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Factors for PB Success

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is the process of participation in which citizens are directly involved in the decision-making regarding the budget allocations of their local government or a district. It was first implemented in the 1980s in Porto Alegre/Brazil in particular to increase the transparency of the budget’s allocations and to cope with social inequalities and corruption. Since then, the concept of PB has been spread all around the globe and it has become a success story in terms of a public sector management innovations. Due to different starting conditions in each local government’s PB implementation, legal requirements but also due to experiences regarding successful PB processes, the original Port Alegre PB model has been adjusted several times. This even starts with the fact that there is no universal definition of PB.

Since “there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach”, each local government, which is willing to implement its own process, needs to consider different design possibilities and to make own decisions about how to design its own PB process. This, however, requires the implementers from the local governments to collect a plenty of information and to start “from scratch” with their processes.

PB Type Groups report

Toolbox to design an own PB process

Ideal Types of PB

Classification scheme of PB mostly in Europe

Factors for PB Success

Issues to be considered for the Ideal Types of PB

How to design a successful PB

Collection of 80 possible indicators to track, develop and evaluate PB processes

PB Blueprint: PB examples

Successful PB initiatives in the BSR and beyond.

Evaluation Scheme

Successful PB initiatives in the BSR and beyond

Additional materials

Find more resources with general information about PB

PB Type Groups report

In order to bundle capacities of municipalities in PB design and implementation, the Empaci partners have developed a document called “PB Type Groups” aimed at supporting implementers new to the field of PB in setting up their PB process. It reflects factors for PB success from the perspective of citizens, the municipalities and the PB process itself. The objective of this document is to give a decision guidance on how the PB process can be designed based on the specific preconditions of each local government.

The content of this document is compiled from different sources. On the one hand, academic and practitioner literature (see the list of references) has been reviewed to identify the existing categorizations of PB. On the other hand, data from local governments has been collected by interviews with representatives from 12 German municipalities with a long-standing PB tradition or discontinued PB and additionally large-scale citizen surveys in 18 districts or municipalities in 6 BSR countries have been conducted to identify municipalities’ and citizens’ needs for PB. Data from more than 20 000 citizens was collected and insights were reflected in the document.

„Ideal types“ of PB

One of the most specific and known PB classification approaches is based on Sintomer et al. (2012). Their six types are differentiated by the level of deliberation, the type of actors and the power that is given to the citizens.

The so called ‘ideal types’ are:

Participatory Democracy

At the beginning of this ‘ideal type’ of PB, the citizens elect delegates to a special council. This council sets the rules for the upcoming budget. The next step is to discuss investment projects and to create a list of projects. At meetings at the district / city level the delegates rank the proposals. The final list constitutes of a participatory budget’s draft. The Municipal Council includes this into the municipality budget. The citizens have a de-facto decision-making power, because the council must approve the draft. After that, a monitoring body (consisting of delegates from the districts/city) is formed.

The implementation of this type is not possible everywhere. The categorization of ‘ideal type’ does not give advice to what type of municipality it fits based on recurring factors and which actions might be useful. If country-specific legal restrictions prevent this type, then it cannot be implemented. Nonetheless there may be a way to integrate certain process elements (like the board of citizens). Still, if there are no legal restrictions, but the political engagement of the citizens is not high enough, the type does not fit to the population. These potential problems for practical users are not addressed in this model.


What separates this type from the other five ‘ideal types’ of PB is the project implementation by local communities rather than by civil servants. A board of citizens and NGO-members supervises the implementation. It is independent from the Municipal Council to a higher degree compared to the other ‘ideal types’. There are as much bottom-up as top-down dynamics: The influence of local politics and institutional bodies in the decision making is clearly limited and distinguishes this model from the Participatory Democracy type. Deliberation is possible to a higher level. Often NGOs are involved in organizing the activities of an independent board. The success of this type is clearly linked to these NGOs, e.g., their ability to reach marginalized people and disadvantaged groups. This model stands for the chance of new process structures and influences community activities besides the conventional ways via a political party membership or local elections.

