New York City Participatory Budgeting and Rulebook

In 2011, four New York City Council Members partnered with several community-based organizations and launched a Participatory Budgeting process to allow residents to vote to allocate a portion of the council’s capital discretionary funds. The Participatory Budgeting New York City (PBNYC) process involved the city allocating funds to finance physical infrastructure projects, such as schools, parks, and public housing that benefit the public, that cost at least $50,000 and have a lifespan of at least five years. Residents were able to visit the website to review eligible projects and then submit an idea for consideration. The process gave residents the opportunity to vote during a nine-day Vote week for the city’s fiscal budget and implemented by city agencies. PBNYC is one of the largest and the fastest-growing participatory budgeting process in the United States which also ensures that low-income people and people of color can participate in the process. Currently, the majority of participants, around 57%, are identified as people of color. 

Under this PBNYC model, each participatory budgeting cycle is about eight months, and includes four stages. The first stage of Idea Collection and Volunteer Recruitment is typically planned for three months, from August to October, to brainstorm potential funding projects and recruit Budget Delegates. During the second stage of Proposal Development, the delegates work with elected officials to draft the project proposals for four months, from October to January. Once the proposals have been determined, Budget Delegates and residents get out the vote and prepare for a nine day community vote from March to April. In the final Evaluation and Planning stage, the winning projects are to be included in New York City’s upcoming fiscal year budget, and the Staff and stakeholders evaluate the process and oversee the implementation of winning projects by NYC agencies.

The most updated PBNYC rulebook, has specified five principles to follow: 

  • Empowerment: Enable local people to decide how PB works in their communities and across the city. 
  • Transparency: Share information and make decisions as openly as possible. 
  • Inclusion: Make special efforts to engage people who face obstacles to participating, are often excluded, or are disillusioned with government. 
  • Equity: Ensure that the decision-making process for the allocation of public dollars is accessible to every person -- including, but not limited to, those who have been historically underrepresented based on race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, and religion - and that spending decision most benefit high-needs communities. 
  • Community: Bring people together across transitional lines of division to work together for the good of the whole community. 

To date, PBNYC has undergone 8 cycles and the number of participants of each cycle continues to grow.  For instance, in Cycle 8 (the 2018-2019 cycle), there were over 118,000 citizens across 32 districts who participated to vote on projects to spend $40 million public funds. Cycle 9 is planned to begin in August 2020.  

For more information about PBNYC, click here


Publication Date: 2011

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  • Best practice
  • Engagement
  • Funding program

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