Participatory budgeting's contributions to environmental justice : evaluating Green Projects funded through Greensboro PB
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a process in which the people most affected by a budget determine how it is spent. Since its onset in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989, PB has spread to thousands of cities globally and is lauded as a solution to top-down governing that enhances democracy, boosts civic engagement, and meets growing demands for direct democracy. PB is a new practice in the U.S. and its contributions to distributive justice are not well defined. This professional report analyzes PB in Greensboro, North Carolina (Greensboro PB) and uses an environmental justice (EJ) framework to evaluate whether PB’s benefits are equitably distributed and whether PB is contributing to EJ goals. Findings from Greensboro PB indicate that winning PB projects are more likely to be located in neighborhoods with lower incomes, lower percentages of white residents, and higher percentages of Black residents. These results hold true when evaluating all PB projects as well as green infrastructure (GI) projects specifically. The analysis found no significant difference in neighborhoods that win GI projects over other types of projects. While Greensboro PB voter demographic data indicates voters are over-represented by white and wealthy residents, the outcomes do not reflect this in terms of projects won, which raises questions about the relationship between procedures and outcomes. This report makes recommendations to build the relationship between participatory budgeting and environmental justice and suggests investing in capacity building, expanding budget sizes and sources, and building solidarity networks will yield more transformative outcomes.