There are many reason to use Participatory Budgeting. Such as to inspire citizens to take greater responsibility within their community, or to strengthen the democratic mandate of elected officials.
A significant additional reason is to promote open and transparent government, at all levels. As a piece of municipal ‘graffiti’ in Brazil, the home of Participatory Budgeting put it… "when the administration is transparent, everything works smoothly".
Transparency brings trust. And trust is essential to ensure a healthy and a fully functioning democracy.
Working within this spirit of open government, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) has produced 10 principles in public participation over fiscal policy. This echoes many other lists, such as the Values, Principles and Standards for PB, produced by the UK Participatory Budgeting movement many years ago.
Those UK derived Values, Principles and Standards are still relevant, and the ones we work to when promoting PB in the UK. But we felt it was useful to share the GIFT principles below:
1. Openness: provide full information on and be responsive with respect to the purpose, scope, constraints, intended outcomes, process and timelines, as well as the expected and actual results of public participation.
2. Inclusiveness: pro-actively use multiple mechanisms to reach out to engage citizens and non-state actors, including traditionally excluded and vulnerable groups and individuals, and voices that are seldom heard, without discrimination on any basis including nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age or caste; and consider public inputs on an objective basis irrespective of their source.
3. Respect for self-expression: allow and support individuals and communities, including those directly affected, to articulate their interests in their own ways, and to choose means of engagement that they prefer, while recognizing that there may be groups that have standing to speak on behalf of others.
4. Timeliness: allow sufficient time in the budget and policy cycles for the public to provide inputs in each phase; engage early while a range of options is still open; and, where desirable, allow for more than one round of engagement.
5. Accessibility: facilitate public participation in general by disseminating complete fiscal information and all other relevant data, in formats and using mechanisms that are easy for all to access, understand, and to use, re-use and transform, namely in open data formats.
6. Transparency: support each public engagement by providing all relevant information, highlighting and informing key policy objectives, options, choices and trade-offs, identifying potential social, economic, and environmental impacts, and incorporating a diversity of perspectives; provide timely and specific feedback on public inputs and how they have been incorporated or not in official policy or advice.
7. Proportionality: use a mix of engagement mechanisms proportionate to the scale and impact of the issue or policy concerned.
8. Sustainability: all state and non-state entities conduct on-going and regular engagement to increase knowledge sharing and mutual trust over time; institutionalize public participation where appropriate and effective, ensuring that the feedback provided leads to revision of the fiscal policy decisions; and regularly review and evaluate experience to improve future engagement.
9. Complementarity: ensure mechanisms for public participation and citizen engagement complement and increase the effectiveness of existing governance and accountability systems.
10. Reciprocity: all state and non-state entities taking part in public engagement activities should be open about their mission, the interests they seek to advance, and who they represent; should commit to and observe all agreed rules for engagement; and should cooperate to achieve the objectives of the engagement.
- Read the full document outlining the GIFT principles
- Compare these with the UK Values, Principles and Standards for PB
- Explore the GIFT sponsored web resource with case studies and advice