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Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions


Abstract and Figures

The paper refers to the social innovation of participatory budgeting which has become a very popular tool for stimulating citizen participation at the local level in Poland. It focuses on the major cities, defined as capitals of the voivodeships or regions. Based on the data concerning 2018 participatory budgeting editions in the eighteen cities, it describes the funding, organisation of the process, forms of voting and voter participation as well as the nature of projects selected and implemented. According to the amended Act on the Local Self-Government, organisation of participatory budgeting will only be obligatory for Polish cities from 2019. Despite that fact, it has already become quite popular and broadly applied in local communities. However, citizens’ participation and involvement in the process seems quite low, suggesting a need for experience sharing and improvement of the initiative. Also, project selection reflects the influence of various social groups within urban communities, rather than assisting groups which are at risk of marginalisation.
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Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities
in Poland– Case Study of 2018 Editions
Abstract: The paper refers to the social innovation of participatory budgeting which
has become avery popular tool for stimulating citizen participation at the local level in
Poland. It focuses on the major cities, defined as capitals of the voivodeships or regions.
Based on the data concerning 2018 participatory budgeting editions in the eighteen
cities, it describes the funding, organisation of the process, forms of voting and voter
participation as well as the nature of projects selected and implemented. According to
the amended Act on the Local Self ‑Government, organisation of participatory budget‑
ing will only be obligatory for Polish cities from 2019. Despite that fact, it has already
become quite popular and broadly applied in local communities. However, citizens’
participation and involvement in the process seems quite low, suggesting aneed for
experience sharing and improvement of the initiative. Also, project selection reflects
the influence of various social groups within urban communities, rather than assisting
groups which are at risk of marginalisation.
Keywords: participatory budgeting, urban governance, local self ‑government,
Local government is treated as an important value, a major instrument of decen
tralisation in modern Europe and a tool of improvement in the quality and e‑
ciency of governance. However, it is also dened to serve citizens’ participation.
For example, the European Charter of Local Self ‑Government highlights that
the principle of freely elected local authorities ‘shall in no way aect recourse
to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen par
ticipation where it is permitted by statute’ (European Charter 1985). is puts
Politics in Central Europe (ISSN: 1801-3422)
Vol. 15, No. 2
DOI: 10.2478/pce-2019-0017
258 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
local government in the context of stimulating residents to take responsibility
for their neighbourhoods. As Tsobanoglou and Harms argue, participation is
necessary to address the modern crisis of distrust in politics, quoting various
mechanisms applied within the local democracy (Tsobanoglou – Harms 2018).
Participatory budgeting is one of the tools which may achieve the objective of
citizen mobilisation, although it cannot be considered separate from other
means of stimulating citizen activity.
In the last decade, participatory budgeting has become highly popular in
Poland, even without legal provisions binding local authorities to implement
such measures in their governance processes (Rytel ‑Warzocha 2018: 392). It’s
been applied in a growing number of local government units, mainly the com
munes, but also in six voivodeships, on the regional level.
Participatory budgeting– concept and its developments
Participatory budgeting (PB) is a very broadly studied concept of involving
citizens in local or sublocal governance through their inclusion in nancial
decision ‑making processes. In its original shape, established in Porto Alegre,
Brazil in the 1980s, it was a response to inequality in access to power in the
city (de Olivero Dutra 2014: 11). It was perceived as an important social inno
vation and a chance to improve quality of governance due to better and better
informed decisions (Brun ‑Martos – Lapsley 2017: 1008), to encourage local
communities to express their needs, as well as to take responsibility for their
environment, and as a tool of increasing transparency and civil control in gov
erning (Hartog – Bakker 2018). With these benets in view, self ‑governments
all over the world strived to implement this solution, but it should be stressed
that PB is always a component of a broader system of participative governance
(Avritzer 2017: 47), and only thus it may serve to improve the level of trust and
legitimacy on the local level (Swaner 2017). us, it becomes incorporated in
a set of traditions, principles and arrangements in place developed by the lo
cal community and dened by its authorities, this is why the general name of
‘participatory budgeting’ encompasses a great variety of solutions in dierent
parts of the world. Undoubtedly, ‘while the diusion of PB is impressive, there
are complications: PB is being implemented in very dierent ways, largely as
a result of legal, social, political and historical traditions that exist in dier
ent countries’ (Brun ‑Martos – Lapsley 2017: 1007). ence, the importance of
analysing participatory budgeting in various geographical, legal and historical
contexts to verify how the basic concept of delegating the power to decide on
a part of local authorities’ expanses to the entire community is applied in dif
ferent circumstances and what goals it can achieve.
Participatory budgeting is frequently associated with such concepts as de
centralisation, governance and participation and it needs to be highlighted
that these are frequently perceived and dened as values involved in the hu
man right to good administration (Charter 2000: 41). Decentralisation, which
has been a subject of very broad research, can be dened as ‘a distribution of
competencies which allows their signicant part to be transferred from the
central government to lower echelons of power’ (Chrzanowski – Sobczak 2017:
14). A well ‑designed decentralisation is considered to bring benets to the com
munities, as it is ‘widely advocated as a means to foster legitimacy, stimulate
more equitable growth, enhance policy eciency and increase democratic ac
countability; it is even made a key element of „good governance; in general’”
(Mueller 2015: xxii). Its advantages include better accommodation of social
diversity and discrepancies of interests, more ecient management of public
aairs, as well as greater stimulation of local activists, whose voice is better
heard on the lower level of governance. Even though local and specialist self‑
‑government is the fundamental channel of decentralisation (Kmieciak 2016),
currently more stress is put on the potential to decentralise competencies even
further, to include smaller, even sub ‑local communities ‘for the sake of eciency
or to promote civic participation’ (Liebmann 2000: 169). In these terms par‑
ticipatory budgeting may serve as a way to stimulate the citizens’ involvement
and encourage them not only to participate in the processes provided by the
authorities, but also to self ‑organise and to build small communities around
specic problems aecting the particular neighbourhood.
