NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES: Participatory Budgeting Toolkit

The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a better way to manage public funds. It is a democratic process that gives ordinary people real decision-making power over real money.

One case study involved the city of Seattle.  When former Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata first heard about PB, he was interested in what it would take to bring the practice to Seattle.  In July 2015, Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Licata announced the city of Seattle would launch the second youth-led PB process in the U.S., calling it Youth Voice, Youth Choice. In its first year, the process engaged more than 3,000 young people in determining how to spend $700,000 of the city’s budget. The youth decided to fund seven projects related to services for youth and people experiencing homelessness.

The nine months of intensive planning and engagement of local stakeholders set this PB process up for tremendous success. As PB continues to spread to cities, counties, districts, schools, public housing developments, and other types of public agencies, many community leaders are asking the same questions Councilmember Licata asked as he considered launching PB in Seattle.

In response to the growing interest in launching PB, the Participatory Budgeting Project created a toolkit for municipal officials and their staff. The toolkit answers questions about how PB processes typically work, sample PB materials, what impacts PB creates, the kinds of budgets that can be used for PB, the types of resources and staffing needed for PB, and how to get started. 

PB holds enormous potential to transform individuals, communities, and government, but making the change can seem really hard.  The toolkit is for municipal officials and staff that are interested in launching a PB process. Its purpose is to help you understand what it takes to start a PB process and how to lay a foundation for success.  If interested, you may download this toolkit at