History of Participatory Budget

Civil Budget began in 1990s when in a Brazilian city of Porto Alegre a strong movement of social reform was born based on the city budget asin other South American citieswhich got involved in the project, Porto Alegre was struggling against social and economic problems like poverty and huge social gaps, thus Civil Budget was to act as a new instrument for a dialogue with the public. Besides the eventual positive outcome, a further aim of the project was to increase the sense of responsibility among the population for the cities they lived in. The basic focus was on supporting social change through direct democracy and participation.

The Porto Alegre experiment met with a huge success. The year 1990 was the first one and there were only 1 000 people (out of 1.4 million) involved in the project, while in 2004 the number of participants went up to 50 000. The budget also functioned as a tool uniting people with various social statuses. The residents chose different subjects according to priorities after discussing various problems related to their own places of residence. One of the most important elements of the Civil Budget was informational policy related to spending the financial resources. A special network of different departments has been functioning in Porto Alegre since 1990, providing the population with all the necessary information about the budget structure and its different elements as well as administrative resources and investment plans. Civil authorities are obliged to submit an annual report to the public about the details of Civil Budget.

The 21stcentury saw an increased popularity of Civil Budget since it was successfully implemented in Europe (Spain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Poland), Africa (Cameroon) and Asia (Sri Lanka) too. Civil Budget is nowadays carried out in over 1 500 settlement (including either large or small cities as well as little villages). It was first carried out in Georgia in 2015, in Marneuli.

          What is Civil Budget?

Civil Budget is a way of presenting the interest of the public when ordinary citizens have the right to be involved in the process of distributing and spending the local municipal budget. This is a way of helping to make right decisions for the sake of a better future for cities and villages. Therefore, the local needs will be more easily fulfilled and taxes paid by the citizens – more rationally used. Participating in Civil Budget and engaging the society in the process of budget spending enables to learn how municipalities work and to better manage the way the finances are used. Consulting with the public is a better way compared to ordinary researches and polls to directly find out the needs of the people.

There are various types of the above-mentioned process; one of them is to implement within the local budget the projects prepared by citizens or initiative groups. The project is funded by the government and the people themselves define on what to apply the resources through the way of voting during the process of selecting the most interesting projects. Selected projects represent a part of the local budget and they’re carried out by the municipality. Mention should be made that the projects ought to be targeted at different social groups in order to facilitate important improvements and bring changes.

The second way of engaging the population in Civil Budget is to organize discussions concerning the priorities in the process of regional or urban development. In this case, we focus not on particular projects but discuss only the ones which are important at the time of the discussion, whether it’s necessary to spend further on educational projects, investments, social help etc.This is a discussion with long-term perspectives and citizens ought to have answer on what to care for first: water system, new roads, kindergarten, school or a new gym. All the issues are crucial but some of them could be solved later.

Main rules of Civil Budget

  1. Importance to fulfill the procedure result

It’s crucial that the project selected during Civil Budget be definitely carried out.

  1. Transparency of the procedure

The entire process of implementing Civil Budget must be maximally transparent according to the rules defined in advance which the people involved should be aware of and which must not be changed. The organizers must care for accessibility of information for the people potentially interested.

  1. Openness of the process

Civil Budget has to be based on a friendly relationship with the population and the organizers have to be able to engage anybody who might have interest to be involved in the project. It’s particularly important to inform the population about the possibilities of involvement.

  1. Making a space for discussions with the population

Civil Budget must not be focused only on selection of projects in a contest through voting. The selection process has to be carried out involving direct discussions with the population in order to define their social issues and priorities.

  1. Promoting public involvement

Civil Budget must be based on active engagement of citizens and provide them with as much space and opportunities for cooperation and discussions on local needs and issues as possible.

  1. Long-term planning

Civil Budget implementation must be well-considered and tried out with cooperation between the authorities and the people. Functioning of the whole mechanism must be related to strategic thinking and sustainable development of a respective settlement.

Stages of Civil Budget process

  1. Preparing the process
  2. Elaborating the rules of implementation of Civil Budget
  3. Informative and educational activity
  4. Elaborating and reception of projects
  5. Verification of projects
  6. Discussing projects
  7. Selecting the projects to be carried out
  8. Monitoring
  9. Analyzing the process

The budget can result in the following outcome:

  • Promoting government-provided activities as well as needs of the population
  • Optimizing the activities and rightly defining priorities
  • Recommendations from the population on further solutions
  • Sparing time and resources (less complaints)
  • Better distribution of social resources
  • Avoiding social conflict
  • Increasing trust in the authorities
  • More satisfaction with the activities carried out by the authorities
  • Civic education–deepening knowledge about the local authorities


  1. Allegretti G., Herzberg C., Participatory Budgeting Worldwide – Updated Version, Dialog Global, Bonn 2014
  2. Cabannes Y., 72 Frequently Asked Questions about Participatory Budgeting, United Nations Human Settlements Programme , Nairobi 2004
  3. Participatory budgeting values, principles and standards, The Participatory Budgeting Unit, Wielka Brytania 2009.
  4. Ruesch Michelle A., Wagner M., Participatory Budgeting in Germany: Citizens as Consultants, Zebralog Gmbh & Co KG, Niemcy 2013.
  5. Shah A., Participatory Budgeting, World Bank, Washington 2007
  6. Wampler B., Participatory Budgeting: Core principles and Key Impacts, w: Journal of Public Deliberation, Vol. 8: Iss. 2 (2012), http://www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol8/iss2/

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