Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Participatory budgeting - big in Europe and South America, but not in Australia - why?

One of the more curious things about Government 2.0 is how differently it is interpreted and delivered around the world.

For example the map below (clickthrough to more information at Google Maps) illustrates how widespread Participatory Budgeting (PB) is - an approach whereby a government allocates some or all of its budget based on direct citizen participation.

The practice has become extremely popular in Europe and in South America, however has not thrived in North America or Australia.

Is this due to different political conditions, cultural factors or Gov 2.0 maturity?

I'm not sure - I would welcome your thoughts.

However the differences do emphasise the breadth of Government 2.0 and the many uses it can be put to in a nation.

If you are interested in participatory budgeting, also see the Facebook group at: http://groups.to/pb/ and the post from Bang the Table exploring at 10 Ways Participatory Budgeting has been used Around the World.

Participatory Budgeting  Google map (click for more information)


  1. I’m not sure either Craig, but I’d love to hear other’s views as I’ve never once had a request for such a feature in four years of online consultation work.

    Maybe it’s indicative of the maturity of government along the consultation-active participation scale.

    Maybe it’s that words can be reinterpreted, but numbers are definitive and provide no wiggle room.

    Maybe it is evidence of gov2.0 cultural barriers and the continual need for control – particularly over the purse strings.

    Your map shows a similar situation in the US. Are there cultural similarities?

  2. Hi Craig! I'm Anne- Not sure if I've met you-I used to work in the same department as you - until 2010... how's it going? I'm now a phd student in Sydney.

    I am also very interested in this question, particularly from the perspective of enriching local and regional communities, building their resilience and confidence, diversifying their economies and building capacity on a grassroots level.

    I think the 57 (I think) Area Consultative Committees around Australia that were dissolved (and I was part of dissolving them and transforming them into RDA committees- including writing a short paper on their strategic planning processes) would have been well suited to facilitating participatory budgeting, as they seemed to relied on volunteers who were dedicated to the local area as conduits to other community groups. RDA committees probably could too but I know less about them, and given that members are appointed, they are different and have a different kind of legitimacy than volunteers (I'm open to your thoughts on this).

    I think a broad problem with Australia is that we direct very little money to the local scale in a way that allows for discretionary input by local people. We don't practice the principle of 'subsidiarity' very well at all. When the feds do give money to regional or local bodies, there are pretty strict controls on how the money is to be spent, which limit the potential for genuine consultation. Whilst I was very glad to be involved with local government stimulus programs, I think this was an extreme version of this: "we want you to build the project in the next few months based on an existing 'shovel ready' plan, and it has to fit these 5 criteria" etc etc...

    I think given that you are located in the ACT you are in the place with the most potential- with a small "city-state" government that's open to new ideas, that has done a lot of consultation in the past. It would be GREAT to get the ACT involved in participatory budgeting in one of its community program areas. Have you ever thought of doing this outside work?

    anneobr at gmail.com