Based on findings from this study of U.S. elected officials, as well as from our ongoing research collaborations with local evaluators of PB processes across the United States and Canada, we present ideas for:
- public officials and their staffs who are interested in participatory budgeting
- PB organizers, community-based organizations and advocates
- foundations and other potential funders of PB
More details on these recommendations can be found on page 53 of the full report. The following are these recommendations in brief.
Ideas for Public Officials and Their Staffs
- Engage staff, implicated city agencies and broad cross-sections of the community before launching PB. Engaging important players early on can maximize participation and minimize resistance.
- Plan for implementation with adequate staffing, volunteers and other resources. Implementing PB takes time, money and effort. Building a volunteer base can help support the process from year to year. Coordinating with officials and staff in neighboring jurisdictions when possible can help to share the workload.
- Collaborate with community-based organizations and civic leaders to support implementation and make PB more inclusive. Community-based organizations and civic leaders can bring many engagement skills to the table, including expertise in engaging traditionally marginalized communities and in building a volunteer base.
- Coordinate your ongoing engagement strategies, including PB, to maximize their impact and efficiency. To make PB more effective and efficient, it can be coordinated with other, ongoing public engagement strategies and technologies.
- Get ready for messy democracy. PB can bring out the best in community residents and create public spirit. It can also reveal conflicts and upset existing power brokers. Be prepared for these challenges.
- Articulate goals and include evaluation. When available, work collaboratively with independent local evaluators to gain a better understanding of whether and how your PB process achieves it goals and how to improve it over time.
Ideas for PB Advocates and Community-Based Organizations
- Keep in mind what officials care about most with respect to PB when you engage them about adopting it. Many officials told us they see PB as a means to educate the public about how government works and to gain popularity with constituents. In engaging elected officials about PB, emphasizing these potential impacts may help.
- Help officials contend with their concerns and challenges related to implementation. The lack of resources for implementation and anticipated burden on staff can deter officials from adopting PB. Be prepared for realistic conversations with elected officials about how to make PB work, including how you can help build an inclusive base of volunteers, recruit diverse community members to participate and possibly take on other tasks that are congruent with your organization’s mission and position in the community.
- Share leadership and responsibility for PB’s success with public officials. Community-based organizations and advocates should be part of PB steering committees and help write local versions of the rules. They should hold themselves and officials mutually accountable for meeting the goals of their processes.
Ideas for Foundations and Other Funders
- Create opportunities for officials to educate each other about PB. Supporting the building and maintenance of PB learning communities among officials across the United States can help expand PB and spread best practices.
- Support evaluation and research on PB and its impacts and the communication of findings both locally and nationwide. Evaluating and researching PB processes is crucial to understanding how effective they are in meeting their goals. As sites experiment with different approaches to implementation, researching and sharing their practices can benefit processes nationwide.
- Sponsor the development and use of technical assistance and trainings as well as technological tools and digital infrastructure to support PB. Support to get access to PB trainings and technical assistance can encourage officials to adopt PB in their jurisdictions. Technological tools can make implementation more efficient, but investments are needed to take full advantage of their potential.
- Consider brokering and financially supporting collaboration among public officials and key community players, especially community-based organizations. Fostering collaborations between these community allies and local government can help the implementation of PB and facilitate inclusiveness. Even small grants can help these entities work together to address needs like translation, transportation to and provision of child care at meetings, printing materials and incentives for volunteers.
An Idea for All Stakeholders
- Consider whether and how to use PB for different types of budgets and for larger budgets. Officials and their staffs, PB advocates, community-based organizations, researchers and funders should consider whether and how to expand PB processes beyond current budgets and whether and how such expansions could benefit communities and government in the long term.