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How to develop a participatory budget in your community?

  • Wednesday, February 5, 2020

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    The number of participatory budgets doubles every year in France **Since 2014, 140 municipalities have already set up this system since its creation in Porto Alegre in 1989. Its development affects all of Europe, and communities of all sizes: regions (Dordogne, Ile-deFrance), large cities like Brussels, Bordeaux, Grenoble or Paris. But also small and medium-sized communities: Namur, Wavre, Ciney, Morsang-sur-orge, Sceaux, Bertrix...

    Concrete, ambitious, collective: it is undoubtedly one of the greatest democratic innovations of the last decades. Discover the key steps to implement a participatory budget in your community.

    The advantages of participatory budgeting

    The participatory budget is a mechanism that allows citizens to be involved in the use of part of the community's budget. It leads to the realization of a tangible project for the territory, designated directly by the citizens

    **Why is the participatory budget so successful?

    No doubt because of its rapid appropriation by the inhabitants and its direct effects.

    • The approach is simple to understand.
    • It offers a clear approach to participation.
    • Its effects are visible and concrete.
    • It makes it possible to empower citizens by entrusting them with the choice of how to allocate part of the municipal budget.

    Everything is in place to make it a privileged tool for local democracy. But how can it be put into practice?

    Illustration of the 6 key steps to set up a participatory budget in your community.

    Download our guide "Participatory budget instructions for use".

    1. Define the objective and scope of the participatory budget

    To develop a participatory budget, first of all, the framing has to be taken care of:

    • what will the participatory budget be about? The community can solicit citizen participation around a specific theme (redeveloping the heart of the city, for example), or on the contrary leave the door open to all ideas of the inhabitants to better identify their interests.
    • what will be the budget envelope?
    • what will be the criteria for the admissibility of projects?

    These elements make it possible to create the terms and conditions of the participatory budget rules.


    • how to organize internally to make this participatory democracy process work?
    • which participatory budget platform to choose?
    • who will be the project leader?
    • what channels should be used to promote the process and to communicate with citizens (city hall website, flyers, posters, etc.)? What budget for communication?

    These questions are also essential for identifying the resources available to the community. Once these questions have been answered internally, the community can officially launch its participatory budget.

    We were very apprehensive at first, but Fluicity gave us good guidance on how to frame the participatory budget, with examples, framework documents, etc. We didn't have any major difficulties.

    Tania Fyalkowski, project manager for the city hall of Ciney

    Discover the webinar of Ciney's experience feedback "The participatory budget in practice"

    2. Launch a call for projects

    Once the process has been set up, residents are invited to submit their project ideas for the community, in accordance with the conditions defined in the rules.

    Citizens can participate alone or in groups around a common project. The submission is done in person, at the town hall, or online on a digital citizen participation platform like Fluicity. Citizens provide several pieces of information: a detailed description of the project, its location in the town, an estimate of its cost...

    The municipality must set up an active communication campaign from this first stage: public meetings, meetings to help with the submission or drafting of projects, articles in the city's newspaper and website, regular posts on social networks, etc.

    Example of communication channels: flyers, Facebook advertising, newsletter

    This step is essential to reach a large audience, especially young and active people who rarely take part in local democracy.

    → Discover the success of Bertrix's first participatory budget: 10% participation in 3 months

    3. **The project admissibility study

    Once a project has been submitted, the community's agents (selection committee) meet to conduct an "admissibility study". Their role is to check that the projects are eligible with respect to the criteria defined in the regulations, and if necessary, to make suggestions for modifications. This strong expertise must not damage the commitment of the citizens. The objective is to remain as transparent as possible on the choice of accepting or not their ideas, in order to maintain a relationship of trust.

    Each participatory budget is customized by its community: the theme, the way the finalist ideas are defined, the constitution of the selection committee.... It is precisely because these elements are adjustable that they must be clearly explained to citizens, with education and transparency.

    Lucile, Customer Success Manager Lead at Fluicity

    4. The vote

    Once the projects are deemed feasible, the 2nd phase of citizen participation begins: voting for the preferred project(s). Several practices are possible: voting for one or several projects, distributing a certain number of points, etc. Fluicity can advise you on the best way to proceed**.

    Here again, communication is crucial to reach a maximum number of voters. More simple, this step can easily lead to more participation or even be a first experience of participative democracy, especially for a young audience. You can emphasize this simplicity of action, and the fact that this is the very last step - a defining moment in the process.

    5. Announcement of successful projects

    After the votes are counted, the commune announces the most popular projects that will be financed by the participatory budget. This may give rise to a special communication or even a dedicated event (especially if it is the commune's first participatory budget).

    The owners of the winning projects must be informed in advance and can be invited to take part in their realization. It is also an opportunity to thank all the people who have mobilized, to value their involvement... and to make them want to get involved in local democracy in the long term**.

    6. The realization of the projects

    This final stage may take more or less time depending on the scope of the project(s) selected. Once again, communicating regularly about the timetable and the progress of the project is part of the good practices. Even if the project takes time, residents will always be more understanding if they are kept informed.

    As with the project owners, volunteer citizens can be involved in the implementation.

    Going further...

    Want to know more about good practices of the participatory budget?

    Our white paper has everything to hold your interest:

    Cover of the white paper Participatory Budget - A guide to taking action

    • a simple and well-documented introduction to the issues at stake in the system**,
    • examples of participatory budgets**, testimonies from elected officials and experts
    • 6 keys to success** (framing, pedagogy, follow-up, communication, etc.)
    • the presentation of our new participatory budget platform designed to make life easier for organizers.

    The book is aimed at elected officials and departments who want to implement a participatory budget, and takes into account the human, budgetary and organizational constraints they face.

    Download the white paper