Implementing Participatory Budgeting in Your Community
After taking part in a simulated PB process, students may be excited to implement PB in their broader community. Students can plan and carry out an advocacy campaign for voters to consider implementing a PB program in their municipal or state government. Possible activities include writing letters to elected officials, holding a meeting with local representatives and their staff, submitting a ballot measure proposal or gathering signatures for a petition. To gather public support for their proposal, students should brainstorm ways to communicate information about the PB process to the adults they know and to explain its benefits in an engaging way. This may involve designing posters, distributing flyers, or even organizing a community screening and discussion of Public Money, which is available through POV’s free screening program (communitynetwork.amdoc.org).
Investigating You State and Local Budget
Many Americans don’t know where their tax dollars go or why. How do state and local governments decide what taxes to collect and what projects to spend their budget on? How do they decide to spend money on education or law enforcement or city parks or roads? Why do State Budget procedures on balanced budgets, the budget cycle, the governor’s authority, earmarked and federal funds, allocations, etc. vary from state to state?
Have students work in small research groups (three students) to read and review State and Local Expenditures on urban.org then sketch a simple flow chart that illustrates the general process by which state funds are spent.
Next have them visit What everyone should know about their state's budget and locate their state’s budget information:
- What are the top five expenditures for your state?
- Which three expenditures have the most significant impact on you personally?
- What are the most surprising expenditures on your states budget?
Ask groups to create a pie chart that illustrates the full budget amount and highlights the top five expenditures. What percentage of the budget is left when the five expenditures are accounted for?
Instruct the groups to repeat the process with the state budget from five years ago and the budget from10 years ago. Compare the three pie charts:
- How have expenditures changed over the past 10 years?
- What do you think has accounted for that change?
- Have expenditures that affect your life changed as well? If so, did you or your family notice that there was a difference?
Have each student in the study group select one of the pie charts and have them investigate the policies and political trends that influenced the spending priorities for that year.
Have the groups reconvene and share their findings. Instruct them to collect their research in a multi-media report that illustrates the forces and events that influenced the state’s budget priorities over 10 years and how these changes affected their lives.
- State and Local Expenditures: urban.org
- What everyone should know about their state's budget: urban.org
- State Budget Procedures: National Conference of State Legislatures
- Budget Processes in the States: National Association of State Budget Officers
The Global Impact of Participatory Budgeting
Thirty years ago, the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil launched the first full participatory budgeting process for its municipal budget. Today, PB has spread to over 1,500 cities around the world including more than 310 processes in North America.
Have students research the history of Participatory Budgeting and review evaluations of PB projects.
Have students select three PB case studies from different countries/continents around the world and compare the PB processes and outcomes as well as the impact on local communities. Students can use the 16 Key Metrics for Evaluating Participatory Budgeting and PB Case Study Data as a jumping off point for their comparative evaluation.
- 16 Key Metrics: https://www.participatorybudgeting.org/for-researchers/
- PB Case Study Data: https://www.participatorybudgeting.org/pb-map/