Week Three: The Beauty of Participatory Budgeting

For many public servants, the democratic process is viewed as a key to success. Personally, I have always loved this aspect of local government. Local government has the capability to impact people’s lives in a direct way, which is why it is so essential to have residents’ opinions on the community.


In the City of Durham Budget & Management Services office, this is of the utmost importance to all who work there. The department is implementing a new process of “participatory budgeting.” $2.4 million dollars has been set aside for projects decided on by those who live in different parts of Durham. The initiatives are currently being voted on, and the projects with the most votes will be implemented in the next year. Much of my work the past few days has been around this process, as voting comes to a close at the end of May.

Through participatory budgeting outreach I have interacted with constituents in ways I never have before. One way I have been able to reach out to residents is through text messaging. This communication channel, allows folks in the office to hold a conversation with anyone who may have questions, instead of just sending out an email blast that will have little response.

Residents can vote either online or in-person on a paper ballot. Whenever we have new responses cast on a paper ballot, we  input them online so that everyone’s vote is included. I have been able to add folks’ votes to the online server, allowing me to see what their preferences are, and get a better idea of the City of Durham.

In addition to participatory budgeting, I have been included on the work to implement the City’s Strategic Plan adopted last summer. The City of Durham has five general goals and each department is assigned to one, and they work together to form objectives and initiatives that can be achieved under each goal. Staff will be presenting next month on the progress made on these initiatives, and as the departments work on their presentations we have been working with them to ensure they are prepared. This has allowed me to better understand general strategic planning, as well as the future of the City of Durham. A photo from one of these meetings can be seen below.

That’s all for this week! Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll update everyone on how budget presentations go this Wednesday and Thursday for each department- it’s sure to be a good time.