What is participatory budgeting?

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a tool for involving citizens in issues that concern the use of public money. The population is actively involved in the planning of public expenditure and revenues. This participatory approach differs fundamentally from the traditional ‘administrators plan, policymakers decide’ model.

More and more local authorities are introducing participatory procedures for their municipal budget. By doing so they are giving citizens an opportunity to contribute and discuss their ideas on how the municipality should spend its money. So far, there has been no PB at the federal or state level in Germany.

The core phases of any PB process are:

1. Information | Through public information work the population are made aware of the budget and mobilised for PB.

2. Participation | Citizens can contribute their own ideas and priorities, either as ‘advisors’ who submit their proposals to policymakers and administrators, or as ‘decision-makers’ on a specific budget. As well as citizens contributing their own ideas, the key element of this phase is public discourse, which takes place for instance at public meetings or online.

3. Accountability | The organisers of the process provide information on the outcome of the participation phase. They communicate and explain why which particular ideas submitted by citizens were implemented, and which were not.

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