The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) grew out of informal collaboration between PB activists and researchers in the US and Canada, starting in 2005 at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. At the Social Forum, Josh Lerner, Mike Menser, Gianpaolo Baiocchi, and Daniel Schugurensky connected while organizing a session on PB in the Global North. Afterward, Josh and Gianpaolo launched a PB resource website (ParticipatoryBudgeting.org) and listserv. Over the next three years, we worked with a growing group of activists to organize conference sessions and workshops, publish articles, and put PB on the radar in North America.
This organizing paid off in 2009, when Chicago Alderman Joe Moore volunteered to become the first elected official in the US to try PB. He first heard about PB at the 2007 US Social Forum, at two workshops that we organized with allies. With support from Karen Dolan at the Institute for Policy Studies, Josh and Gianpaolo began to work with Alderman Moore to develop the first PB process in the US, in which the residents of his ward decided how to spend over $1 million of the ward’s discretionary funds. At the same time, Toronto Community Housing contracted Josh to lead a participatory evaluation of its PB process.
To build greater organizational capacity to support the Chicago and Toronto work, and the growing number of other inquiries, Josh and Gianpaolo launched The Participatory Budgeting Project in 2009. After two years of initial development, PBP incorporated as a non-profit organization in the state of New York in October 2011.