Frequently asked questions about participatory budgeting in municipalities

26. November, 2020

Foto: Photo by eric anada

Informal report on participatory budgeting in Tartu, Gdansk Grenoble and Helsinki.

Frequently asked questions on participatory budgeting in municipalities


The answers are based on experiences of Tartu (participatory budgeting on municipal level organised since 2013), Gdansk (participatory budgeting on municipal level organised since 2014), Grenoble (participatory budgeting on municipal level organised since 2015) and Helsinki (participatory budgeting on municipal level organised since 2018).

On October 17, 2019, PROVIDUS organised a technical workshop, where experts from Tartu, Estonia and Gdansk, Poland were invited to answer questions about the process of organising and overseeing participatory budgeting; questions that had arisen during the implementation of the participatory budgeting pilot project in Riga.

The technical seminar was attended by Kristina Reinsalu, an expert from the E-Governance Academy in Tartu, and Krzysztof Garski from the Mayor’s Office in Gdansk. Both experts are and have been actively involved in the implementation of participatory budgeting in these cities. The answers are based on the information provided by experts during the workshop. In addition, information on two more cities, Grenoble, France) and Helsinki, Finland), obtained during a study visit to these cities in autumn 2019.

The questions are grouped according to the main phases of the participatory budgeting process:

    1. purpose and process management;
    2. development of the participatory budgeting process and rules;
    3. project evaluation;
    4. voting;
    5. project implementation.

The experience of participatory budgeting in Tartu, Gdansk and some German cities was also discussed on 18 October 2019 at an international conference in Riga: a video recording of the conference is available here.

The participatory budgeting process is explained in this infographic.


1.1 Why did your city decide to introduce participatory budgeting?


Tartu: Tartu was the first city in Estonia to launch participatory budgeting. The main aim was to activate an otherwise very individualistic society to work together to solve various problems and to promote civic participation. Tartu is a relatively young, dynamic city in terms of the age structure of its population, and one can observe a variety of very creative, original expressions of the population, thinking “outside the box”. The supporters of the idea saw that this model could be a more appropriate way of engaging citizens than the ones that have been used so far.

Gdańsk: The Municipality of Gdansk launched the participatory budgeting in 2014. The initiative came from the municipality. The process by which it is organised was developed by the municipal administration in close cooperation with NGOs and the Mayor’s Office (for information, the Mayor of Gdańsk is directly elected). The aim was to promote democracy, to give people the opportunity to express themselves, to submit their ideas and wishes for the development of the city, and to encourage citizens to communicate and cooperate more not only with each other but also with the municipality and the city administration. In eight years, the budget put to the public for decision has doubled. Since 2019, the law obliges all Polish municipalities to organise public co-determined budgeting.

Grenoble: first started this process in 2015. A total of €4 million has been allocated and 38 projects supported until 2019. A total of 15,000 participants took part in the voting

Helsinki: the city launched participatory budgeting in 2018 and put €4.4 million at the public’s disposal. The three main objectives of the municipality are: 1) to tap into the knowledge and expertise of citizens and communities on various issues; 2) to empower motivated local activists to be active and implement ideas; 3) to create equal participation opportunities for all city residents.


1.2 Is this method suitable for small municipalities?


Tartu: In Estonia, there are several successful examples where small municipalities have introduced participatory budgeting and have been very creative and innovative, for example by involving schools, which are also part of the municipality. Often it is the smaller municipalities that can find it much easier to implement this process.

Gdańsk: Krzysztof Garski, from the municipality of Gdańsk, believes that it might be easier for smaller municipalities to implement this participatory model, as citizens know each other much better and know what is generally relevant and needed in the city. As from this year, public participatory budgeting is compulsory in all Polish municipalities, so it will also be implemented by small municipalities. Regardless of the size of the city/municipality, people should be able to decide how a certain part of the budget is spent.


1.3 What is the overall time frame of the participatory budgeting – when does it start and when does it end?


Tartu: The public co-determined budgeting process usually starts in April and voting takes place in October. As the participatory budgeting process has been going on for several years, citizens are already counting on this procedure. The period for submitting projects is about 3 weeks. After the ideas are collected in April, they are evaluated by the municipalities and the volunteer experts involved in late April or early May. The first evaluation takes place before the summer solstice, when several thematic events are organised, as the municipality wants to decide early in the summer on the ideas that will be put to the vote. This gives the authors time to develop their ideas. After the summer break, marketing and communication training is organised in September for the people whose ideas have been put to the vote. The municipality, in cooperation with university lecturers, offers training to citizens on how to promote their ideas. In 2019, 9.3% of eligible voters took part in the voting.