In this way, participatory budgeting may also contribute to implementation
of good governance principles on the sub ‑local, local and even regional levels.
According to the classical denition by the World Bank, ‘the manner in which
power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social re
sources for development’ (International Fund for Agricultural Development,
1999). It includes a range of elements: participation, rule of law, transparency,
responsiveness, orientation on consensus, equity and inclusiveness, eective
ness and eciency and accountability. Other sources may oer slightly dierent
listings, e.g. openness, partnership, eectiveness, eciency, accountability or
cohesion (Kobielska – Lisowska 2014). A well ‑designed participatory budget
ing initiative may well aect all of them by introducing the local residents into
the decision ‑making processes aecting their closest neighbourhoods. With
the fundamental idea of encouraging direct participation of all citizens, par
ticipatory budgeting corresponds to the principles of participation, equity and
inclusiveness, but it may also enhance accountability through greater transpar
ency of the process, and above all, by increasing the residents’ involvement and
interest in the sublocal and local issues. Additional channels of communicating
interests and preferences may also aect more ecient management of the local
community’s resources and the local space, thus making the local or sublocal
communities more responsive to the changing opinions and expectations of
the inhabitants. Importantly, such solutions may also benet minority groups;
260 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
rstly, by providing them with a possibility to participate in the political sys‑
tem in a less formalised way, and secondly, by making it easier to promote and
implement their initiatives.
All of these objectives are directly associated with the level of social participa
tion. On one hand, the eciency of any participatory scheme is determined by
the citizens or inhabitants’ trust in it and their will to take in the process. On
the other hand, a successful scheme may entice more activity within the com
munity. In political science, this term is dened as ‘a tool to engage citizens in
the public life and a way to redistribute power to particular echelons’ (Wójcicki
2013). Also perceived as a crucial element of civil society, it is frequently en
couraged in democratic countries and to ensure inclusiveness with respect to
interest of all citizens. Importantly, in the context of the classication referred
to as the ladder of participation, participatory budgeting can be perceived as
the highest level of co ‑deciding, more advanced than the other two – informing
and consulting (Waligóra 2014).
Political and social participation in Poland
Political participation in Poland remains quite low, although, as shown in Ta‑
ble 1., in the 2018 local elections, voters in the largest cities and capitals were
more committed to voting than in other types of municipalities. In most cities
(16 out of 18) the voter turnout was higher than regionwide in the voivodeship
the city is the capital of, however in 14 of them it ranged between 45 and 55 %,
which is quite a high result in the Polish elections, but still only close to half of
the residents. Also, on the lower level of local governance, the participation of
citizens remains insucient in terms of establishing ecient communication
and involving communities in governance of their neighbourhoods. Especially
in urban communes, popularity of sublocal self ‑government (osiedla, dzielnice)
is very low, as measured by voter turnout at elections, as well as by the numbers
of candidates for sublocal councils or number of initiatives brought by citizens
themselves. is shows the unused potential of participation in the cities and
the citizens’ concern about their local communities. e cities strive to mobilise
this potential by participatory budgeting, too.
e social and volunteer participation is stable, as an extensive study in 2013
showed that 18 % of Poles were involved in formal groups or organisations, 27 %
worked for their closest community or neighbourhood and 9 % participated
in actions taken by churches or religious groups. e total number of persons
getting involved in social action was 34 %, similar to values observed in earlier
years (Zaangażowanie społeczne Polek i Polaków 2014). However, an increasing
number of Polish citizens contribute nancially to non ‑governmental organisa
tions and charities, especially through the mechanism which allows them to
assign 1 % of their due yearly income tax to a selected organisation. erefore,
it should be assumed that the current evolution of Polish society may serve to
enhance the level of social activism and participation, if relevant, creative and
stimulating tools are provided.
e local authorities attempt to enhance citizens’ participation by introduc
ing various forms of participation, for instance civic panels in Gdansk (Ocial
Portal of the Municipality of Gdansk, accessed 24‑1‑2019), local microgrants
in Wrocław (Mikrogranty, accessed 11‑3‑2019), referenda to consult particular
decisions (National Electoral Commission, accessed 11‑3‑2019) or other forms of
public consultations (Waligóra 2014). Participatory budgeting, rst introduced
in Poland in 2011 in Sopot (Olejniczak – Bednarska ‑Olejniczak 2008), has
grown more and more popular and by amendment of the Act on Local Govern‑
ment introduced in 2017, organisation of participatory budgeting is obligatory
for all urban counties starting in 2019 (Act 1990).
Local government in Poland
Poland has a three ‑tier territorial self ‑government with 16 regions (wojewódz‑
two) on the regional level, counties (powiat) on the subregional level and com‑
munities (gmina) as the basic unit of local organisation and authorities. Each
unit of self ‑government is dened as a community of citizens, thus indicating
the local authorities’ obligations concerning community building and stimula
tion of local activity and participation.
