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See you in Chicago for the PB conference next month!

I’m looking forward to this year’s Participatory Budgeting conference in Chicago next month, and hope to see many NCDD members there!  Let me know if you’re coming; I’ll probably be organizing an NCDD dinner or meetup during the event.

This second regional conference on Participatory Budgeting will take place in Chicago March 3-5, to allow participants to observe and celebrate the final vote for PB Chicago. This new joint process across four city wards builds on the first PB initiative in the US, in the city’s 49th Ward. The conference will provide a space for participants and organizers of the initial PB processes in the US and Canada to share and reflect on their experiences, alongside activists, practitioners, and scholars.

Registration is only $125 — and just $60 for students!  Register and learn more at http://pbconference.wordpress.com/.


In cities across North America, budget crises are leading to painful cuts in public services and infrastructure – especially for communities with the greatest needs. Community members are usually left on the sidelines during public budgeting, with little power to shape the spending decisions that affect their lives.

Participatory Budgeting (PB) offers an alternative – a more democratic and accountable way to manage public money. PB is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. First used in Brazil in 1989, there are now over 1,500 participatory budgets around the world. Most are for city budgets, but counties, states, towns, housing authorities, schools, universities, and other institutions have also used PB to give people real power over real money.

PB has only recently appeared on the radar in the US and Canada, with a few Canadian processes starting in 2001 and the first US experiment in 2009. But in just a few years, interest in North America has skyrocketed – with at least six new PB processes in the past two years. In 2013, around 20,000 people will use PB to allocate nearly $20 million.

Conference Themes

As an opportunity to reflect upon early PB initiatives in the US and Canada, and build new relationships between practitioners, the conference will focus on the following issues and questions. We encourage submissions relating to these and other similar themes.

  1. The State of Participatory Budgeting: What is the current status of PB practice in North America? How are current PB experiments and campaigns progressing? What lessons can we learn from these experiences?
  2. Planning, Organizing, and Politics: How does PB relate to broader systems of urban planning, organizing, and politics? What is or could be the role of PB in this age of austerity?
  3. Building Connections across Cities: How do the North American PB experiences differ from or inform the practice of PB in other parts of the world? How can PB practitioners, activists, and participants support each others’ efforts?
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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. Should be fun. Look forward to connecting with the Chicago D&D scene!

  2. If you’re still in Chicago the following Monday morning, May 6th, join the Chicago D&D community for a discussion of public participation law. This will draw on the recent DDC work on model public participation ordinances and include Matt Leighninger, Pete Peterson, and Maryam Judar. RSVP required. See: http://www.citizenadvocacycenter.org/events1.html

  3. Lina Cramer says:

    Glad you are coming back to Chicago in May. Hope to see you then.

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