2019 Tartu participatory budgeting process calendar:

10 – 30 April Submission of projects/ideas
May Ideas are evaluated according to participatory budgeting criteria
June Discussion of ideas with experts
July – October Submitted ideas become public, authors promote them
3 – 9 October Voting on projects
2020 Implementing the winning ideas


Gdańsk: As in Tartu, the process starts in April and the voting closes in September. The municipality of Gdansk does not provide any training for citizens. In 2019, a total of 567 projects were submitted, of which 331 were put to the vote: around 10-15 projects in each district of the city and 10-15 projects concerning the city as a whole.

2019 Gdansk participatory budgeting Process Calendar:

6-19 March Promoting the participatory budgeting process
20 March – 16 April Submission of projects
16 April – 31 July Evaluation of projects by expert groups
20 August Selecting projects to vote on
9-23 September Citizens’ vote
Until 30 September The municipality announces the results
2020 Implementing winning ideas


Grenoble: In 2019, the call for project ideas ran from February to March.On 13 April, 1,100 people took part in an Ideas Forum, where 30 ideas were selected from the submitted projects. From May to July, the selected projects are evaluated (city services work together with the authors of the ideas), leading to the selection of the projects to be submitted to citizens’ evaluation. In 2019, 21 projects were selected. The citizens’ vote took place from 7 September to 5 October.

Helsinki: The 2019 process started in autumn 2018. Citizens had until early December 2018 to submit their ideas. In total, a very high number of 1 273 ideas were submitted. Municipal staff working on neighborhood engagement issues on a daily basis, as well as other staff from different municipal departments (around 170 staff and experts were involved in total) organised consultations in all neighborhoods of Helsinki, as well as one big consultation that covered the whole city. These consultations gave the proponents the opportunity to consult experts and develop their ideas, seek cooperation with peers, etc. The aim of these consultations was to help everyone to discuss and elaborate their ideas in more detail and to translate them into concrete plans and projects. In total, 350 project plans were drawn up and 296 were put to the vote. The refinement of the projects took place until the beginning of April 2019. Between 15 April and 14 June, the municipality’s expert staff prepared cost estimates for the projects. The citizens’ vote took place from 1 October to 31 October 2019.  Approximately 9% of the city’s population participated in the voting.


1.4 Who should lead the process?


Representatives of the municipalities of Tartu and Gdansk believe that the leadership of the participatory budgeting process should be taken by the municipal leadership, regardless of whether the process was initiated by the citizens or was a decision of the municipality itself. The representatives of both cities believe that the political officials of the municipality should also be involved in the participatory budgeting process.

Tartu: The idea was conceived in Tartu by representatives of the non-governmental sector, who both highlighted the need for such a method and helped to organise the process of participatory budgeting. A working group was set up to work on the process, which included representatives from all elected parties in the municipality, the mayor and his deputies, as the public’s money is put into the decision-making process. The working group also included the municipality’s legal department and non-governmental organisations – the city’s neighbourhood associations – were invited to participate. It was agreed that the overall organisation of the process should be done by a non-political body, in Tartu the municipal public relations department is responsible for the process.

Gdańsk: The main actor in organising the public participatory budgeting process is the Advisory Board, which assesses the compliance of the submitted projects with the statutes. The Advisory Board is composed of representatives of all three parties involved in the Gdańsk municipality – 3 councillors, a representative of the mayor’s office, two representatives of the municipality’s neighbourhood voluntary councils and two representatives of the non-governmental sector. All representatives have equal influence on the council, none has a veto over decisions, nor does the Mayor of Gdańsk. The municipality sees it as a great benefit that the process is representative of the different sectors of society.


1.5 Can civil society be dispensed with in organising the process?


Tartu: When the municipality started to develop the participatory budgeting process, it involved the municipality’s neighbourhood associations, which were passively involved. However, other NGOs insisted that the process should involve the non-governmental sector much more and that the process should be much more publicly consulted. This is the municipality’s recommendation to other municipalities planning to introduce this participatory method to pay attention to the broad involvement of NGOs in the development of the process. The participatory budgeting aims to promote citizen participation and the process itself should be geared towards this goal.