As a general rule, each county comprises several communities (Sześciło –
Kulesza 2012); however, with the average population per county of about 101
thousand, it would be impracticable to treat the largest metropolises like other
municipalities. ence, the specic status of ‘urban counties’ (powiat grodzki)
(Act, 1998), which are communities with competencies and responsibilities of
counties. In 2018, there were 66 communities of this status in Poland, including
all 18 capital cities of voivodeships
(Ministry of Internal Aairs and Administra
tion, accessed 11‑3‑2019). After initial inconsistencies in interpretation, the 2001
amendment to the local government acts claried that such cities are classied
as communities, obliged to perform responsibilities assigned to poviats (Act
2001). According to the Polish Constitution, the local and regional administra
tion (both self ‑government and deconcentrated administration) is organised by
the principles of decentralisation and subsidiarity. e residual competencies
in all local issues are assigned to the communal self ‑government, while the act
on poviat government provides an exclusive list of responsibilities of this sub‑
‑regional echelon of administration (Act, 1990). us, municipalities acting
as poviats are responsible for such areas as management of municipal roads,
streets, bridges and squares; provision of water and sewage services; provision
1 In two voivodeships– Kujawsko -Pomorskie and Lubusz– two cities share the capital status.
262 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
of waste disposal; provision of electricity and gas; public transportation; health
care; public education; organisation of cultural activities as communities, but
also for issues related to disaster management, public security and other areas
assigned to poviats (Act 1998). In the case of urban poviats these responsibili
ties are combined.
As mentioned above, there are 18 regional ‘capital cities’ of voivodeships in
Poland. ey dier in size, level of economic development and wealth (Table
2), as well as in social and political traditions. Like the regions themselves
(Skrzypiński 2017), the capital cities have their specic features and problems,
depending on their history, traditions, location, level and character of their
economic development, as well as the local community, its education, diversity,
attitudes and involvement. e discrepancies and dierent challenges they
face require individual policies and selection of tools. However, encouraging
participation is perceived everywhere as a value and an opportunity, thence the
popularity of participation ‑promoting methods applied in Polish metropolises.
Comparison of participatory budgeting in voivodeship capitals
Material and methods
e following section analyses the participatory budgeting in 18 voivodeship
capitals in Poland. e objective of the study was to verify the cities’ actual
commitment to implementation of participatory budgeting, evidenced by the
funding assigned for participatory budgeting; to assess the social outcome in
terms of the participation in the broadest (and easiest) stage of the process,
i.e. the consultation vote; and to check the nal impact of the initiative on the
cities by way of a short overview of the projects selected and implemented. To
gain a deeper understanding of the process, its organisation was described, too,
considering the classication of submissions applied by the cities’ authorities
in the vote.
All of the analysed cities had implemented this initiative, so for comparative
purposes a single edition was selected: the 2018 edition. All of the data were
acquired from dedicated websites of participatory budgeting at the respective
Municipal Oces or else by direct enquiries to municipal ocials responsible
for participatory budgeting.
Funds assigned to participatory budgets
e amounts assigned to participatory budgeting processes in the analysed cit‑
ies varied strongly, depending on the size and economic status of the city. ey
ranged from 2,500,000 PLN to 64,000,000 PLN (Table 3), which means that the
largest participatory budget (in the capital and the wealthiest city in Poland –
Warsaw) was over 25 times higher than the lowest one in Opole. However, if
the numbers are analysed as a percentage of the municipal budget instead as
absolute values, the sequence is dierent. e highest percentage (almost 1 %
of total municipal expenses) is noted in two cases (Łódź and Katowice), and
the lowest one is 0, 22 % (again in Opole).; however, the dierence is much less
than in the case of absolute numbers (in this case it is only vefold), because
quite naturally larger cities with higher budgets are able to allocate higher
amounts to participatory projects. However, the percentages are more sugges‑
tive of a rule: none of the analysed 18 cities assigned more than 1 % of their
overall budgetary expenses to the citizens’ participatory process. Even though
the sheer concept of participatory budgeting and the process is attractive and
stimulating for citizens, the low level of funding may discourage participation
in the longer term.
e municipal participatory budgets vary signicantly in the number of
projects selected for implementation (Table 4). Although it seems logical that
the largest city with the largest participatory budget should fund the largest
number of projects (especially if it is considered a combination of 18 separate
participatory budgets in quarters of the city), but still the number results in
the lowest average value per project. Only in two cities (Poznań and Szczecin)
did the average value exceed 600,000 PLN, and in a further two (Wrocław and
Kielce) was it above 400,000 PLN. e higher amounts may allow for funding
of more dicult, larger ‑scale projects; however, the participatory budgeting
process is addressed to lowest ‑level sublocal activists, so lower amounts may
actually be useful in the case of smaller projects, especially soft projects, while
even hard investment projects included in participatory budgeting are usually
on a much lesser scale.
In analysing the average value of a project, it should also be considered that,
as suggested by ngos specialising in urban participation (Kębłowski 2014: 23),
all cities provided for dierent categories of projects to be funded (Table 5).
