Winter 2013 Newsletter

Assessing the Participatory Budgeting Chicago Initiative

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With the support of IPCE, the Great Cities Institute (GCI) has been leading an evaluation of the Participatory Budgeting (PB) Chicago process in order to determine who is and is not participating and which outreach techniques are most effective in encouraging diverse participation. PB is a new Chicago project that gives ward residents the power to make decisions about the allocation of $1 million in menu money in their communities.

The neighborhood assemblies are the first phase of the participatory budgeting process. Over twenty-five assemblies were held in Fall 2012 in four Aldermanic wards (5th, 45th, 46th and 49th). With the help of 12 student researchers, GCI collected 317 surveys from neighborhood assembly participants with an overall response rate of 67%. The preliminary results are summarized below. Over 90% of survey respondents considered the overall experience, introductory presentations, and small group discussions as either "good" or "great." Survey responses also show that participants were highly engaged in assembly activities, with 90% of respondents indicating that they spoke during small group discussions; 85% indicating that they made specific project proposals; and 58% indicating that they volunteered to become community representatives.

Overall, participants felt that the assemblies served an important role in informing them about their community and providing education about how public spending works. 41% of respondents indicated that they did not know what menu money was prior to attending the assembly, while 82% said that they understood how menu money could be used after the assembly. In addition, 86% of respondents indicated that they felt that they had a better understanding of capital needs in their ward after attending an assembly.

Copyright © 2013, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

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