Gdańsk: the process, including the evaluation of projects, involves representatives of various public organisations and the municipality considers this to be a very important asset, which it recommends to other municipalities. The process should be as collaborative as possible. The municipality must be prepared to share power with the citizens.


1.6 Should local councillors be involved in the participatory budgeting process?


Tartu: The introduction of the participatory budgeting and its implementation in 2013 involved all parties, including the municipality’s MEPs. Each year, when evaluating the submitted projects, the municipality’s MEPs also participate in the evaluation. Tartu Municipality’s approach is to ensure that the political power of the municipality is also involved in the process.

Gdansk: the advisory board that evaluates the projects submitted also includes local politicians – three members of the municipal board, each representing their own party. Sharing responsibility with the political power is also a very important part of the process.


1.7 What is the total cost of participatory budgeting to the municipality?


Gdansk: The municipality must provide sufficient resources, including the time of municipal staff, to be able to implement this method of citizen participation at all. A few years ago, the municipality of Gdańsk had only 2 employees working on participatory budgeting issues. Now there is a special department with 5 employees. The costs may seem high, but there are also great benefits in return. However, the municipality has not calculated how much it costs to maintain the facilities (e.g. playgrounds) built during the participatory budgeting process.

Tartu: The participatory budgeting process is managed by one person in the municipality, but in the first year, when the method was introduced as a pilot project, Tartu municipality had a consultancy contract with E-governance Academy, which helped to develop the process itself. Municipalities need to allocate sufficient resources to promote the participatory budgeting method. Tartu Municipality used large screens in the city to inform about the possibilities for participation. In the first year, the marketing budget was about 8000 EUR. Now the municipality expects not only the municipality but also the authors of the project ideas to promote the process themselves.

1.8 What are some examples of the most interesting projects?


Kristina Reinsalu, the representative of the Tartu participatory budgeting promoters, cites the idea of local artists to paint the walls of Soviet-era high-rise buildings with various landscapes as the most interesting example of a project that has so far failed to gain sufficient public support. But there have also been rather unconventional ideas, such as a glass building in the centre of the city – a public sauna.

Krzysztof Garski, from the Mayor’s Office in Gdańsk, calls the projects submitted by young people the most interesting because they don’t always know how the city administration works, but they have many good ideas on how to improve their city. My favourite project so far has been the one on attractions in the city.



II Setting rules for participatory budgeting


2.1 Is participatory budgeting regulated by law in your country?


Tartu: No, in Estonia this process is not regulated by law. The municipality draws up regulations for this.

Gdańsk: Since 2018, a national law has been in force that makes participatory budgeting mandatory in Polish municipalities – in such a process, no less than 0.5% of neighbourhood budgets must be put to public decision. Every year, the municipality updates the participatory budgeting bylaws, and the mayor is responsible for managing the process – submitting, evaluating, voting and implementing projects. The participatory budgeting process is described in the Municipal By-laws: (in Polish, but using the Google translation tool it is possible to get a rough overview of the regulation). As well as the Mayor’s Ordinance on participatory budgeting : (in Polish).


2.2 How do you ensure that poor quality projects are not submitted?


Tartu: the municipality involves experts in the evaluation of participatory budgeting projects. These experts and municipality staff give their recommendations so that the applicants can improve the project or help to establish cooperation with similar applicants in the preparation of a joint application. The number of projects applied for has decreased in recent years, but the quality has improved considerably.

Gdansk: The implementation of public participatory budgeting in Gdansk was decided to give people as much freedom as possible in the design of their project applications. The municipality did not want to tell people the ideas they wanted for projects. So far, the city has supported a wide variety of projects, including, for example, public places for bonfires, which cost next to nothing but add a lot of value by giving people a place and a reason to communicate more with each other. The municipality has a set of rules with criteria and applicants have to comply with them. The municipality regularly improves the rules and takes into account the overall development of participatory budgeting . For example, the municipality noticed that a very high proportion of projects were related to schools, kindergartens and educational institutions and at one point decided not to support projects related to these institutions in order to encourage a greater diversity of ideas.


2.3 Should projects be divided into those for the whole municipality and those for specific neighbourhoods?


Gdańsk: participatory budgeting’s budget is divided into two parts: most of it is redistributed among the city’s 34 neighbourhoods (districts), and a smaller part for city-wide projects.  In particular, €500,000 is available for city-wide projects, while more than €3.7 million is earmarked for neighbourhood-specific projects. In this way, the municipality ensures that a project will be implemented in each of the city’s neighbourhoods and that residents will be able to see the benefits of their neighbourhood. The amount of funding allocated to neighbourhoods is linked to the number of inhabitants in the neighbourhood. This model ensures that a project will be implemented in each neighbourhood and that the residents will be able to see direct benefits for themselves as something is implemented in their neighbourhood. The budget allocated to neighbourhoods is distributed proportionally according to the number of people living in the neighbourhood.

