The Civics of Community Development: Participatory Budgeting in Chicago

Rachel Weber, Thea Crum & Eduardo Salinas (2015)

We investigate the relationship between community organizations and the implementation of a multi-ward participatory budgeting (PB) process in Chicago. Drawing on observations and surveys administered during 2012–2013, we find that participation in PB varied across the four wards, as did the involvement of community organizations. The ward with the highest turnout also had the lowest associational involvement, possibly because residents were familiar with the process and because some organizations there did not want to appear to endorse a process associated with the alderman. We found that the engagement of organizations depended on their missions, as well as their relationships to their elected officials. Reform-oriented groups that focused on the built environment participated more than advocacy organizations whose agendas were less physical and more ideological. The positive linkages found between the pre-existing civic infrastructure and participation in PB in other contexts (notably Brazil) may be less apparent in politician-led, infrastructure- focused processes where top-down mobilization is more common.


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