To reach this, bottom-up and top-down activities are needed. This calls for a high level of the citizen engagement and a willingness to share power by the local government. This general description of the type cannot provide instructions to set up a working board, that is capable of acting.

Proximity Democracy and Participatory Modernization

In contrast to the direct democratic Porto Alegre model, as a European application of PB, these two types - Proximity Democracy and Participatory Modernization are consultative. All decisions are made by the Municipal Council. The listening takes place via citizens’ assemblies and at forums. In the latter, participants are being invited through media, by mail or a personal invitation.

The Proximity Democracy model involves districts as well as the whole city with the deliberation on investments in the former case and on general strategic goals in the latter. However, the citizens have neither influence on the proposal ranking nor the decision-making. The Municipal Council dictates the process, its representatives lead the forums and decide in the end.

The Participatory Modernization model is all about increasing transparency (referred to as: a consultation on a public finance). Information is spread by brochures, the Internet and media reports. Additionally, citizens’ forums are held for randomly selected and interested citizens.

Two versions of Participatory Modernization are possible for getting input on public services and ideas for rebalancing:

  1. In the first version of the model the focus is on services delivered by public providers (e.g., kindergartens, public swimming pools and street cleaning). Information is presented to citizens and special forms for suggestions by the citizens are provided.
  2. The second version is about proposals to rebalance a budget (reducing a public expenditure, increasing taxes). The citizens are encouraged to come up with their own suggestions to save or raise resources. Ideas could be gathered via questionnaires and then be quantified. The local council announces its decisions after an internal deliberation. Again, the Municipal Council controls the process and ultimately makes decisions.

For practical users this type gives some idea to structure the PB process and what could be requested from the citizens. It fits especially for a low level of participation and mobilization of citizens. But it would be interesting to know e.g., what is possible in the PB process to foster participation and in which interval the meetings take place.

Neocorporatism and Multi-stakeholder Participation

Regarding Neocorporatism and Multi-stakeholder Participation, both models target organized groups to co-decide on potential investments in social, cultural, and environmental areas. Both models differ from the other types by including funds from outside the municipality. Resources can be provided by international organisations like the World Bank, NGOs, private companies, or the national government. The stakeholders receive decision power in a board or a committee. This body of representatives of NGOs and/or agents of private sector entities and local authorities take the decision collectively based on the proposals (a co-governing partnership).

These models focus on the financial external resources, which could be interesting for certain municipalities, that have not thought about it. However, it is questionable how to set up a frame for co-governing and how the power is distributed and how long-term interests of the community are safeguarded.

Factors for PB Success

Three dimensions of a PB type are used to further characterize success factors identified in both academic and practitioner literature:

To consider which PB ‘ideal types’ is the most appropriate one for the certain municipality (area), 10 success factors developed by Kubicek and Lippa (2011) are offered. The factors are explained in terms of the questions addressed in the context of an individual municipality considering the environment, the legal restrictions, and the citizens, who live in it. For each of the factors, practitioners will face certain decisions to take.

Success Factor Meaning Relation to the PB
Clear objectives Are the participation objectives clearly defined? PB-process related
Activities of the decision-makers in a process What role do decision-makers from the administration/politics play in the PB process? Municipality-related PB-process related
Mobilization of the participants Which actions are taken to inform addressees? Are there any target-group-specific actions? Is there any focus on the equal representation of all the citizen groups? Citizen-related PB-process related
Transparency of a process and traceability of any results Have interim results/results been published or made available? Have there been information about goals, processes, decisions and rules? PB-process related
Ensuring the connectivity of the participation Is there a process model for the perpetuation of PB? PB-process related
Binding force/commitment of political decision-makers Does a specific agreement in advance exist, that the decision-makers will take the results into account? PB-process related
Appropriate and target group-oriented participation formats Is the information provided prepared in a citizen-friendly manner? Are the intended media and channels of communication appropriate for a target group? (Acceptance) PB-process related
Sufficient resources Are the resources sufficient for planning and implementing? Municipality-related
Urgency of the subject What is the scope of a topic? PB-process related
Professionalization Is the participation based on a process concept?
To what extent are (proven) external experts involved in supporting and facilitating the PB concept?
PB-process related

As part of the EmPaci project, all PB evaluation scheme was developed. It provides over 80 possible indicators to track, develop and evaluate PB processes based on the underlying sub-goals of the PB process. The evaluation scheme can be downloaded here.


