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Community Engagement during the Budget Process

Edward Blayney

What are best practices for engaging the community during the budget process?

Are there any techniques that your organization has used that have worked particularly well?

I would also be interested to hear who people consider to be leaders in community engagement in general.

Thank you for your support.


Accepted answer
Tim Bonnemann

The IAP2 framework for public participation is considered a best practice by many and applies to all government decision making that affects that public, including decisions on the budget:

Code of Ethics:
Core Values:

Community engagement may happen during various stages of the budget process and can provide citizens with various levels of impact over the decisions at hand.

A few typical scenarios include:

1) Make past and current budget information transparent
2) Help citizens learn about the budget process, incl. any opportunities to provide input
3) Solicit input to identify the public's preferences (this can take many forms, of course, from simple surveys to more complex deliberative public forums)
4) Let the public vote on certain aspects of the budget (e.g. to approve tax increases)
5) Give the public decision making power over a slice of the budget (a process known as participatory budgeting)

Pretty much all of these scenarios can be meaningfully supported, enhanced or extended through the use of (online) technology.

Which community engagement strategy is best for you depends on a number of factors, incl. how much room you have to accommodate public input, your overall goals, available resources etc.

Tim Bonnemann

Tim Bonnemann

The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) maintains a resource center that's also worth a look:

Elizabeth Goltry Wadle

The City of Wichita just hosted our first Social Media Town Hall for this year's budget process. It has been a great way to generate interest in the process and engage citizens on potential changes to the budget.

Chris Fabian

We have had a lot of success incorporating community engagement into our priority based budgeting process. A prominent case study from Douglas County, NV outlining this process and outcomes is available here http://fiscalhealtha..

Cheryl Hilvert

Thanks for the great list of suggestions, Tim! IAP2 does great work and has great references for any local government looking to do engagement well.
The Priority Based Budgeting process also offers a great tool for incorporating the public into the budgetary process. The City of Cincinnati utilized PBB coupled with a community engagement process and had some good results.
For more information on PBB, you can visit
You can view some articles on PBB as well as some of the resources from IAP2 at

Mike Cohen
Mike Cohen said

Peak Democracy Inc has developed a set of best practices for using online civic engagement in the government budgeting process. Moreover, our best practices include how to integrated feedback from face-2-face meetings with online feedback.

Check-out these examples:
Walnut Creek CA's priority setting (,
Eau Claire WI's allocation feedback (,
Baltimore MD's budget challenge (, and
Vallejo CA's ideation budgeting exercise (

Many of our clients have also collaborated with the Center for Priority Based Budgeting.

Let me know if you want more examples, or want to learn more about our best practices.

Russell Van Gompel

Russell Van Gompel

We used Peak Democracy last year with their $500 Budget app and are seeking input for our calendar year 2015 budget right now.

Tim Bonnemann

There are certainly best practices related to specific methods/programs (e.g. PBB) or tools/vendors (e.g. Peak Democracy) that can be very helpful.

One key question that needs to be answered first, though, is which engagement approach might work best for a particular community, given their specific condition and needs.

The thing to understand about the IAP2 framework is that it is "decision-oriented, values-based and goal-driven" and not tied to any particular method, format or technology. As such, it provides guidance not only during the planning process but also during the implementation phase, regardless of which approach ends up being pursued.

For many years, the IAP2 Core Values for the Practice of Public Participation have served as an effective lens through which to assess the quality of public participation efforts of all shapes and sizes.

Mark Abeles-Allison

We are in our second year of public budget surveys. We coordinate with our Extension Department who assists with the questions, survey question and data collection via online data management. Our county board and committees are involved in the question formulation as well.

Christopher Adams

The Alliance for Innovation recently hosted a great webinar called "Let Us Show the Money: Opening Budgets to Public Engagement" It features Fort Collins and Virginia Beach officials sharing how they engage their residents. It is free--you just need to register:

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20 May 14
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