Participatory Budgeting: Democratic Deliberation and Decision Making at the Local Level


Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Joe MooreJoe Moore, City of Chicago

About the Seminar
Around the United States, city leaders are increasingly asking their residents for suggestions about budget spending. In Chicago’s 49th Ward, a city council member is going one step further. Through a novel experiment in democracy known as participatory budgeting (PB), Alderman Joe Moore is not just asking their opinions – he is giving his constituents the power to make real decisions about how to spend their tax dollars.

PB is an innovative model of democratic deliberation and decision-making in which ordinary citizens decide how to allocate part of a municipal budget. First developed in Brazil, PB has been implemented in more than 1,000 municipalities worldwide, but not in the United States until last year’s experiment in Chicago. After nearly a year of planning, 49th Ward residents, working with the Alderman, developed a process that culminated in a community-wide election when more than 1,600 ward residents decided directly how to spend Moore’s $1.3 million discretionary capital budget.

About Joe Moore
Known as a pioneer for political reform, governmental transparency, and democratic governance, Joe Moore has represented Chicago’s 49th Ward since 1991. Encompassing the majority of Chicago’s Rogers Park community and portions of the Edgewater and West Ridge communities, the 49th Ward is one of the nation’s most economically and racially diverse communities. The Nation magazine in 2008 named Moore the “Most Valuable Local Official” in the county in recognition of his successful sponsorship of a City of Chicago resolution against the war in Iraq; his leadership in the national organization Cities for Peace; and his sponsorship of measures requiring living wages for employees of “big box” retail stores and emission restrictions on Chicago’s coal-fired power plants.

In 2009, Moore launched the first participatory budgeting process in the U.S., inviting residents of his ward to decide directly how to spend his $1.3 million discretionary capital budget. Due in part to popular acclaim for his participatory budgeting initiative, Moore last month was re-elected to a sixth term with 72 percent of the vote, his largest percentage ever.

For more information on participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward, visit

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.