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In this thought piece, I attempt to contextualize New York City’s inaugural participatory budgeting (PB) process in the larger landscape of American political participation. I discuss how the bottom-up way in which stakeholders wrote the process’s rules in the first place, alongside the core role played by the two lead organizations, helped to broaden notions of stakeholdership among constituents. Ultimately, the first year’s primary achievement regarding political participation was not a specific set of outcomes, but a debut as an unfinished form of governance—one that began to engage traditionally marginalized constituents, to trigger their political imagination, and to prompt them to demand more.


This work was orignally published in the Journal of Public Deliberation, available at


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