How Does Participatory Budgeting Work in UK Communities?

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a groundbreaking method of citizen involvement in community decision-making processes. It has gained popularity across the globe, with its roots in Brazil in 1989. The practice has since expanded and is now a common sight in the UK, where local communities, public groups, and the government have endorsed and adopted it. PB allows local people to decide how public money should be spent in their communities. It is not merely a concept; it is an active, ongoing process that requires the dedicated participation of the community.

What is Participatory Budgeting?

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It is the local people who know their community’s needs best, and this system allows them to have a direct say in what those needs are and how they can be addressed.

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In a participatory budgeting process, people will discuss and develop proposals for local projects that require funding support. These projects can range from improving local health services to creating more green spaces in the community. Once these proposals are made, the community votes on which projects they think should be funded. This method gives ordinary people the power to make real decisions about real money.

The Entry of Participatory Budgeting in the UK

The entry of participatory budgeting in the UK can be traced back to the early 2000s. However, it wasn’t until 2014 that it started to gain traction, thanks to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act of that year. This legislation encouraged local authorities in Scotland to promote and facilitate participatory budgeting, signalling a significant step towards widespread adoption of this method.

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In recent years, participatory budgeting has been applied across various communities and local authorities in Scotland. It has even reached school groups, where it serves as an effective method for teaching democracy and community engagement. The Scottish government has shown considerable support for participatory budgeting, with an aim to have at least 1% of local government budgets subjected to PB by 2021.

The Role of Participatory in Communities

Participatory budgeting has a profound effect on communities. It empowers individuals, making them feel more connected to their community and their neighbours. It also gives people a better understanding of how budgets work and where money gets allocated – knowledge they may not have had before.

Engaging in participatory budgeting allows communities to identify local needs that may have been overlooked or misunderstood by the local government. It offers a platform for people’s voices to be heard, fostering an environment in which everyone has a say. It fosters respect and understanding among community members, creating a sense of unity and shared responsibility.

How Does it Work?

Participatory budgeting typically begins with a meeting of the community, where the budget is presented and discussed. Then smaller working groups are formed to brainstorm and create proposals for community projects. These groups can be formed based on specific neighbourhoods, issues, or demographics.

Once these groups have developed their proposals, they present them to the wider community. There is then a vote, and the proposals with the most support will receive funding.

The process doesn’t end there, though. Once a project is funded, the community, with the support of the local government, will carry out these projects. They will also monitor and evaluate the project’s progress.

Participedia: An Innovative Tool for Participatory Budgeting

Participedia is a global network that supports innovative methods in democratic governance, including participatory budgeting. It offers a platform for sharing and learning from experiences around the world. Participedia’s rich content in multiple languages is generated and used by activists, professionals, and researchers worldwide.

Participedia’s database provides a wealth of information on different participatory budgeting experiences. A simple click on a case study can reveal the process, the challenges faced, the methods used, and the impact it had on the community. This platform serves as an essential tool for those who seek to understand participatory budgeting in depth and to apply it in their communities.

In conclusion, participatory budgeting is a revolutionary method that enhances democracy at the grassroots level. It is a testament to the power of community collaboration and a testament to the potential of applying democratic principles to financial decision making.

The Impact of Participatory Budgeting on Women’s Rights

The effects of participatory budgeting are far-reaching and transformative, extending beyond just financial decision making. One of the most remarkable impacts of this process has been its role in promoting women’s rights. Many participatory budgeting initiatives have prioritised projects that directly benefit women, such as health services, childcare facilities and safety measures.

In communities where participatory budgeting has been implemented, women have been given a platform to voice their concerns and influence the allocation of resources. They have made use of this opportunity to advocate for initiatives that address gender disparities and enhance women’s wellbeing in their communities.

For instance, during a participatory budgeting meeting, a working group of women can propose the creation of a women’s health centre. This proposal would then be presented to the community, discussed, and eventually voted for. If it receives enough votes, this women’s health centre will be funded by the local government and established in the community.

Through this process, participatory budgeting not only has an impact on the projects selected but also shifts power dynamics. It allows women, who are often marginalised in decision-making processes, to have a say in how public funds are spent. This process has been instrumental in strengthening women’s rights and elevating their position within their communities.

Participatory Budgeting and Community Empowerment in Scotland

The Scottish government’s support for participatory budgeting has been instrumental in its adoption across communities in Scotland. The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act of 2014 was a turning point, encouraging local authorities to promote this method of decision making. The aim was to have at least 1% of local government budgets subjected to participatory budgeting by 2021.

This support from the Scottish government has facilitated the establishment of participatory budgeting units across Scotland. These units have been a crucial part of the process, providing the necessary resources and guidance to communities engaging in participatory budgeting. This includes facilitating meetings, assisting working groups in developing project proposals, and ensuring that the voting process is fair and transparent.

The introduction of participatory budgeting in Scotland has served as an excellent tool for community empowerment. It has given communities the power to make decisions that directly impact their lives, fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility. This increased involvement has led to more informed and inclusive decision-making processes, which in turn has led to improved outcomes for communities.


Participatory budgeting is a transformative method of decision making that has significant potential. It allows ordinary people to have a say in how public funds are used, fostering a greater sense of community and empowerment. Additionally, the role of tools such as Participedia, which provide a wealth of information and case studies on the process, cannot be understated.

Furthermore, the impact of participatory budgeting on promoting women’s rights is a testament to its power. By giving women a voice in decision-making processes, communities can address gender disparities and enhance women’s wellbeing. Additionally, with the continued support of the Scottish government and the establishment of budgeting units, participatory budgeting has the potential to significantly transform communities for the better.

In conclusion, participatory budgeting is revolutionising the way decisions are made at the community level. It embodies the essence of democracy, giving power back to the people. As such, participatory budgeting is not just a process; it’s a movement towards a more inclusive, equitable and democratic society.

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