Warsaw Participatory Budget




Municipality of Warsaw



Final date


Type of experience

participatory budgeting participatory planning


governance and transparency urban planning economics/finance legal regulation civic responsibility


SDG 16

The Warsaw participatory budget is to enable co-decision about the entire urban space, providing the community with a direct impact on all the aspects of urban life : housing, transport, social, cultural, educational, environmental. This process is not aimed to be limited to participating in the discussion or making joint decisions, but first of all to prompt down taking in common responsibility for the city.


The goals of the PB in Warsaw, follows the promotional publications distributed by the Centre for Social Communication:

  •  Involvement of the inhabitants in co-decision on the nearest surroundings;
  •  Integration of residents around common ideas;
  •  Education of the inhabitants about the city budget and spending public funds;
  • Developing local awareness, including a sense of responsibility for the future of the
    local community.

Warsaw PB also follows the basic stages indicated as musts of which should consist of a participatory budget: 

  •  developing and submitting ideas
  •  discussions about submitted proposals;
  •  assessment of the feasibility of ideas;
  •  selection of proposals for implementation.


The participatory budget in the Capital City of Warsaw is a process in which all permanent inhabitants of the city take part in deciding about the way public money is spent. It aims at increasing local awareness and promoting the idea of self-government. Thanks to the participatory budget, Warsaw inhabitants can easily submit their ideas of relevant tasks the local authorities should carry out and later choose the best of them in a vote.

The PB gives Warsaw residents the option of co-deciding about a part of the city's budget. They can turn on it:

  •  by submitting their own ideas;
  •  talking about submitted ideas at meetings of residents and a discussion forum;
  •  by voting for ideas that they want to be implemented.


The first edition of the participatory budget in Warsaw city started in 2014. Nevertheless, the necessary preparations had to start earlier. After the introduction of the PB in Sopot (first city to introduce PB in Poland in 2011), a lot of Polish cities decided to follow this example. The ideas were also compelling in Warsaw. The initiative to start with a participatory budget for the capital was undertaken by Warsaw activists for democratic participation, local experts and NGOs. The subject certainly incurred political implications. The introduction of PB was helpful to show that the city ruling authorities care about people's opinion and listen to their needs. 


We can distinguish several main proponents of the participatory budget in Warsaw:

  • Shipyard (Stocznia) created with the aim of describing challenges of social life in Poland and to search for and promote effective, innovative methods of reacting to them, based on the principles of civic participation.
  • Dialog Field Foundation (Fundacja Pole Dialogu).
  • Res Publica which supports the development of culture and the level of public debate by issuing three titles: a quarterly Res Publica Nowa, a periodical Visegrad Insight, and Magazyn Miasta (City Magazine) dedicated to urban culture, different aspects of the development of towns and cities in Poland (from urban policy and administration of urban planning and architecture in the design and art in public spaces).
  • The Batory Foundation (Fundacja Batorego) priorities include improving the quality of Polish democracy, strengthening the role of civic institutions in public life and equalizing opportunities for young people from poor communities.
  • The Foundation for Social and Economic Initiatives – FISE is an independent non-profit organisation created in 1990 by people who were affiliated with the democratic opposition in the times of communist Poland.

From the side of the City of Warsaw the main responsible cell has always been the
Center for Social Communication (department of the Warsaw City Hall responsible for contacts with inhabitants and administrating the whole process of PB in Warsaw).

There were no regulations concerning participatory budgeting in the Polish law system. In January 2018, the Polish government introduced a new law making the "civic budget" a mandatory instrument for the municipalities that are cities with poviat rights. Previous solution allowed flexible shaping of the procedure concerning the civic budget. The municipal council had the power to determine the amount of the allocated budget (usually slightly below 0.5% of the total expenditure municipalities), also the method of reporting and verifying proposals regarding the citizen's budget, the principles of project selection and evaluation process were an independent decision. 

However, most of the communes have consolidated the developed the model introduced originally in Sopot, based on a four-stage procedure:

1) Defining in the resolution the size of the budget and the course of the procedure;

2) Submission of projects by residents; 

3) Verification of projects in terms of their feasibility and compliancy with the law; 

4) Voting of the residents leading to the selection of the final list of projects.

With the new law system, the budget will have to be at least 0.5% of the expenditure of the municipality (contained in the last report on the implementation of the budget). In addition, the Act would limit a possibility for officials to reject the residents' ideas. The poviat council in the course of work on the draft of budgetary resolution cannot remove or change, to an essential degree, the tasks selected within the civic budget.