Kubicek/Lippa/ Koop (2011):
Erfolgreich beteiligt? Nutzen und Erfolgsfaktoren internetgestuetzter Buergerbeteiligung - Eine empirische Analyse von 12 Fallbeispielen.
Guetersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung.


A full document of the PB evaluation scheme is available here Download

How to design a successful PB? (Instead of PB Type Groups report)

Considering that there is an infinite number and compositions of PB processes, the following table is a helpful toolbox to design an own PB process. The table is structured by PB phases with recommendations on each separate phase in the pre-column and by municipality-related and citizen-related factors in the header (read more about it in Sub-section “Factors for PB Success”).

Where to start from?

The offered “construction kit” was prepared by EmPaci project researchers. The construction kit and the example of Stuttgart PB design categorization is available on Pages 29-31 of “PB Type Groups” document. It provides useful tips for PB practitioners and helps to answer the questions corresponding to own municipality and citizens.

PB Blueprint: PB examples

PB Blueprint Guidebook presents successful PB initiatives in the Baltic Sea region and beyond, examines existing participatory budget approaches and presents the best practices. Successful PB cases from Germany, Poland, Portugal, Romania, France, Canada, China, Iceland, and Brazil are presented. The examples in the guidebook can serve as an inspiration for the local government representatives for future PB initiatives, as these highlight the specific features, design principles and innovative ideas which make selected PB cases inspiring.

Each case is shortly characterized by a fact sheet about the municipality, the PB process and its basic structure and a short history. However, it was not the aim to provide a detailed description, but the most important facts. Hints about where further and more detailed information can be found are also presented. The description of the case itself is guided by the following questions:

(1) What specific problem does the PB case solve?
(2) What ideas and design principles make the PB case innovative or successful compared to others?
(3) What could be potential challenges in adopting the approach of this PB case?

Since the design requirements and possibilities depend on the size of a municipality to a large extent, the cases presented in this document are structured according to the size of the municipalities in terms of inhabitants. As such, the following size categories have been set up:

  • Small municipalities - up to 100 000 inhabitants:
    • Eberswalde (Germany) 41 833 inhabitants,
    • Cruz Alta (Brazil) 62 766 inhabitants,
  • Middle-size municipalities - 100 000 – 250 000 inhabitants:
    • Olsztyn (Poland) 176 463 inhabitants
    • Reykjavík (Iceland) 118 918 inhabitants
  • Large municipalities - 250 000 – 1 million inhabitants:
    • Lisbon (Portugal) 550 000 inhabitants
    • Stuttgart (Germany) 610 000 inhabitants
    • Cluj-Napoca (Romania) 706 905 inhabitants
  • Mega-cities - more than 1 million inhabitants:
    • Paris (France) 2,1 million inhabitants
    • Toronto (Canada) 2,7 million inhabitants
    • Chengdu (China) 16,3 million inhabitants

Additional materials

PB as a Civic Engagement Tool (a1_PB as a Civic engagement tool - ppt)

Tampere University, LAB University of Applied Science (2020) PB Cycle. Steps toward PB in Municipalities. How to get started? [Experiences from Finland] (a2_PB Cycle_in_Finland)

Pauliina Lehtonen (2020) Participatory budgeting as a channel of citizen participation (a6_Mod_1_Pauliina Lehtonen basics of PB_ENG – ppt)

PB Cycle – Step by Step and the challenges (a2_PB Cycle_Step by step and the challenges – ppt)

Dr. Jaroslav Dvorak (2021) PB as a Civic Engagement Tool, Klaipeda University

PB training materials for schools: New York City Department of Education launches programme for schools