These past few months, participatory budgets have been the talk of the town(s). It would however be a mistake to disregard them as a fad – they’re in fact powerful tools used to make public governance more accessible and transparent. Far from being a generic solution, PBs can be adapted to meet different communities’ needs and adapt to their goals. The CitizenLab platform allows local governments to create and implement their tailor-made participatory budget. This article aims to present three different recipes to inspire future projects.
A participatory budget to improve quality of life
Following the wave of enthusiasm for the participatory process dedicated to the redevelopment of the Place aux Foires, the city of Marche-en-Famenne has set up a €100,000 participatory budget. Citizens have the opportunity to propose and/or choose projects that aim to improve their quality of life.
The call for projects will last 4 months, during which citizens can submit ideas via paper or digital form. The ideas will then be analysed and rated on their feasibility (from technical, legal, or financial point of view). The selected ideas will then be added to the platform, where citizens will be able to comment on the proposals and fill in a digital “shopping basket” with their favourite ideas to distribute a budget of €100,000. The city has also set up a special committee made up of city officials and drawn citizens, responsible for selecting the final projects and overseeing their implementation.
A participatory budget for sustainable development
The city of Arlon has decided to invest part of the municipal budget in projects linked to sustainable development. In the spirit of collaborative governance, Arlon residents and associations from the city can propose projects and express their opinions on the ideas published on the platform.
Following the platform’s launch, the city rolled out an information campaign on the “participatory budget”. As participatory tools of this type are a novelty in the communal landscape, it was essential that both elected officials and citizens received clear information about the project. The call for projects lasted a month, during which citizens could publish their projects directly onto the platform. Once this phase closes, the proposals will be sorted, analysed and budgeted by the relevant departments of the city. The selected ideas will be moved to a new phase on the platform, where citizens will then have the opportunity to use the “shopping basket” tool to support the projects they wish to finance.
A participatory budget as a lever for innovation
The citizens of Rueil-Malmaison have almost become experts in citizen participation. The city is constantly involving its population in public decision-making processes. The latest project on the city’s platform is a participative budget of 200,000€, the objective of which is to generate and then finance innovative ideas.
The city of Rueil opted for a rather short call for projects period (6 weeks). Given the involvement and mobilization of citizens on the platform, it was not necessary to extend this call for projects over several months. The ideas are currently being processed and classified by theme. Citizens will then have the opportunity to choose their favourite projects in each of these themes. To achieve this precise participatory process, we are working with Orange on blockchain technology.
Just three examples among many others
The participatory budget is a flexible tool that can be included in a variety of different scenarios. Investment proposals can come from citizens, but also from associations, private actors or the public sector. Participatory budget shouldn’t be perceived as a means to allocate “superfluous” or “surplus” budgets – they are a tool for informed and transparent budget exercise, and have the ability to strengthen ties between governments and their citizens.