Top 3 ways to overcome citizen fears over Participatory Budgeting


In a previous post we have already covered organizer’s fears.

But the citizens also have them, you know? And it’s your job as participatory budgeting (PB) organizer to help citizens overcome their fears.

By the end, they’ll thank you and create a tighter bond.

Tip: when I say thank you it’s a metaphor, as most people vocalize it. But smile, and talk to you in a more open way. You will feel the happiness and that should be your “thank you”. Congratulations, you’re awesome as a participatory budgeting organizer!

Since 2010 we have listen to many citizens talk about PB in passionate and not so passionate ways.

I can tell you, their fears are many! I’ll highlight these as most common:

  1. “I don’t count… I can propose and vote, but they’ll choose”

People search for significance and contribution feeling.

Transparency makes it easy for citizens to assure their vote has been accounted for, and that the all process can be audited.

There’s no larger satisfaction than knowing a project that we voted for was a winner and it’s going to be implemented. Our vote made a difference!

Tell them that, communicate! Tell the others that their vote was important for PB awareness and democracy increment. Communicate! They all contributed for a better society. Tell them that, communicate!

  1. “I can decide? But shouldn’t that be the elected official’s job?”

In most countries citizens are used to vote in a 4 year cycle.

Asking their help to decide on an early stage is creating an all different level of variety. Some will fear and some will feel attracted to it. But all will love it up to a certain level.

And PB usually makes this process very acceptable.

But do you think it’ll help to have 2000 proposals to choose from?

Make your citizens active and engaged, with a comfortable level of variety.

  1. “They will not execute.”

This is the ultimate fear in my opinion.

Many “bad” politicians got us used to listening to promises during campaigning and then letting us down by not getting them through.

I know not everything is as simple as it seems. Sometimes politicians have the will, but bureaucracy or higher level problems get in the way.

That’s why it’s important to assure proposal execution is of top priority, and contribute to citizen’s certainty feeling.


Make sure all proposals in voting phase are feasible even in worst case scenarios. Communicate implementation at all stages, and not only completion. Create a momentum towards the final conclusion. Make citizens certain that you are doing everything in your power to make it a reality.

Citizen will feel fulfilled if it achieves 3 of this 5 basic needs.

  1. “They won’t listen because my proposal is too insignificant… or too large.”

Many times small ideas have a huge impact, and big ideas have less impact but higher quality.

People have an intrinsic need for connection.

They need other people to recognize the value of their proposals and listen carefully to their ideas.

Control their “air time” but give them tools to express their opinions, both with brainstorm workshops and with online communities.

  1. “I don’t know how to express my ideas.”

People by nature are reserved, but social.

That means that many of us have some level of difficulty to express our ideas, but if someone starts to talk, we’ll continue and complement it.

Some due to low studies have this feeling very strong.

This is where you as a participatory budgeting organizer come in!

Help citizens grow by training them how to participate in a better and more productive way. Take advantage of their ideas and help them express in clearer and more efficient way.

A person will feel fulfilled achieving 3 of the above basic human needs… wait, wasn’t it fears 🙂

It is up to you to make it happen.

Do you know that some studies relate happier citizens by PB with higher tax collections? Happier people are also more productive, so you and PB are contributing for sure to a better society.

Writen by César Silva @ ChangeTomorrow

You can reach me at

This blog is a place of experience and thoughts sharing around democracy, participatory initiatives and citizen engagement.

This blog reflects the thoughts of ChangeTomorrow team, its guest bloggers or interviewers.

ChangeTomorrow is a provider of Participatory Budgeting solution called Participare and a spinoff of portuguese market leader WireMaze.

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