Participatory Budgeting: A Way to Reach Young People

From Boston to Brazil, municipalities around the world have demonstrated the positive impact that young people can have on the budgeting process.


A city's budget should reflect the priorities and goals shared by its residents. The way a city determines budget priorities reflects its commitment to public participation and collaborative governance. Policy decisions, especially those related to budgeting, have a long-lasting impact on communities, so it's crucial for local governments to involve their communities in the process. One group often overlooked in public engagement is young people aged 15 to 24, who make up about 14 percent of the population. Despite challenges such as their inability to vote or lack of property ownership, young people are essential community members and the future leaders. Recognizing this, many local governments have started shifting their approach to interact with young people and utilize creative solutions for inclusive public engagement.


One such creative solution is participatory budgeting, which originated in Brazil and gives people direct decision-making control over a portion of public funds. Participatory budgeting involves community collaboration in determining how to allocate a part of the public budget. Several cities, including Boston, New York City, and Denver, have successfully implemented participatory budgeting initiatives to increase comprehensive public engagement. For example, in Boston, the Youth Lead the Change campaign empowers young residents aged 12 to 25 to participate in the local government's budgeting process. Similar efforts have resulted in projects addressing various policy issues and promoting transparency in municipal spending.


Engaging young people in public issues benefits community development and helps government officials understand constituents' needs and preferences. Research shows that encouraging youth civic participation increases their likelihood of being engaged in civic life as they grow older. With the prevalence of online platforms and social media among young people, local governments can leverage accessible digital tools to reach them and involve them in budgeting processes. Digital platforms have been successfully used in cities like Norfolk, Virginia, and Roseville, California, to provide information, gather feedback, and promote transparency in budgeting. These tools offer residents an opportunity to provide input and influence government spending according to community needs.


Incorporating young people into the budgeting process provides a fresh perspective on community issues and empowers them to be decision-makers. Municipalities worldwide have demonstrated the positive impact of youth participation in budgeting, and research emphasizes the importance of civic engagement in this aspect of local government for informed and engaged communities. The use of digital tools tailored to specific community needs has proven effective in reaching and involving young people in the public engagement process.


YUPAD Project was funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or [European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA)]. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.