Fifteen out of the 18 analysed cities applied a geographic division, with a certain
amount assigned to projects concerning the entire city and a certain amount
for projects on a sub ‑local level: quarters or neighbourhoods, depending on
the organisation of sublocal units, or else special districts developed for the
purpose of participatory budgeting. In such cases on the municipal level fewer
projects were funded and their average value was higher, thus allowing for
bigger ‑scale initiatives, provided that they beneted larger groups of inhabit‑
ants. In the sublocal category, it was possible to submit – and gain funding
for – projects worth several thousand PLN (1,500–2,000 €). Some cities also
added value ‑related categories (e.g. allocation of set amounts for big and small
projects, in one case also microprojects) or else categories based on the charac
ter of the projects (soft vs. investment projects). In two cases, there were also
‘specialist’, participatory ‘sub ‑budgets’, assigned for specic types of projects:
264 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
educational ones in Gorzów Wielkopolski and the renovation of historic build‑
ings in Wrocław. Such diversication may be helpful for all parties involved:
projects are easier to classify and supervise for the municipal administration,
the vote is more clear for inhabitants, but this solution also facilitates develop
ment of applications by providing more clear frameworks for initiators of such
submissions. Finally, it increases a sense of fairness among all parties, as any
competition between large, municipal ‑scale projects and sublocal initiatives
capable of drawing much smaller attention and addressed to smaller groups
of beneciaries could be impossible. us, municipal authorities attempt to
encourage more diverse initiatives.
Importantly, division of the budget between various districts or quarters
also serves to ensure that funding goes to dierent parts of the city and not
only to the city ‑centre or most gentried areas. Activation of local inhabitants
is especially important in peripheral or sub ‑urban areas for several reasons.
Firstly, frequent investment in those parts is more needed to keep inhabitants
from commuting to the city centre for their daily errands and, secondly, social
activity is usually focused in several areas and encouragement of even more
citizen initiative in various parts of the city may contribute to more sustainable
and equitable urban development.
Citizens’ participation in participatory budgeting votes
Participatory budgeting is a long ‑term process with annual cycles with con
sultations, submission of projects, their formal verication and sometimes
amendments, citizens’ vote to select projects and, nally, the implementation
of the selected ones (Demediuk – Solli – Adolfsson 2012). However, even the
nal stage of actually engaging public funding citizen ‑initiated and citizen‑
‑picked projects is not so spectacular and popular as the citizens’ vote (Table
6). Since the participatory budgeting is designed to encourage citizen activity,
the local authorities attempt to organise the vote in the most citizen ‑friendly
form. All eighteen analysed cities provided for the possibility to vote online,
and fourteen also distributed printed ballots to ensure that inhabitants who
can’t or don’t want to participate in an internet vote are also invited to take part
in the project selection. Out of the four cities which didn’t, one organised ad‑
ditional counselling or assistance from municipal clerks for citizens for whom
the virtual form could be too dicult, in two cases citizens were also allowed
to vote in person at special meetings in Gorzów Wielkopolski or by coming to
the Municipal Oce (Katowice).
e analysis of voter turnout in the vote does not show any signicant
trend considering either the forms of vote or population of the city. Even
though in bigger cities participatory budgeting could mobilise more voters, it
still remained quite a low percentage of the formal population of registered
inhabitants of the cities (since there are no uniform statistics concerning this
group for various cities, the unregistered inhabitants are not considered, even
though some cities allow all residents to vote in the participatory budgeting,
regardless of their formal status). e range – both in the absolute numbers
and percentage – is very broad, too: from fewer than 10,000 voters to almost
100,000 and from less than 5 % of the population to almost one in four inhab
itants, signicantly lower than in the national elections. Still, the numbers
are quite low, considering the potential of direct democracy and participation
involved in participatory budgeting. It seems that the promotion of this is not
yet sucient or that the course and eects of the process are disappointing for
the citizens. However, it should be highlighted that the promotion should rely
primarily on bottom ‑up processes, inviting sublocal activists to face problems
on the lowest level of the municipal administration, while activities by the local
authorities, as well as the municipal oces should rather provide a framework
and support the action addressed directly to inhabitants concerned with par
ticular projects and initiatives.
Projects implemented through the mechanism of participatory
Considering the diversity of the cities on various levels – dierences between the
cities and communities inhabiting them, the territorial structure and balance
between the centre and outskirts, economic development and need for invest
ments, and nally traditions and advancement of urban activism and participa‑
tion, as well as the varying design of the participatory budgeting itself, especially
concerning classication of projects and their encouraged objectives – it would
be very dicult to provide an overall classication, especially within the scope
of a paper. However, it is possible to attempt consideration of some types of
projects which are actually implemented and their potential impact (reserving
that this is not an attempt to build an exclusive classication).