The decision was made at the beginning to introduce a participatory budget in each district of Warsaw, which means that they actually work on eighteen parallel processes. Immediately, the dilemma arose whether each district should work out its own rules, or should it strive to unify them throughout the city. Both positions can be supported by important arguments. Bottom- up development of principles - at the district level - from the very beginning increases the trust and involvement of residents. On the other hand, the unification of the principles facilitates the educational and promotional campaign about the budget. Finally, the Social Communication Center of the Capital City of Warsaw, after collecting comments from districts, supported the second option and decided to significantly harmonize the rules in the city scale.

The competence of the commune council (poviat councils, voivodship council) will include the definition of the requirements that the model of civic budget has to meet, in particular:

  • formal requirements to be met by submitted projects,
  • the required number of signatures of residents supporting the project,
  • the rules for assessing submitted projects as to their compliance with the law, technical feasibility, meeting formal requirements and the procedure for appealing against the decision not to allow the draft for voting
  • and the rules governing the conduct of voting, the determination of results and the method of making them public.

The financial resources needed for the implementation of residents' ideas come from the budgets of individual districts. Therefore, they are not additional money, only part of the district's budget allocated for distribution directly by residents.

The districts of Warsaw could decide on a specific amount to be allocated to the participatory budget. According to the guidelines, the Mayor of the Capital City of Warsaw, it should be from 0.5% to 1% of the district's budget. Thanks to this, residents know how much they will decide. The process is assessed and monitored by the Council for Participatory Budget. Their role is to assess the process at all stages and also to indicate strong and weak points and look for possible solutions for improvements.

The Centre for Social Communication is responsible for the coordination of the PB in Warsaw and supervises the different phases and the proper realization of the process in all the districts.

The process of the PB in Warsaw:

  • Announcement - information on PB;
  • Setting up district PB Teams;
  • education and promotion;
  • evaluation;
  • Determining the rules of budgeting in the districts and the rules of functioning of district teams;
  • Project submission;
  • Public discussions about the proposed project;
  • Formal evaluation of the projects – checking all formal requirements;
  • Preparation of the lists with the projects qualified for the vote;
  • Promotion of projects - meeting of authors of projects with the inhabitants;
  • Voting for the projects - making the selection of projects for implementation;
  • Announcement of the list of the projects selected for implementation;
  • Evaluation conducted throughout all the implementation process.

The selection of the ideas 

The basic criterion is the number of votes won. Based on this, a ranking list is created. The second criterion is the cost of implementing a given project. Projects that have won the most votes and are included in the overall amount allocated for the implementation of ideas in a given district or area are recommended for implementation.
If any of the residents' ideas took a high position in terms of the number of votes won, but the cost of its implementation is higher than the remaining amount in a given area, another idea from the list that meets these conditions until the pool of resources in the area has been exhausted has been recommended for implementation. It can be even the sixth or seventh idea from the ranking list - it is important that there is enough money to implement it. In order for an idea to be recommended for implementation, at least 10% of people voting in a given area must vote for it and must obtain not less than 30 votes. Only important voices count.

Rules for the 5th Edition of PB in 2019:

  • The project has to be submitted on a special form: electronic or paper;
  • One project can have up to 3 authors;
  • The author has to estimate the project costs. A real estimate of the project cost is crucial (it may not exceed the amount per area or limit set by the Team);
  • The author has to gather at least 30 signatures of people supporting the idea, including 15 from the area in which the project is submitted;
  • All the submitted projects are visible at one website:; 
  • There are consultation hours in the district offices;
  • Warsaw inhabitants have an opportunity to discuss every submitted project at the online forum;
  • The project has to be located in the area remaining in the ownership of the Capital City of Warsaw and unencumbered to third parties (unless the District Board decides otherwise);
  • The project subject has to be assigned to the tasks of the Capital City of Warsaw, then assigned to the implementation of its districts or units;
  • The project realization is envisaged for one calendar year. The possibility of completing the task during the financial year 2019 is very important (allowing the start of preparations in 2018, i.e. project documentation, collection of permits or public consultations);
  • The project has to meet the criterion of accessibility;
  • The project has to fulfill the requirements resulting from generally applicable laws;
  • There is an opportunity to make the necessary changes to the project to adjust it; analysis whether the name of the project reflects its essence and is consistent with the description;
  • The project cannot indicate any potential contractor or the mode of its selection.