Over the course of 30 years of global expansion, participatory budgeting (PB) has been widely lauded as an effective process to strengthen democracy—one that can improve service delivery while increasing trust, engagement, transparency, and accountability between citizens and governments.
Yet behind this reputation is a range of real-world results. Just as PB is implemented in diverse contexts, at different levels of government, with different levels of resourcing, and for different objectives, the outcomes of PB processes also vary widely. Too many well-intentioned leaders and implementers end up with processes that suffer low participation and that fall short of intended goals. Often, these are due to common challenges and barriers; recent research has shown, for example, that nascent PB efforts often suffer from a “local expertise gap,” meaning that knowledge about PB is concentrated within a relatively small network of international PB experts. There is an opportunity to overcome these shared barriers by developing and sharing new mechanisms of support for PB implementers.
The Participatory Budgeting Exchange was created to help seize this opportunity. This two-day co-design workshop, held in November 2018, brought together PB experts and implementers to discuss common challenges and propose solutions to address them. This report summarizes the workshop discussions and outputs. It is intended to inform further conversations within the global PB community.
For researchers and advisors, it outlines needs and questions shared across global initiatives, which can help them prioritize their forward research and efforts. For practitioners, it provides a lens on the common challenges faced by colleagues in similar circumstances, as well as new global resources that may soon be developed (and that would benefit from their inputs). For funders and other allies, it summarizes priorities and new ideas, vetted and refined by the community of PB thinkers and doers, that would benefit from their support.
This report was prepared by Reboot, which designed and facilitated the event. The workshop was sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation. (A draft version of this report was shared with workshop participants and the global PB community for input in February 2019, including The Youth Cafe. This updated version reflects their feedback and comments.)