The total budget of the Gdansk participatory budgeting for 2019 is around €4.2 million, including: just over €800,000 for city-wide projects, and the remaining €3 million for projects in the 34 neighbourhoods of the municipality. The cost ceiling per city-wide project is 450 thousand euro. For city-wide projects, the cost of the project cannot exceed the amount of funding allocated to the whole neighbourhood. The amount of funding to be allocated to neighbourhoods is calculated as follows: 30% of the total funding allocated to neighbourhoods is divided equally among the 34 neighbourhoods, and the remaining 70% is distributed according to the population of each neighbourhood. The municipality of Gdańsk considers small, simple projects, such as family reunions, social events in the neighbourhood, to be important for the local community. Some of the projects are low cost.

Tartu: When planning the budgeting of the public co-determination in Tartu, we created three possible plans on how we could deal with the division of the territory within this project. However, given that Tartu is a very compact city, the municipality came to the conclusion that dividing the city into neighbourhoods/areas was not necessary in the participatory budgeting process. Experience so far has shown that it is not so important for voters that a project is implemented as close to their home as possible, but more important whether they like the idea and functionality of the project.

Grenoble: until 2019, the city divided projects into small and large ones, but in 2019 this distinction has been abandoned – any project can be submitted within the limits of the available funding.

Helsinki: The funding available for the participatory budgeting process is divided into two parts: a share for each neighbourhood (district), where the amount of funding depends on the population; the second part is reserved for city-wide projects.


2.4 Who can submit projects?


Gdansk: everyone (or group of people) in Gdansk aged 16 and over.

Tartu: any resident (group of residents) of Tartu aged 16 and over.

Helsinki: anyone (or group of people) in Helsinki aged 12 and over.

Grenoble: anyone in the city (or a group of citizens, NGOs) aged 16 and over.


2.5 Are there restrictions on the type of projects they can be?


Gdańsk: projects can be investment objects (playgrounds, sports grounds, street infrastructure, etc.) or events. No support is given to “theoretical” projects – those whose results are not obvious to the general public, e.g. studies, analytical evaluation, etc.

Tartu: projects must be investment objects, social events, cultural events etc. are not supported.


2.6 Is it better to allow small projects or large projects?


Gdańsk: In Gdańsk, only the maximum funding per neighbourhood (district) is limited. It is up to the residents themselves – if they submit a project with costs within the neighbourhood (district) limit, then it is at their own risk. Equally, it may be a number of small projects that are supported within the funding allocated to the neighbourhood (district).  In addition, Gdańsk has a system in place which aims to use the allocated funding for as many projects as possible. For example, if a neighbourhood is allocated €300,000 and the winning project costs €250,000, then a project is sought to be implemented with the remaining €50,000 (even if it is not the second most popular; the key is that it is the most cost-effective of the other projects submitted).

Tartu: When public participatory budgeting was launched in Tartu, it was decided to allocate 1% of the investment budget for this purpose. In the first year, it was decided that the total budget would be €140,000 and that citizens would be able to choose one project to receive all this funding. After the first year, this was changed and two projects were funded. The current set-up is that two projects can receive funding each year, with a maximum of €100 000 each. Experience has shown that Tartu residents are more interested in participating with larger projects and ideas.


2.7 How to make good participatory budgeting rules?


Tartu: Tartu Municipality supports only investment projects in the participatory budgeting process. participatory budgeting projects must meet several criteria: 1) the project must be a publicly accessible facility; 2) the maintenance costs of the facility must not be too high; 3) the facility must be on municipally owned land; 4) the facility must comply with the existing regulatory framework; 5) the facility is for public benefit (not private use); 6) the project costs must not exceed EUR 100 000.  These are the main criteria against which the experts assess the projects submitted during the evaluation phase. The second phase of project evaluation involves a series of discussion and thematic events – where experts and local representatives assess the impact of the projects, e.g. how many people the project will involve, to what extent the projects promote citizen participation, etc.