soft projects vs. investment projects
In general, a trend is visible to balance investments in sub ‑local infrastructure
and community ‑centred projects with respect to the number of projects. For
instance, in the case of Białystok in municipal ‑level projects, the number of soft
and investment projects is equal, while in Katowice 75 % city ‑level projects were
hard ones. On the district level soft projects also made a slight minority (36 %
in Białystok and 40 % in Katowice). It should be stressed that especially on the
district level these were frequently quite simple initiatives, actually falling into
the regular scope of municipal responsibilities, e.g. a road joining ‘Słoneczny
Stok’ neighbourhood with Mruczkowska Street (Białystok, 249,000 PLN),
parking spots at ‘Wysoki Stoczek’ neighbourhood (Białystok, 202,500 PLN),
266 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
the repair of street and pavement surfaces at Wilimowskiego Street (Katowice,
397,500 PLN) or a ‘safe and colourful’ playground at Zawodzie (Katowice,
300,000 PLN); more innovative initiatives are not so frequent. Soft projects
are quite naturally much less expensive, with two outstanding types: support
for libraries, especially in Katowice (20 projects concerning purchase of new
books, audiobooks and other items for libraries throughout the city and six
other projects implemented at and by libraries, funding ranging from 2,500 to
40,000 PLN) and sublocal feasts, e.g. Silesian Feast at Murcki (Katowice, 30,000
PLN) or Family Feast at Piaski (Białystok, 13,900 PLN). Some of the feasts to
be funded were organised or co ‑organised by Roman Catholic parishes (e.g. St.
Father Pio Parish Sports and Family Feast, Białystok, 24,900 PLN).
projects for children/young families
A large group of projects involve initiatives related to specic needs of young
families or families with children, some of which were developed and/or co‑
‑organised by schools or kindergartens. is probably results from signicant
participation from exactly this group of inhabitants: middle class, aged 30
through 45, who either have kids or plan to have them within a few years. Many
of those projects involve publicly accessible playgrounds: the playground at Ko
piec Piłsudskiego (Kraków, 130,000 PLN), the repair of playground equipment
near ul. Krośnieńska and ul. Nowosądecka (Rzeszów, 180,000 PLN). ese pro‑
jects may also involve school/kindergarten play or sports facilities: expansion
of a playground built in the gardens of Primary School no. 39 for children aged
up to 10 – pupils of the school and kindergarten and other inhabitants of the
Dąbie neighbourhood (Kraków, 20,000 PLN) or improving the infrastructure
of the kindergarten building and its surroundings (Rzeszów, 180,000 PLN).
Some of the projects were also more innovative and original: fourteen district
projects focused on rst aid training for children (Kraków, 2,600–4,500 PLN).
Importantly, there are a few projects concerning activisation of the youngest
generation, e.g. football as an alternative to a computer – a series of organised
sports training for children and youth (Rzeszów, 49,520 PLN).
In all of the analysed cities there was also funding for social activisation of
elderly inhabitants, such as ‘e centre for active seniors’ (Olsztyn, 300,000
PLN) or ‘Nordic walking with babies and seniors’ (Gdańsk, 4,875 PLN). Par
ticipatory budgeting also provided for funding initiatives for people with dis‑
abilities. It can be highlighted that these projects did not directly address the
problems of marginalisation.
sports ‑related projects and healthy lifestyle projects
Another important and frequent group of projects involved initiatives related
to healthy lifestyle, especially sports. Once again, this is a reection of the
attitudes and expectations of the groups who participate in the processes of
applications development and in the voting itself. is category frequently
includes increasingly popular outdoor tness equipment, e.g. construction of
eight outdoor tness outlets with light architecture, e.g. benches etc. (Gorzów
Wielkopolski, 500,000 PLN). A very popular area of projects submitted and
selected concerns cycling. For example, in 2018 two out of four big projects
in Opole were related to bicycling (development of bicycling infrastructure in
Opole for 499,000 PLN and safe cycling routes in the city centre for 500,000
PLN) and another one oversaw construction of changing rooms at the football
pitch of a club (500,000 PLN).
ere are also quite a few sport ‑related soft projects, e.g. district project
of a cycle of medium ‑level sports activities for various age groups (Gorzów
Wielkopolski, 5,500 PLN) or football tournaments for children and adults
(Opole, 100,000 PLN).
revitalisation projects
e nal category to be analysed concerns revitalisation projects. From its
beginnings, participatory budgeting was designed to boost social inclusion
and support the groups which are marginalised or at risk of marginalisation
(Shybalkina – Bifulco, 2018), although the impact of such initiatives on redis
tributive eect has not been clearly evidenced and requires further analysis
(Hong – Shine, 2018). Still, among its other objectives, participatory budget‑
ing is supposed to serve to eliminate inequalities inside the city and tensions
between the city ‑centre and outskirts in order to stimulate more sustainable
development, so revitalisation initiatives to support marginalised neighbour
hoods and communities aected by underinvestment should play an important
role. is could be a chance to change the developmental dynamics of those parts
of the city. However, none of the analysed major cities in Poland provided for
any sort of special attention to such projects within the participatory budgeting
processes. In no city was there a separate category for revitalisation projects or
extra assistance for initiators of such applications. It does not mean that the city
authorities are not concerned about revitalisation. ey do not, however, use
participatory budgeting as a measure to stimulate it. Initiatives falling in this
category can be found among selected projects in Katowice (Revitalisation of
the ks. Franciszek Macherski square and maintenance of the Silesian Uprising
Fighters statue, 37,000 PLN), in Kraków (Teodor Axentowicz square revitalisa
tion, 72,000 PLN; revitalisation of Słowacki Avenue, 40,000 PLN; revitalisation
of historic stadium, 180,000 PLN); in Toruń (revitalisation of a square on St.
