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Lessons From Paris, Home to Europe's Largest Participatory Budget

BY Antonella Napolitano | Thursday, February 12 2015

The City of Paris helps citizens assess the cost of their PB ideas (Source: City of Paris)

Last fall, Parisian voters decided how to spend 20 million euros of their city budget, the city's first participatory budgeting (PB) experience. This year there is more than triple that at stake, and the process of crafting proposals for funding has been opened to the general public. As host to Europe's largest PB experiment, Paris is leading by example. Read More

[Op-Ed] Civic Tech and Engagement: How City Halls Can Help Construct Stronger Neighborhoods

BY Susan Crawford | Tuesday, July 29 2014

Boston's new District Hall, a public-private partnership for civic innovation

Last week, the UN reported that more than half of humanity now lives in cities; by 2050 two-thirds of people will, up from just 30% in 1950. Given the grave challenges facing the world's booming urban areas—including global warming, economic dislocation, and crumbling basic infrastructure, among other torments—tomorrow's mayors will need to take bold steps to ensure their constituents live in dignity and safety. But public distrust of dysfunctional, faceless government is profound, resources are limited, gaps between groups are widening, and many are unaware of the role of government in their lives—which makes citizens less likely to support major initiatives. One way to fill the drained reservoir of public trust in municipal government, writes Susan Crawford, is to make city hall more visibly—and continuously—responsive. Digital technology can help: by using data to optimize the use of limited city resources and communicate clearly (with a friendly voice) across a range of platforms, a city can make life noticeably better for its citizens. Read More

WeGov

Participatory Budgeting Working in Brazil, Study Finds

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, January 27 2014

Accounting ledger (melstampz/Flickr)

A study released at the end of last year shows that Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Brazil “generate[s] meaningful change” and has a quantifiably positive impact on cities.

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WeGov

A Boost for Both Transparency and Taxes in Mexico?

BY Rebecca Chao | Wednesday, January 8 2014

There may be more pesos for the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga this year (Credit: Scott Robinson/flickr)

While the Mexican municipality of Tlajomulco de Zúñiga sits in the center of the country, its name translates as “Land in the Corner” in the Aztec language, Nahuatl. The title is perhaps more fitting now. Once one of the country’s most corrupt municipalities, it now occupies a special corner of Mexico as its least corrupt, jumping from a 34.2 in 2009 to a full score of 100 in 2013 as ranked by the transparency organization CIMTRA. Mayor Ismael del Toro and his predecessor Enrique Alfaro are in part responsible for pushing forward a number of innovative policies that include a four-year-old participatory budgeting project, which allow citizens to vote annually on how their taxes should be spent. Read More

WeGov

In the Congo, War and Embargo Complicate World Bank Project

BY Rebecca Chao | Monday, December 16 2013

The provincial budget minister talks to the press after a generally assembly and budget vote (Credit: World Bank)

The war-ravaged province of South Kivu sits at the eastern border of the DRC, beside the stem of Tanganyika, an African Great Lake. Boris Weber, team leader for the World Bank's ICT4Gov, explains to techPresident that after years of conflict and violence in the province, the provincial government was simply not sending the money allocated to local governments. “Partly, they just didn’t have any incentive to send it. Also, they had no way of knowing and tracking how their money was going to be spent.” The World Bank’s participatory budgeting program, piloted in 2012, aimed to resolve that dilemma by giving those in Bukavu a direct say in how they wanted to see their budget spent; therefore creating the accountability needed to incentivize the provincial government to send money down the line. But locals view the program with a skeptic eye and ask, is it enough? Read More

First POST: NewCo News

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 18 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: More details on Pierre Omidyar and Glenn Greenwald's still unnamed NewCo investigative journalism site; one bankrupt Rhode Island town is trying crowdfunding for its parks; and the best reading from last week's 'book surge' break that you might have missed. Read More

WeGov

Australians Save Shuttered Climate Council By Crowdfunding AUD $800K in Three Days

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, September 30 2013

Australia gets hotter and drier (ed 37 ~~ / Flickr)

Australian citizens were outraged after Australia's new prime minister Tony Abbot shuttered the government-funded Climate Commission, which conducts independent studies on the effects of climate change. Instead of merely expressing their anger and disappointment, however, citizens have put their money where their mouths are, funding the “new” nonprofit organization Climate Council in less than a week through an impressive crowdfunding effort.

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First POST: Not Psyched

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 12 2013

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Mayer offer their responses to the NSA revelations; the "tech intellectuals" get their academic review; educational technology moves in on public schools; and much, much more. Read More

WeGov

Malaysia Crowdsources 2014 Budget

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, September 4 2013

Prime Minister Razak (Wikipedia)

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, is crowdsourcing the 2014 National Budget. A dedicated website has been set up for the initiative, where citizens can log in through their Facebook or Twitter accounts and submit their suggestions and requests. Other users can then thumbs up or thumbs down a suggestion.

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WeGov

Lima's Participatory Budget Expands to Include All City Residents

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, July 3 2013

Participatory budgets give voice to Peru's poor, if they know to vote (Wikipedia)

Since 2003, municipalities in Peru have created budgets with input from representatives of civil society called “participating agents.” Last month, however, Lima expanded the participatory budget to include the general population. Approximately 20,000 residents voted; a vast improvement when compared to the handful of “participating agents,” but only a drop in the bucket considering Lima's eight million residents.

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