Gdansk: a representative of the municipality acknowledges that when developing a framework for the participatory budgeting process, municipalities may wish to re-regulate the process to minimise risks. A better approach would be to agree on the main eligibility criteria that a project must meet, leaving the rest to the citizens to decide. For this reason, not only investment projects but also activities other than “theoretical” projects such as research, consultancy, etc. can be submitted. At the same time, the municipality should think about how to improve the process to make it more inclusive, more open, clearer. The applicant must certify that at least one resident of the municipality of Gdańsk supports the project idea.

The project must meet the following criteria:

  • Corresponds to areas related to local government functions under national laws;
  • The use of funding is frugal and efficient;
  • It is enforceable within one year (maximum 2 years in special cases);
  • The project will be implemented on land owned by the municipality. If the land is privately owned, the owner must sign an agreement to make the site open to the public for a fixed duration.
  • The project must meet formal criteria, such as a completed sufficiency form, meeting the deadline for submission of applications, etc.

The municipality of Gdańsk does not support such projects:

  • The project costs exceed the amount of funding granted;
  • The project is contrary to the Gdańsk 2030+ strategy and other municipal programmes;
  • The land is planned to be sold as part of the project;
  • There is a legal dispute over the location of the project;
  • The project does not comply with national legislation
  • “Theoretical projects” – e.g. design, analysis, discussion, consultation
  • Projects concerning schools, kindergartens and educational institutions.
  • The project must not conflict with the municipality’s investment plans.


2.8 How accurately should applicants calculate the project implementation costs (estimates)?


Gdańsk: The municipality expects applicants to describe the project itself in as much detail as possible to make it easier to estimate the costs. For example, if the idea is to create a children’s playground, the applicants should list the desired equipment in detail, e.g. 2 swings, 1 sandbox, size of the playground, etc. Information. For the most typical cost categories, the municipality has provided a price list on its website ( which helps citizens to estimate the approximate costs. During the project submission phase, citizens can consult the municipality’s experts on the costs of their proposed project. The municipality considers it very important to educate citizens about the whole process, explaining the different costs to them, as this will help them to submit more accurate projects in the future. The municipality’s experience shows that quite often, due to various changes, projects end up being more expensive than anticipated in the planning phase, which is why the support of experts is important to help assess whether projects can be implemented according to the estimates provided.

Tartu: The municipality does not expect precise project estimates. This work should be done by the municipality’s experts in the next participatory budgeting phase, when the submitted ideas are evaluated. The municipality encourages citizens to submit rough estimates of how much resources would be needed for the project. As soon as the expert group realises that the cost of the project is too high, the municipality reports this to the citizens and makes recommendations on what can be done with the maximum possible funding for the project. No doubt, the process requires a lot of human resources, but it is inevitable in order to be able to implement people’s ideas. It is very important to appreciate the importance of consultation in the process, because in this way participatory budgeting contributes to the education of the population – how people can submit better planned projects and helps them to realise what each of them can do.


2.9 How precise should the design be?


Tartu: The ideas presented are quite general, not so detailed. The citizens are more interested in the idea itself and the emotions involved. In the initial phase, no details are asked for and the municipality tries to avoid various barriers that might discourage people from getting involved.

Gdańsk: The municipality has provided access to experts in the most complex areas, with whom citizens can contact and discuss their proposals. For example, surveyors, urban planners, architects, the land registry for the municipality’s land plans, the municipal service responsible for the implementation of investment projects, which helps to confirm the costs of projects; experts from the roads and green spaces management department, who confirm the costs of road infrastructure, lighting, green spaces. These experts are accessible to citizens for individual consultation rather than for the wider consultation process.

Helsinki: the municipality aims to encourage people to submit ideas, not ready-made projects. The participatory budgeting process is designed to initially collect ideas from citizens, then help them to turn their ideas into a concrete plan/project, and the municipality is very supportive in this process.


2.10 How can we hedge against the risk that the new facility will be too expensive for the municipality to maintain?


Grenoble: one of the rules for evaluating projects is that their maintenance costs must not exceed 5% of the total project amount. If this is not respected (e.g. in 2019, a proposal was submitted to provide an overnight space), the project does not pass the evaluation phase and does not proceed to the vote. The idea of replacing plastic utensils in canteens with reusable ones was also rejected on this basis, as was the idea of installing dry toilets.

Tartu: The participatory budgeting process does not support projects that impose disproportionate costs on the municipal budget, but a more detailed explanation of when a project will be considered disproportionate is not fixed and is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Gdansk: as in Tartu, there is a rule that the project must not cause disproportionate costs for the municipality in the future.