Joseph Street, 120,000 PLN) or in Zielona Góra (historic surrounding of an old
overpass), but this is not a major group of projects. is may be due to the fact
that inhabitants of districts and neighbourhoods that require revitalisation are
not prone to participate and their needs and expectations are not well audible
within the participatory budgeting process. is is a well ‑known problem of
268 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
participatory budgeting in the 21
century, as shown by Celina Su’s study of
New York participatory budgeting initiative: ‘A particular puzzle lies in how
and why inclusion does not necessarily lead to redistribution’ (Su, 2017, p. 74).
e analysis of just a single year of participatory budgeting in the eighteen cities
which are voivedeship capitals shows the popularity of the process. It is broadly
applied, and in some cases quite large amounts are assigned to the process, even
though they still account for a small percentage of municipal budgets. is may
be a reason why the current participation of the citizens in the project selec‑
tion state is not always satisfactory, even though local authorities take eorts
to make it as available as they can.
It is evident that this tool of encouraging citizen participation is broadly
known in Polish local governments, and that practices (concerning the level
of funding, forms of counselling, as well as of projects selected) are easily
dispersed. is suggests that the legal provisions making introduction of this
solution obligatory for some types of local governments are not necessary, since
eectiveness of this tool may be enough to promote it and the increasingly
inuential local movements may press local authorities to apply it.
On the other hand, Polish metropolitan participatory budgeting serves
only some objectives typical for this process. It does empower citizens, thus
stimulating their participation in city governance, although the turnout at the
nal votes to select projects for implementation suggests that the initiative still
reaches too few citizens to actually change the local and sub ‑local communities’
attitude to the right to and responsibility for their surroundings. is conclu‑
sion corresponds also to the ndings concerning types of projects selected
and implemented, as they involve lifestyle rather than quality of life. Certainly,
participatory budgeting in the analysed cities could be applied more eectively
in terms of encouraging more equitable and sustainable development. e
ndings about participatory budgeting in Poland thus also match issues and
problems identied by studies in other parts of the world, like Lerner’s study
on New York participatory budgeting (Lerner 2017).
It seems that introduction of a legal obligation to apply participatory budg
eting is not so important in the current Polish situation as establishment of
experience sharing and good practice exchange fora to develop and expand
participatory budgeting so as to make it a part of broader governance scheme.
It is a very popular tool in modern Poland, so it doesn’t need promotion, but it
needs to be incorporated in a more advanced and complex system of methods
to transform modern local communities.
Table 1: Selected characteristics of Polish voivodeship capitals
voivodeship city registered
ment rate
municipal budget
expenses in 2018
Dolny Śląsk Wrocław 638,586 + 0.44% 2.1% 4,482,000,000.00
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Bydgoszcz 352,313 - 0.94% 3.9% 2,338,640,916.00
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Toruń 202,562 - 0.06% 5.2% 1,253,400,000.00
Lubelskie Lublin 339,85 -0.26% 6.2% 2,280,735,363.32
Lubuskie Gorzów
Wielkopolski 124,295 +0.43% 2.7% 860,295,543.00
Lubuskie Zielona Góra 139,819 +0.80% 3.4% 1,098,429,533.00
Łódzkie Łódź 690,422 -1.51% 6.3% 4,071,559,916.00
Małopolska Kraków 767,348 +0.83% 2.7% 5,581,357,284.00
Mazowsze Warszawa 1,764,615 + 1.2% 2.0% 17,671,266,007.00
Opolskie Opole 128,14 +7.74%* 3.9% 1,124,494,608.00
Podkarpacie Rzeszów 189,662 +2.03% 5.4% 1,471,906,955.00
Podlasie Białystok 297,288 +0.44% 7.0 % 2,354,943,160.00
Pomorskie Gdańsk 582,205 +2.69% 2.7% 3,354,000,000.00
Śląsk Katowice 296,292 -1.21% 2.2% 2,345,802,549.00
Świętokrzyskie Kielce 196,804 -0.63% 5.8% 1,407,675,939.00
Warmińsko -Mazurskie Olsztyn 173,07 -0.22% 4.5% 1,253,400,000.00
Wielkopolska Poznań 538,633 -0.68% 1.4% 3,982,779,681.00
Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin 405,657 -0.44% 3.1% 2,854,000,000.00
Source: Statistics Poland data for 2017, municipal budgets for 2018 published at the municipalities’
websites (the large increase of the population in Opole resulted from the change of the city borders by
inclusion some villages formerly belonging to neighbouring communities)
270 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
Table 2: Voter turnout in local elections in 2018
voivodeship city
Dolny Śląsk 46.50% Wrocław 52.04%
Kujawsko -Pomorskie 46.25% Bydgoszcz 52.56%
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Toruń 52.61%
Lubelskie 51.62% Lublin 50.96%
Lubuskie 45.54% Gorzów Wielkopolski 53.49%
Lubuskie Zielona Góra 46.35%
Łódzkie 49.31% Łódź 57.29%
Małopolska 52.20% Kraków 55.26%
Mazowsze 61.52% Warszawa 66.9%
Opolskie 45.36% Opole 54.85%
Podkarpacie 49.56% Rzeszów 54.06%
Podlasie 47.23% Białystok 51.97%
Pomorskie 52.75% Gdańsk 57.70%
Śląsk 44.47% Katowice 51.55%
Świętokrzyskie 51.57% Kielce 52.33%
Warmińsko -Mazurskie 46.40% Olsztyn 49.23%
Wielkopolska 47.67% Poznań 54.43%
Zachodniopomorskie 45.14% Szczecin 43.15%
Table 3: Amounts assigned to participatory budgeting (absolute numbers and
percentage of the city’s budget)
voivodeship city [PLN] percentage of the
municipal budget
Dolny Śląsk Wrocław 25,250,000 0.56%
Kujawsko-Pomorskie Bydgoszcz 13,300,000 0.57%
Kujawsko-Pomorskie Toruń 7,070,000 0.56%
Lubelskie Lublin 15,000,000 0.66%
Lubuskie Gorzów Wielkopolski 6,180,000 0.72%
Lubuskie Zielona Góra 6,000,000 0.55%
Łódzkie Łódź 40,000,000 0.98%
Małopolska Kraków 14,450,000 0.26%
Mazowsze Warszawa 64,000,000 0.36%
Opolskie Opole 2,500,000 0.22%
Podkarpacie Rzeszów 5,500,000 0.37%
Podlasie Białystok 10,000,000 0.42%
Pomorskie Gdańsk 14,000,000 0.42%
Śląsk Katowice 22,800,000 0.97%
Świętokrzyskie Kielce 5,000,000 0,36%
Warmińsko-Mazurskie Olsztyn 3,730,000 0,30%
Wielkopolska Poznań 20,000,000 0,50%
Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin 8,000,000 0.28%
272 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
Table 4: Number of projects chosen for implementation and average value.
