Participatory budgeting (PB) is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows residents to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent.
In 2018, the Durham City Council approved the guidelines and $2.4M in funding for PB and appointed a 15-member Steering Committee to establish the goals of PB and support the administration of the program. Each of the 3 City Council wards was awarded up to $800,000 for residents to decide how to use for one-time projects in the community.
For Cycle 2, in 2020, Durham City Council approved $1M in funding for Durham-connected nonprofits and community organizations who are directly serving those residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing issues contributing to racial, economic, and social inequities in Durham.
Trust: First and foremost, Participatory Budgeting serves to bridge the gap between the City of Durham and its residents. Decades of under-participation in local processes and a history of underrepresentation of marginalized groups have led to mistrust between many Durham residents and city government. Participatory Budgeting acknowledges that a rift exists and tries to build trust with community so that residents feel heard.
Power: PB empowers community members to take ownership of their communities by identifying what they see as the most pressing needs in their neighborhoods. By centering community participation through our engagement and giving volunteering opportunities to residents, we hope to shift the balance of power from government to the people.
Education: While the projects funded through PB will not solve all societal problems, we believe that the process of PB increases civic engagement and education necessary for a healthy democracy. Citizens that volunteer with PB obtain a better understanding of how city government functions and how to make their voices heard for issues beyond PB.