2.11 What if the municipality has other plans for the participatory budgeting project area?


Grenoble: the regulations say that projects can be rejected at the appraisal stage if the city had already commissioned a study on what to do with the site.

Tartu: projects must not conflict with the city plan.

Gdańsk: projects must not conflict with the Gdańsk 2030+ strategy and other municipal programmes, nor must they be located on land that the municipality is planning to sell or is the subject of a legal dispute.


III Evaluation of projects


3.1 What would a good project evaluation process look like?


Tartu: There is probably no perfect evaluation model, but you can do your best to make it a good one. In Tartu, the process is organised in several phases. The first phase is the expert phase. Usually both the municipality’s own experts and external experts are involved. It is important to involve representatives from all municipal departments in the evaluation, especially those working on infrastructure issues, as many of the project ideas concern this area. NGOs are also involved in the evaluation of projects. However, this panel does not assess whether an idea is good or bad, but whether it can be implemented. Even if the idea is very good but there are some constraints that make it ineligible, the panel helps to modify the project so that it meets the criteria. So there is a lot of personal communication with the experts and this is a very important part of the process.

The expert phase is followed by a phase of discussion of the idea in various thematic consultations. In particular, the submitted projects are grouped according to their content into more or less similar ones, and the proposers of these ideas are brought together in a thematic consultation, which is also attended by local experts in the field. These two phases play a very important role in the whole participatory budgeting process, as they help citizens not only to formulate their ideas more precisely, but also to understand how costs are generated, what factors the municipality needs to take into account to implement the project, etc. At this stage, citizens are encouraged to work together, in particular if similar ideas are presented, they are encouraged to develop a joint project. Over time, citizens have already developed their skills in developing projects, come with presentations ready and ready to defend the idea. They also do this because they know that at the end of this thematic consultation, those present will have to decide which projects should go forward to the vote. Thematic consultations result in 4-5 ideas being shortlisted for voting. The aim is to have around 25 ideas put to the vote. It should be noted that in selecting these projects for the ballot, they are already subject to additional criteria in terms of their impact, such as how many beneficiaries will benefit from the implementation of the project.

Gdańsk: The projects are evaluated by a dedicated advisory board consisting of: 1 representative from the Mayor’s office, 3 city councillors (each representing their own party), 2 representatives from voluntary neighbourhood councils, 2 representatives from NGOs. The Mayor appoints the head of the team. The team is supported by the Municipal Public Consultation Department, which employs 3 to 4 people. This team evaluates all the projects and selects those that comply with the regulations, as well as dealing with complaints and objections, if any. The work of the Advisory Board is open and anyone can participate in the evaluation meetings.

The first step is to assess whether the project meets the formal criteria, e.g. whether it has been submitted in accordance with the requirements; whether it was submitted within the deadline; whether it has the support of at least one resident of the municipality; whether it is accompanied by all the necessary documents, etc.

Submissions are then assessed against the following eligibility criteria:

  • Corresponds to areas related to local government functions under national laws;
  • The use of funding is frugal and efficient;
  • It is enforceable within one year (maximum 2 years in special cases);
  • The project will be implemented on land owned by the municipality. If the land is privately owned, the owner must sign an agreement to make the site open to the public for a fixed duration.
  • The project must meet formal criteria, such as a completed sufficiency form, meeting the deadline for submission of applications, etc.

The City of Gdansk does not support projects where:

  • the cost of the project exceeds the amount of funding awarded;
  • The project is contrary to the Gdańsk 2030+ strategy and other municipal programmes;
  • the project will be implemented on a plot of land that the municipality intends to sell;
  • there is a legal dispute over the project site/land
  • the project does not comply with national legislation;
  • a “theoretical project” – e.g. design development, analytical assessment, discussions, consultations;
  • This applies to schools, kindergartens and educational institutions;
  • This is contrary to the municipality’s investment plans.

Of the 567 projects submitted in 2019, 331 met the criteria. The final decision belongs to the advisory team, which takes decisions by vote (50% + 1 vote). In the event of a tie, the head of the advisory team has the casting vote.

Each year, the City of Gdańsk improves the participatory budgeting process by organising a citizens’ survey asking participants what they think of this year’s participatory budgeting process. The results of the survey are then discussed and made available to everyone. Each year the implementation of the participatory budgeting is evaluated together with the citizens.