voivodeship city number value
Dolny Śląsk Wrocław 63 400,793.65
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Bydgoszcz 49 271,428.57
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Toruń 67 105,522.39
Lubelskie Lublin 44 340,909.09
Lubuskie Gorzów Wielkopolski 36 171,666.67
Lubuskie Zielona Góra 24 250,000.00
Łódzkie Łódź 228 175,438.60
Małopolska Kraków 120 120,458.33
Mazowsze Warszawa 850 75,294.12
Opolskie Opole 18 138,888.89
Podkarpacie Rzeszów 36 152,777.78
Podlasie Białystok 36 277,777.78
Pomorskie Gdańsk 106 132,075.47
Śląsk Katowice 126 180,952.38
Świętokrzyskie Kielce 12 416,666,67
Warmińsko -Mazurskie Olsztyn 28 155,416.67
Wielkopolska Poznań 30 666,666.67
Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin 13 615,384.62
Table 5: Division of participatory budgeting into dierent categories.
voivodeship city
Dolny Śląsk Wrocław 4 municipal-level projects, 57 district projects, 2
projects related to historic monuments
Kujawsko-Pomorskie Bydgoszcz municipal-level projects for the first time and 10
million PLN for each neighbourhood
Kujawsko-Pomorskie Toruń 30% for municipal-level projects and 70% for
sublocal-level projects
Lubelskie Lublin 5 big projects and 39 small projects (15 projects
within amounts guaranteed for quarters of the city)
Lubuskie Gorzów Wielkopolski
2 municipal-level projects (one so and one
investment), 29 district projects and 5 educational
Lubuskie Zielona Góra municipal projects (2 of them) and projects
submitted for 5 districts within the city (4 per district)
Łódzkie Łódź
204 district-level projects (mean value 147,107.84 PLN)
and 24 municipal-level projects (mean value 460,250
Małopolska Kraków 8,000,100 for municipal-level projects and 4,454,900
PLN for quarter-level projects
Mazowsze Warszawa participatory budgeting organised on the level of
quarters (eighteen of them), subdivided into districts
Opolskie Opole 4 big projects, 4 small projects and 10 micro-projects
Podkarpacie Rzeszów
1st category for municipal-level investments
(4,000,000 PLN); 2nd category for neighbourhood-
level investments (2,900,000 PLN) and 3rd category
for so projects (600,000 PLN)
Podlasie Białystok 11 municipal-level projects and 25 projects in districts
Pomorskie Gdańsk 5 municipal-level projects (mean value of 609,228.40
PLN) and projects for 24 neighbourhood projects
Śląsk Katowice municipal level (12 – mean value of 250,066.67 PLN)
and quarters (114) projects
Świętokrzyskie Kielce 2 big projects (1,800,000 ad 2,500,000 PLN), 10 small
projects (150,000 PLN each)
Warmińsko-Mazurskie Olsztyn
24 neighbourhood level projects (mean value
105,416.67) and 4 municipal level (integrated) projects
(mean value 300,000)
Wielkopolska Poznań
municipal level (6,000,000 PLN and 3 projects),
district level (14,000,000 PLN for 13 districts and 27
Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin
municipal projects (1), 4 districts divided into small
and big projects (1 or 2 projects in each of the 8
274 Participatory Budgeting in the Major Cities in Poland – Case Study of 2018 Editions Malgorzata Madej
Table 6. Participation in the consultation voting stage of participatory
voivodeship city voting methods number of
percentage of
city inhabitants
Dolny Śląsk Wrocław online or paper vote 68,67 10.77%
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Bydgoszcz online or paper vote 55,218 15,44%
Kujawsko -Pomorskie Toruń online or paper vote 12,72 6.28%
Lubelskie Lublin online or paper vote 25,318 7.44%
Lubuskie Gorzów
meetings, online or paper
vote 10,437 8.42%
Lubuskie Zielona Góra online or paper vote 36,593 26.17%
Łódzkie Łódź online or paper vote 97,974 14.07%
Małopolska Kraków online vote 32,958 4.30%
Mazowsze Warszawa online or paper vote 89,807 5,12%
Opolskie Opole online or paper vote 8,948 7.54%
Podkarpacie Rzeszów online or paper vote 19,712 10.39%
Podlasie Białystok online or paper vote 23,134 7.78%
Pomorskie Gdańsk exclusively online vote 44,655 9.68%
Śląsk Katowice
exclusively online vote
(stationary outlets for
people who find online
vote too difficult)
46,889 15.73%
Świętokrzyskie Kielce online, paper vote or in
person 44,114 22.42%
Warmińsko -Mazurskie Olsztyn online or paper vote 41,246 23.84%
Wielkopolska Poznań online vote 55,631 10.29%
Zachodniopomorskie Szczecin online or paper vote 26,378 6.50%
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Gdańsk: -obywatelski
Gorzów Wielkopolski:
Łódź: -mieszkancow/lodzianie -decyduja/budzet -obywatelski/
Opole: -obywatelski -opola -glosowanie/
Toruń: -partycypacyjny -torunia-2018
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Małgorzata Madej is the Assistant Professor at the Institute of Political Science,
University of Wrocław, Poland. ORCID: 0000-0002-5274-8614. E -mail: malgorzata.
