Examples of PB
There are over 1,000 cities and institutions implementing PB, and it is impossible to keep track of them all. Below are some of the most developed and interesting PB processes, illustrating the diversity of models.
New York City
In 2011, four New York City Council Members – Brad Lander, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Eric Ulrich, and Jumaane D. Williams – launched a PB process to let residents allocate part of their capital discretionary funds. In 2012, Council Members David Greenfield, Dan Halloran, Stephen Levin, and Mark Weprin joined PBNYC, giving the community real decision-making power over around $10 million in taxpayer money.
Chicago’s 49th Ward
Starting in 2009, residents of Chicago’s diverse 49th Ward have decided how to spend the $1.3 million capital budget of Alderman Joe Moore. Residents identified spending ideas and selected community representatives in neighborhood assemblies, these representatives developed full project proposals from these ideas, and then residents voted on which projects to fund.
In 2012, the Vallejo City Council established the first city-wide PB process in the United States. Through PB, the community is helping decide how to spend over $3 million of revenue from the Measure B Sales Tax. Vallejo residents and stakeholders propose spending ideas and develop project proposals, residents vote on projects, and the list of projects that receive the most votes is submitted to City Council for approval.
PB started in San Francisco’s District 3 in 2013. The process began with community meetings in January and February, followed by voting in March. In this abbreviated pilot program, residents directly decide how to spend $100,000 of discretionary funding. Programs and activities are eligible, along with capital projects. While this initial program is small, the potential is big.
Toronto Community Housing
Since 2001, Toronto’s social/public housing authority has engaged tenants in allocating $9 million of capital funding per year. Tenants identify local infrastructure priorities in building meetings, and then budget delegates from each building meet to vote for which priorities receive funding.
Montreal’s Plateau Borough
The Montreal borough Plateau Mont-Royal implemented a PB process in 2006, 2007, and 2008 for its capital budget. The process evolved each year, starting as one large assembly and later incorporating a series of meetings and the election of neighborhood delegates. Up to $1.5 million per year was allocated.
Guelph Neighborhood Support Coalition
A coalition of grassroots neighborhood groups in Guelph, Ontario, has been allocating a pot of public and foundation funds since 1999. Each year, the groups meet separately and then together, to decide how to spend roughly $250,000 from diverse sources. The funding is generally used for services and programs, which are delivered by the neighborhood groups themselves.
Ridgeview Elementary School, West Vancouver
Students at Ridgeview Elementary, a public school, decided how to spend $2000 from the Parent Advisory Council budget through a PB process in 2005. Students developed project ideas in classes, voted on each class’s top idea, and then voted on the top idea for the school in a school-wide assembly.
Porto Alegre, Brazil
Porto Alegre, with nearly a million and a half residents, was the first city to launch a full PB process, in 1990. Since then, up to 50,000 residents have turned out to decide how to spend as much as 20% of the city’s annual budget. Participants attend a series of neighborhood assemblies, and after months of discussions budget delegates deliver a participatory budget to the city for implementation.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Belo Horizonte, population 2.5 million, has had a district-level PB since 1993, a Housing PB since 1996, and a digital PB (e-PB) since 2006. Through both local assemblies and online voting, residents allocate over $50 million per year.
State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
The Southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, home to Porto Alegre and over 10 million people, implemented PB between 1999 and 2002. During each annual cycle, people met in assemblies in each of the state’s 22 regions, to identify priorities for public works and services. Delegates from each region then worked to harmonize the proposals into a single budget. 1.2 million people participated over the 4 years, deciding on over 12% of the state’s budget.
County of Paysandú
In 2005, the Departamento (County) of Paysandú began implementing an annual PB process. The county is a mix of rural and urban areas, with 113,000 people, 1 city, and 8 local town boards. The process includes a mix of both local territorial assemblies and thematic assemblies assemblies focused on issues of particular local concern.
Rosario’s participatory budget consists of an annual cycle in which over 4,000 city residents decide how to allocate $8 million of the city budget. In this city of 1 million people, residents discuss spending ideas at neighborhood assemblies, elected delegates develop full budget proposals, and then residents vote on the proposals at another round of voting assemblies. The funds can be spent on both capital projects and services or programs.
La Plata, Argentina
In 2009, La Plata launched a PB initiative in which citizens gather in neighborhood assemblies to debate their needs, and to develop projects that propose public works, services, and programs. This is followed by a larger process of voting, where a secured system allows votes to be cast through either paper or electronic ballots. In 2012, it became the first city in Argentina to enable participants of the public assemblies to decide on rules and regulations for the PB process.
Tower Hamlets, London, UK
The Tower Hamlets ‘You Decide!’ project began in January 2009. In the first four months 815 residents spent almost £2.4 million through 8 events. The money was from the central council budget and was spent on services.
In 2008, Newcastle launched a PB process in which 450 young people helped decide how to allocate the city’s £2.25m Children’s Fund. After months of preparation, youth age 5-13 attended a PB event at which they voted electronically for services targeted at young people. Their votes were incorporated into the Fund’s complex procurement process, weighted to count for 20% of the final spending decisions.
Seville, with 700,000 residents, is the largest European city to implement PB. Since 2004, residents have decided on roughly 50% of local spending for their city districts, for capital projects and programs. They can submit project proposals online or in neighborhood assemblies, and after a series of meetings, locally elected budget delegates deliver the participatory budget to city hall for implementation.