3.2 How big is the team evaluating the projects?


Gdańsk: The municipality has a special unit – the department that deals on a daily basis with various issues related to public participation, public consultation and consultation. This department employs 5-6 people, one of whose duties is to ensure the participatory budgeting process. The Advisory Team, set up specifically to assess participatory budgeting projects, has 8 members. Both these bodies work with the projects submitted. The evaluation of projects usually takes about 3.5 months. In 2019, 567 projects were submitted, which was the highest number of applications to date. In 2018, 468 projects were submitted. The increase in the number of projects is explained by the fact that last year the participatory budgeting process was slightly simplified, i.e. while in 2018 the projects to be submitted required the support of at least 15 citizens, in 2019 the support of at least one citizen is sufficient.


3.3 Who are the experts who evaluate the projects?


Gdańsk: Projects are evaluated by an advisory board: 1 representative from the mayor’s office, 3 city councillors (3 political parties are elected to the council and these representatives represent each party, 1 of them is from the opposition party), 2 NGO representatives, 2 representatives from neighbourhood councils (which are voluntary bodies that bring together the city’s residents). The council votes on each project; in the event of a tie, the vote of the council leader is decisive.

Tartu: The evaluation involves representatives of political parties, but the main aim is to involve as many external experts as possible, independent of the municipality. For example, if the project is about public space, architects and representatives from the University (where the architects mentioned above study) are involved in the evaluation. Similarly for other issues.


3.4 How much time should be allowed for project appraisal?


Tartu: project appraisal usually takes around 3 weeks. Over time, the municipality has learnt that the citizens’ evaluation/voting should be very simple and as short as possible. While in the Riga participatory budgeting pilot project citizens could vote for a whole month, in Tartu it is only one week. Of course, this takes extra time, but over time, municipal staff have also come to accept being involved in the process as part of their job responsibilities, not as extra work.

Gdańsk: It usually takes 3.5 months.

Helsinki: the first experience of receiving less than 1300 ideas caught the municipality unprepared, requiring considerable time and human resources to turn these ideas into concrete projects. The evaluation took several months.


3.5 Are applicants of unsuccessful projects informed of the reasons why their application has been rejected?


Grenoble: Yes, and these reasons are also made public in a special handout.

Danska: Yes, the reasoning is detailed.

Helsinki: Yes, all submitted projects are published on a dedicated website, which also provides information on unsuccessful projects and a brief explanation of why the project was not supported. On the website you can track all the activities carried out on each project – for example, whether meetings have been held on it or the status of implementation.


IV Voting


4.1 How many projects can citizens vote for?


Gdansk: each resident has one vote for a city-wide project and 5 points to vote for neighbourhood projects, it is the resident’s choice whether he/she allocates all points to one project or splits them between several projects. Residents can only vote for projects, it is not possible to vote against a project.

Tartu: in the pilot year, each citizen had 1 vote, but this was changed because ideas vary so much and citizens need to be given more choice. Now each citizen has 3 votes. This also helps the city, because in this way the city can better see the needs of the citizens. Experience shows that the city usually introduces not only the winning idea, but also some additional projects, because they are very valuable ideas.

Grenoble: 5 projects can be voted for.

Helsinki: residents can vote for several projects, depending on the budget available in their neighbourhood. In other words, if a neighbourhood has €400,000 to spend on a project, it can vote on the number of projects. If the neighbourhood has a budget of € 400, a resident can support several projects whose total cost falls within this budget. It can just as well be a single, ambitious project whose cost reaches the maximum budget.


4.2 How to organise the voting process for submitted projects?


Tartu: residents of Tartu aged 16 and over can vote. In Estonia, ID cards are used to vote, including in the participatory budgeting process. But there is always a possibility to vote in person, at the City Hall. However, also in this case, the result is that the citizen votes electronically with the ID card, simply the voting place is the Tartu City Hall.

Gdansk: a resident uses his/her personal identification number to vote, the Gdansk population register is checked to see if the resident has already voted. Voting can also be done in person, both in the city libraries and at neighbourhood meetings (e.g. a tent in the neighbourhood), where a municipal representative is usually present with a computer to help you vote on projects. Such meetings are very useful and educational, as residents also have the opportunity to ask questions about the projects. Some of the immigrants who do not yet have an identity code can vote in person at the designated places. Parents can vote instead of their children. The voting process is based on trust. In theory, it is possible for someone to misuse publicly available ID codes (e.g. ID codes of board members of NGOs, companies are publicly available) to vote in their place, but such violations will be punished.

