By the People, For the People: Participatory Budgeting from the Bottom Up in North America


In the pilot year of Participatory Budgeting in New York City, around 8,000 people decided how to spendalmost $6 million across four city districts. After years advocating for participatory budgeting (PB) in the US,our organization - The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) - served as lead technical assistance partner. Inthis article, we share some of the lessons learned from our work in New York and other North American cities.

Two main concerns have haunted PB in the US (and elsewhere) - that it will only attract the “usual suspects”and that it will merely be a token effort. We argue for tackling these challenges by crafting PB around four key principles - strategic funds, grassroots leaders, accessible design, and targeted outreach. Through this bottomup approach, PB can better achieve its potential to transform democracy and build social justice - in North America and beyond