Participatory budgeting is an approach to financial resource allocation in which a government earmarks a small portion of the overall budget and then engages citizens in a deliberative process to decide how it should be spent. Participatory budgeting started in Latin America and has spread to over 1,500 locations, including Chicago and New York.
In most cases the process begins with residents coming together to discuss the needs of their community and to develop proposals for how the earmarked funds should be spent. These proposals are then given a price tag, discussed and prioritized by residents. The top projects are implemented based on the available budget.
Just as Balancing Act serves as a platform to educate and engage citizens in the overall budget of a public entity, we are excited to make it available at no cost to assist participatory budgeters, both in face-to-face settings and online. Some of the best uses of Balancing Act are town hall meetings, allowing citizens to focus their discussion on the merits of the projects and try out different scenarios rather than fumbling with spreadsheets and calculators. By being web-based, Balancing Act dramatically increases the number of people who will be able to participate.