The municipality of Gdańsk wants to make the participatory budgeting process more open and inclusive. For example, the last major change was to allow children and immigrants to vote.

Grenoble: Any Grenoble resident (or local taxpayer) aged 16 with proof of identity can vote. You can vote online for a month, and at specific addresses in the city for a few days. The city provides opportunities for residents to meet the applicants.

Helsinki: voting is open to residents of the city who are 12 years of age or older. Most residents vote electronically, but in-person voting is also available.


4.3 Who informs people about the voting options?


Gdanska: It is important to inform citizens about the process and the possibilities to get involved, and the municipality must provide adequate resources for this. For example, in 2019 the marketing budget was 64.3 thousand EUR. The marketing budget was €64 64.

Tartu: the municipality had initially earmarked resources for the marketing of the participatory budgeting process, but this cost has been significantly reduced each year, as people already know what it is, that it happens every year and that social media is used for promotion, but also that the applicants do it themselves, as they have also had the opportunity to learn basic marketing skills beforehand.

Grenoble: municipality – the city has posters describing the projects, as well as colourful handouts.

Helsinki: the municipality took a number of important steps to make the process understandable to citizens – not just the voting itself, but the whole process. Firstly, given that “public participatory budgeting” is a complex term that is difficult to understand immediately but also to explain to citizens, the municipality has renamed the process, the dedicated website and the process under a simplified name, “My City” (Oma Stadi), which is why the municipality refers to the process as “MyCity Citizen Participation”. Secondly, the municipality is targeting different marginalised groups or groups that are harder to reach, such as people with disabilities, the elderly, young people, immigrants. The municipality tries to reach out to these groups through more group-appropriate methods, for example by targeting the elderly in social housing or by developing a special card game aimed at a younger audience. Thirdly, the municipality uses the following message: ‘MyCity is not party politics, it is citizens’ politics; voting is easy; participation and voting is fun, entertaining (even stylish); by voting you can do something good for people; by voting you can influence the future of your neighbourhood; the City needs you; voting is your chance to influence; the City is you’.

V Project implementation


5.1 How long does the project take to implement?


Gdańsk: Projects should be implemented within one year – a period of time when projects become more achievable and more citizen-oriented. Most people are able to imagine and plan projects that can be implemented within a year. If projects took, for example, 5 years to implement, people would forget about them and lose interest in the participatory budgeting process itself.

Tartu: the aim is to implement projects within a year. Of course, there may be some delays in the process, but if this happens, it is imperative to explain this to the public. Participatory budgeting projects are a priority for the municipality. In the first year, it was a bit confusing for the citizens because the winning project was a sound system. It was difficult to procure, and in the end the residents were disappointed. It is easier if projects can be measured. Residents need to feel that whichever project wins, it must also be implemented.


5.2 How to make sure that the idea is not substantially changed during its implementation?


Gdansk: In the implementation of projects supported by the participatory budgeting process, the Advisory Team can be consulted on how to deal with situations where changes to the project are needed. This team can advise on how to proceed so that projects are not significantly changed.


5.3 Is it possible to follow how the municipality is progressing with the project?


Grenoble: this can be tracked on the municipality’s website, where for each project you can find out whether (in sequence) the project has already undergone a feasibility study, whether technical procedures have been launched, whether work is underway and whether the project has been completed.

Helsinki: the entire participatory budgeting process can be tracked on a dedicated website, including the status of the project.


5.4 Who takes care of the maintenance of the new facility?


Gdansk: the municipality is fully responsible for the maintenance of the facility and for paying for these costs.

Grenoble: municipality. One of the criteria for evaluating projects is that their annual maintenance costs must not exceed 5% of the project’s value.


5.5 What if the project costs increase during implementation?


Gdansk: In Poland, construction costs are rising quite rapidly. This is one of the challenges facing the municipality. Another challenge is finding companies interested in implementing the project, because sometimes the size of the project is relatively small. There is no single answer to this question, each case has to be assessed on its own merits. In some cases the Mayor decides to increase the funding allocated to the project, sometimes a re-tender is organised, sometimes a decision is taken to combine several small projects into one larger tender as a solution.


5.6 What happens if the project cannot be implemented within the next year?


Gdansk: the funding is carried over to the next year and is laid down in the participatory budgeting statutes.




Report is created by the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS and supported by the Embassy of Federal Republic of Germany in Riga.

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