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Participatory Budgeting Expands in New York City

The Rockefeller Foundation would like to congratulate the Participatory Budgeting Project and Community Voices Heard for the New York City Council’s expansion of the participatory budgeting process. Twenty-two city council members—almost half the council, representing roughly 3.5 million New Yorkers—will open their discretionary budgets to public decisions on the allocation of $25 million.

Participatory budgeting is a means by which community members directly and democratically make decisions on how to spend a public budget. This process—especially the inclusive nature of its rules and means of implementation—creates a higher level of transparency and has been shown to create more equitable public investment, greater trust in public processes and greater appetite for public investment.

This innovation was developed in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in the late 1980s, and has continued in the region and beyond. Porto Alegre is also a 100 Resilient Cities network city, considering how to use its existing participatory budgeting processes and infrastructure to ensure inclusive and equitable public input into their development of their citywide resilience plan. This effort could serve as a model for cities worldwide to achieve The Rockefeller Foundation’s two central goals—supporting inclusive economies and building resilience.

Participatory budgeting came to New York City in 2011, when four city council offices applied the practice to the allocation of their discretionary budgets. More recently, the construct has been embraced by the federal government. The Obama administration has not only endorsed participatory budgeting, but also expressed interest in using the process to allocate U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant funding.

The Rockefeller Foundation was honored to be among those invited by the White House to discuss how participatory budgeting could be applied in communities nation-wide—we look forward to continuing our support for the new practice, always with an eye toward building inclusive economies by involving the poor and vulnerable in leadership and decision-making and providing them with greater ownership and control over economic assets in their communities.

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