We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Friday, August 15, 2008

UNITED KINGDOM: Upcoming Conference on Participatory Budgeting

Our allies working toward participatory budgeting have notified us of an upcoming conference in Manchester. On September 15, 2008 activists will unite for a one day conference to discuss current projects on participatory budgeting and how to spread the trend. Please see their website for more information:

While the group documents many case studies, here is one example.

National participatory budgeting conference


We are hosting a one day national conference at the prestigious Midland Hotel in Manchester to showcase PB and look at how we can take PB to the next level.

This one-day conference is designed to explore the way in which PB can be developed as a powerful tool to engage citizens in decision making in a range of budgetary contexts across different areas of public spending.

It will:

- Set out the policy context in which PB is developing, particularly the 'duty to involve'

- Showcase the range of PB pilots that have already been developed across the country
- Explore the possibilities for using PB on devolved mainstream budgets and annual budget consultations
- Look at the first examples of using PB in the contexts of health and policings
- Think through how PB might be auseful tool in making decisions in Local Strategic Partnerships and around pooled budgets in development of Local Area Agreements

Highlight the opportunities and challenges involved in using PB across different tiers of local government

The conference will also demonstrate the range of resources which are available to help public agencies deliver high quality PB projects. These include:

The PB toolkit
- Values, principles and standards for PB
- ICT opportunities for creating dynamic public events around PB
- The developing regional PB learning partnerships for public agencies
- The support of the PB Unit and it's partners


Private & public sectors: £200

Charities, voluntary and community sectors: £100

Early bird discount of £50 if booked before 31st July

Bursaries may be available

For more information and to book, please download our leaflet here

Click here to download our booking form

For more information and to book please contact Jenny Lazarus on 0161 236 9321 or email



Here is a summary of another recent event by Participatory budgeting U.K.:

Keighley Decision Day, Bradford

Bradford Local Strategic Partnership (Bradford Vision), decided to distribute the 2006/07 round of Neighbourhood Renewal Funding (NRF) in Keighley using a process of Participatory Budgeting.


On “Decision Day” community organisations allocated a total of £130,000 to local projects using the participatory budgeting. The Keighley process was led by Bradford Vision’s neighbourhood manager for the area with the support of the senior team.

In March 2006 it was agreed that the Neighbourhood Partnership for Keighley could use PB for the 2006/07 round of Neighbourhood Renewal Funding. Bradford Vision secured a total of £130,000 to be spent on Children and Young People, Safer and Stronger Communities and the Environment to be spent only in areas of relative deprivation and therefore eligible for NRF funds. A reference group was formed comprising Bradford Vision staff, Keighley Voluntary Services, the council’s area coordinator and a representative from the UK PB unit. Priorities were established through community events and door to door interviews. Voluntary organisations and local groups were then invited to submit bits which were then scrutinised by a panel made up of local councillors, members of the PB reference group, and staff from local statutory organisations.

All residents involved in the bidding process were then invited to a Decision Day where all the projects were presented and voted on.


Bradford Vision, Local Strategic Partnership

To involve local residents in the allocation of neighbourhood renewal funds (NRF) and the Local Area Agreement (LAA)funds.
To stimulate wider resident engagement with local participatory structures.
To develop greater resident understanding of budgeting processes
To increase cross-community working.
To encourage service provider receptiveness to resident knowledge.

In 7 processes in 7 neighbourhoods in Keighley, Bradford District Council.

Keighley is a town within Bradford District Council and consists of x number of wards. Bradford is a very urban area with an ethnically diverse population and a known history of unrest between different ethnic groupings.

£130,000 was available for local projects from the Neighbourhood Renewal Funds.

Before the event a reference group was formed from staff at Bradford Vision, Keighley Voluntary Services, Bradford Council and the wider voluntary sector. Spending themes were prioritised by residents – approximately 400 responses were generated from door to door interviews and at community events.

Local groups were invited to send in proposals - to bid for the money. Bids were then reviewed by the scrutiny panel of local service providers and councillors. Invitations to the Decision Day were sent to all residents in the eligible areas.

At the event voting took place in 2 parts, 2 sessions in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. Participants were allowed 3 minutes to make their presentation and voting was carried out on paper sheets after every 5 presentations.

After the event funds were distributed to the successful projects by Bradford Vision. Support and monitoring was provided by Keighley Voluntary Services.

Staff from Bradford Vision, Keighley Voluntary Sector, Bradford Council and the wider voluntary sector.

The process contributed to community cohesion as there was a coming together of different communities and a greater understanding of each others different needs.
Local people directed the allocation of NRF money for their area.
A new community role for elected members was highlighted as local councillors were involved in the scrutiny panel, in presenting the Decision Day and in the evaluation process.

1 comment:

askmetro said...

Where are all the grass roots people at The NRF in the Keighley Study?
They all seem to be Council employees or third sector workers.
Still its good to take the decision of resource allocation away from acountable elceted people and put it into the hands of unelected, unaccountable groups. That way politicians can wash there hands of the plight of the poorest and most desperate in society and blame the less vociferous people themselves for failing to get any of the pie becuase their plea wasnt sexy enough!