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Citizens Engaging Government: Participatory Budgeting In Greensboro, North Carolina

Author: WHITNEY B. AFONSO
Published in PAQ, Vol. 41 No. 1

Local governments are responding to growing pressures to increase transparency and citizen engagement, particularly in light of the fiscal stress created by the Great Recession. Historically, the budget process has been a target for these efforts, generally through public hearings and requirements for publicly available budget documents. However, there is growing interest in moving past information sharing to more dynamic and interactive engagement. A review of citizen engagement literature reveals the diverse ways in which local governments and citizens engage with each other. It also reveals that most studies are presented primarily from the perspective of the local government. This article responds by presenting a case study on Greensboro, North Carolina, where a citizen-led effort successfully introduced participatory budgeting (PB). In October 2014, Greensboro passed a resolution in which it committed $500,000 annually to PB, allowing citizens to develop and vote on budget proposals. The research presented here is a first step toward understanding efforts to increase transparency and engagement from a citizen perspective, and it highlights some of the unique challenges that citizens face when they take on such an initiative.

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