Breathing Life into Democracy: The power of participatory budgeting

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With the massive global increase in urbanisation, new ideas are needed on how to manage and pay for the communal services on which people depend. Participatory budgeting is one such idea. PB is a mechanism of local government, which brings local communities closer to the decision-making process around the public budget. PB makes new connections between residents, political representatives, and local government officials. It explodes the myth that public finance is too complicated for ordinary people
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  Breathing life into democracy the power of participatory budgeting  Community Pride Initiative/Oxfam UK Poverty ProgrammeFebruary 2005  2 Breathing life into democracy: the power of participatory budgeting This document is part of a set of resources about participatorybudgeting (PB) produced by Community Pride Initiative andOxfam’s UK Poverty Programme. These are: > Let’s talk money: an introductory leaflet explaining the basic concepts and the potential for PB to transform local democracy in the UK. > Breathing life into democracy: a detailed overview of the srcins and development of participatory budgeting, why it is important today and what its key strengths and weaknesses are. > Bringing budgets alive: how to do it and what tools and techniques can help you.The resources were written by Jez Hall of Community Pride Initiative with input and support from CPI’s Ed Cox, Bridget O’Rourke, Mark Waters and Jenny Lazarus, and Oxfam’s Julie Jarman, Charlotte Flower and Jo Rowlands. Nikki van der Gaag edited the set, and they were designed by Corinne Welch(www.goodthinkingcommunications.net) and produced by Oxfam’s Jo Lyon.© 2005 Community Pride Initiative & OxfamCopies of this document can be downloaded from CPI’s PB website at www.participatorybudgeting.org.uk and are available in Oxfam’s Social Inclusion Directory at www.oxfamgb.org/ukpp/sidOxfam UK Poverty Programme 274 Banbury RoadOxfordOX2 7DZTel: 01865 313184ukpp@oxfam.org.ukwww.oxfamgb.org/ukpp Community Pride Initiative 491 Mill StreetManchester M11 2ADTel: 0161 231 4111www.communitypride.org.uk For more information please contact:  3 Breathing life into democracy: the power of participatory budgeting CONTENTS Executive Summary ___________________________________________________________ 4 1. What is participatory budgeting?_____________________________________________ 5 2. Why is it important today?__________________________________________________ 8 3. Where did it all begin? ____________________________________________________ 13 4. Where is participatory budgeting now being used?____________________________ 15 5. What are its strengths (and weaknesses)?____________________________________ 17 6. Conclusion_______________________________________________________________ 21Appendix 1: Glossary of terms_________________________________________________ 22Apppendix 2: Community Pride Initiative and Oxfam UK Poverty Programme________ 24Appendix 3: Resources on participatory budgeting________________________________ 26  4 Breathing life into democracy: the power of participatory budgeting EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  The face of our world is changing fast. By next year,urban areas are expected to be home to more thanhalf of the world’s people. Two hundred and sixty-one cities in developing countries have populationsover one million, compared with 213 in the mid-1990s. For this massive change in urban populationsto occur successfully, new ideas are needed on how to manage and pay for the communal services on which people depend. Participatory budgeting is one such idea. First started in Porto Alegre in Brazil in the late 1980s, it is now practised in over 300 cities around the world, involving more than 12 million people. It has been praised by the World Bank, the United Nations, UNESCO, and the European Union. So what exactly is participatory budgeting (PB)? It is a mechanism of local government, which brings local communities closer to thedecision-making process around the public budget. PB makes newconnections between residents, political representatives, and localgovernment officials. It explodes the myth that public finance is toocomplicated for ordinary people; something that needs to be done by ‘experts’ and kept within the control of politicians. In the UK, participatory budgeting is relatively new. Early steps are being taken to adapt this model of working to a British context, and to test it in a number of pilots in different contextsacross the country. It can be seen as part of the broad range ofdevelopments taking place around the notion and practice ofgovernance and social inclusion. It could be used by Local StrategicPartnerships, regeneration areas, or for neighbourhood management– or even within an individual school, health service delivery area or housing estate. PB gives local people more than just a voice; it gives them real power to decide where at least some of their tax money is spent. In a world that is becoming increasingly apathetic about its democratic processes, it brings concrete evidence that local democracy can – and does – work. In cities as diverseas Chicago in the United States and Porto Alegrein Brazil, local peoplealready control budgetsand services. The resultsare impressive both in terms of publicengagement and serviceimprovement. We shouldbe seeking to apply thesame lessons in townsand cities in Britain. ALANMILBURNMP 1 ”“ 1 Keynote speech at the Community Consultation Conference, London, March 2004
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