Empowering Citizens Through Participatory Budgeting and Innovations in Civic Technology

July 13, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017 | 2:30-4:00PM | J7-044 | 701 18th St.

Visitors must request a Vistor's Pass by emailing GPSA@worldbank.org to enter the World Bank.


Josh Lerner
Co-founder & Executive Director, Participatory Budgeting Project 

Nicolas Perrin
Senior Social Development Specialist, Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice, World Bank

Nicola Smithers
Lead Specialist, Governance Global Practice, World Bank

Jeff Thindwa
Program Manager, GPSA, World Bank

Is this the best we can do? A democracy where key decisions about our schools, immigration, and health are made without those who are most impacted? Participatory budgeting empowers people - immigrants, young people, and others who are left out of typical elections, and gives all of us the power to directly decide what government does. Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. There are over 1,200 participatory budgets around the world, according to the Worldwatch Institute. Most of the well-known examples of participatory budgeting involve city administrations that have turned over decisions around municipal budgets. In this BBL, Josh will apply his knowledge and extensive research to share updates on the growth of participatory budgeting in North America and beyond, including new opportunities for civic technology, youth engagement, and scaling up local participation. There are clear overlaps with some of the Bank’s work on social accountability in public financial management around the world. The focus on civic technology, an increasingly important facilitator of citizen engagement, promises to generate discussion about its potential and limitations.


Josh Lerner is co-founder and Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), a nonprofit organization that empowers people to decide together how to spend public money, across the US and Canada. Through programs that PBP has launched and supported, over 300,000 people in 20 cities have directly decided how to spend $240,000,000. This work has been recognized by The White House as a model for open government, and by the Brown Democracy Medal as the best practical innovation advancing democracy around the world. Josh completed a PhD in Politics at the New School for Social Research and a Masters in Planning from the University of Toronto. He is the author of Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics (MIT Press, 2014), Everyone Counts: Could Participatory Budgeting Change Democracy? (Cornell University Press, 2014), and over 20 articles.

Nicolas Perrin works as Senior Social Development Specialist in GSURR -Africa at the World Bank in Washington.    He has joined the Bank in 2003 and worked across the globe on a large number of projects.  His work has focused on citizen engagement, community driven development, local governance, cultural heritage and climate change.  He is currently leading the activities of the Citizen Engagement secretariat which coordinates the implementation of the WB Citizen Engagement Framework, including capacity building, and monitoring of corporate CE indicators across the World Bank operations. Prior joining the World Bank, Nicolas has worked for the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and several international NGOs in South Asia, East Asia, Africa and Europe on microfinance, local governance and rural development.

Nicola Smithers is Co-Global Lead on Managing Public Finance Global Solutions Group in the Governance Global Practice. She is Lead Specialist and Public Financial Management Cluster Leader in the GGP Governance Systems team. Previously, she coordinated the Open Budgeting program in the World Bank Institute (WBI). She was the head of the multi-donor Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) Secretariat, leading the development of the internationally adopted PEFA performance measurement framework that was launched in 2005. She also led public sector projects for the World Bank’s Africa region, and provided technical assistance in South Asia and the Caribbean. She was a resident DFID adviser in East Africa and an ODI fellow in Fiji. She is a UK Chartered Accountant.

Jeff Thindwa is the Program Manager for the Global Partnership for Social Accountability in the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice (GGP). Until June 2016 he was Practice Manager for Open and Collaborative Governance, where he led work programs on the governance of extractive industries, open government, parliamentary strengthening and citizen engagement. During his 17 years at the World Bank, he has held numerous positions in social development and governance. He joined the World Bank in 2000 as Senior Social Development Specialist, and later led the Participation and Civic Engagement Cluster, integrating social accountability mechanisms and stakeholder participation in the Bank’s operations, and undertaking analytical work on the enabling environment reforms for civil society organizations. In 2009 he joined the Bank’s South Asia Region where he worked with operations teams and managed the “Program on Accountability” in Nepal, a grant making and capacity building program. In 2010, Mr. Thindwa joined the World Bank Institute as Team Leader and subsequently Manager for the Social Accountability Practice until he joined the GGP in 2014.