of the public budget should be spent. PB typically progresses through four consecutive phases:
Idea Collection Phase
First, residents submit project ideas through a series of public meetings and online.
Budget Delegate Phase
Second, residents volunteer to work in groups to turn ideas into actual project proposals.
Third, fully developed project ideas are put on a ballot for residents—including youth and noncitizens—to vote on.
Fourth, projects that get the most votes, and fall within the cap of allocated funds, win.
Government commits to implementing winning projects.
Findings in this report are based on data collected and shared with Public Agenda by local PB evaluation teams across the U.S. and Canada. Public Agenda has been collaborating with local evaluators since early 2015 to facilitate shared learning across communities and to collectively tell the story of PB across the U.S. and Canada.
Our data compilation was guided by a framework of 15 key metrics that Public Agenda developed based on the experiences of local evaluators and the advice of the North American PB Research Board—a group of local evaluators, public engagement practitioners and U.S.- and Canada-based academic researchers who have researched the effects of PB in other countries—along with input from the nonprofit organization the Participatory Budgeting Project.
These 15 key metrics specify data points about PB implementation, participation and winning projects that are important for a better understanding of the current state of PB, the tracking of its immediate outputs and the clarification of its potential long-term impacts. Click here to read more about the 15 key metrics for evaluating participatory budgeting