The Underestimated Impact of School Participatory Budgeting

Blog by the Participation Factory: “Participatory budgets (PBs) are in use in countless communities around the world, giving residents the chance to decide how to allocate parts of the public budget. They are usually open for the entire community to take part – but there can be real advantages to starting with a smaller-scale school participatory budget.

Not only do they empower pupils to get involved in local government; but they can also play a crucial role in the students’ civic education. Unlike other educational tools like mock elections, the children actually get to see how the work they put in leads to concrete results. They demonstrate the power of political engagement to children at an early age, leaving them well-placed to become active, engaged citizens in later life….

The basic setup of a school PB should allow children to get a grasp of a whole range of what we call participatory skills – including project development, public speaking, voting, running a campaign, and engaging in deliberative democratic discussions. Younger children can start out just voting for their favourite projects – but as they get older, they can begin to get more involved in the entire process, gradually building their confidence, project management skills, and their understanding of how participation works. 

Participatory budgeting improves the children’s participatory skills. We have learned from our experience in Czech and Slovak schools that every year, more children feel comfortable enough to propose a project and run a campaign. They realise that there are techniques and methods to the process that they can easily learn and use, making the whole process less intimidating. They realise that debating and taking initiative doesn’t hurt, but rather leads to real results…(More)”.