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This study investigates whether citizen participation in public budgeting resulted in increased redistributive outcomes when compared with bureaucratic decision‐making. We focused on a specific budget item (i.e., the installation of surveillance cameras for crime prevention) and examined whether participatory budgeting yielded larger budget allocations to low‐income neighbourhoods. Results indicate that such participatory budgeting results in larger budget allocations for low‐income neighbourhoods when compared with allocations produced by bureaucratic budgeting practices. The results also indicate that budgets allocated through citizen participation may be no more or even less effective for advancing public goals. These findings suggest a potential trade‐off between equity and public service effectiveness. Citizen participation improves budget equity, but may be less effective for achieving public goals than bureaucratic decision‐making. To explain this, we offer the ‘social pressure hypothesis’, which posits that social pressure during public‐forum discussions can influence participating citizens to make redistributive decisions.
Conference Paper
Infused by the concepts of co-creation, participatory budgeting (PB) allows citizens to participate in the local government's budgetary decision-making process concerning the community-focused programs. Nonetheless, the attainment of PB success has always been challenged by various factors, including ineffectiveness and inefficiency of PB practice, and scant citizens' participation. This research examines the potential of multi-channel digitally-enabled PB platform adoption in overcoming those challenges. To do so, we review the existing literature on citizens' participation and participatory budgeting in several research domains. We found that the adoption of multi-channel digitally-enabled PB platform could overcome such challenges and improve civic engagement. Evidence of the past studies also indicate that the adoption and use of such platforms could have positive political and socio-economic implications on the local community. This signposts that engaging citizen in the government decision-making through such platform yield better impact on governance and public good.
Only a few years ago, participatory budgeting (PB) in the US was in its infancy, a tiny experiment in democracy. After a five-year growth spurt, PB has entered its awkward adolescence, full of bold achievements, flashes of potential, and some stumbles. PBNYC’s innovation has raised new questions for participatory democracy, as the contributors to this special issue highlight. In this article, I lift up the key impacts and challenges that they discuss, and their practical implications. I argue that for PBNYC and other PB processes to grow up, city leaders need to invest in equity, expand project eligibility and funding, and scale PB up to the city level.
Because of its popularity, there is now a large literature examining how participatory budgeting (PB) deepens participation by the poor and redistributes resources. Closer examinations of recent cases of PB can help us to better understand the political configurations in which these new participatory democratic spaces are embedded, and articulate the conditions that might lead to more meaningful outcomes. Who participates? For whose benefit? The articles in this symposium, on participatory budgeting in New York City (PBNYC), highlight both strengths and challenges of the largest American PB process. They focus less on redistribution, more on the dimensions of the process itself and of PBNYC’s successful social inclusion, new dynamics between participants and local politicians, and the subtleties of institutionalization. The symposium also reminds us, however, that contestations over meaningful participation are on-going, and that of all of PBNYC’s multiple goals, equity has proven to be the most elusive.
Legitimacy is a problem of contemporary governance. Communities lack trust in elected officials—in their effectiveness, fairness, and representation of the public interest. Participatory budgeting (PB)—a set of democratic processes where residents determine how to spend a public budget—helps bridge that distance by letting the public make spending decisions. Since 2011, some of New York City’s (NYC) council members have been implementing PB with their capital budget—setting aside a million dollars in their districts each budget cycle for PB. Participatory budgeting has the potential to rebuild relationships between government and communities. Using data from over eighty interviews conducted by New York University (NYU) graduate students in 2013 and 2014 with PBNYC participants over two years, this article suggests that in council districts using PB, residents have greater feelings of access to and voice in local government, and better understanding of the complexities of spending public monies, often leading to a more positive view of government officials, and bolstering legitimacy of local government.
This paper examines initiatives in participatory budgeting (PB) in a city in the United Kingdom, a country which is a slow adopter of PB. While there are UK initiatives on PB, these are developmental. Nevertheless, this study underlines the potential of PB in an Anglo-Saxon context. The finance of local government and cities is notoriously opaque. PB has the potential to enhance both democratic accountability and effective city management through transparency. This study reveals a city which is profitably engaged with democratizing its budgetary activities and seeking to achieve greater transparency for its citizens and managers through the modernization of established practice.