Towards Sustainable Governance with Participatory Budgeting - Comparative Approaches and Lessons Learned


*Please note the submission portal for this special issue will open on 1st November 2021.*

Guest Editors

Lotta-Maria Sinervo (Tampere University, Finland) – [email protected]
Pauliina Lehtonen (Tampere University, Finland) – [email protected]
Carol Ebdon (University of Nebraska Omaha, United States) – [email protected]
Luca Bartocci (University of Perugia, Italy) – [email protected]


Providing sustainable welfare both ecologically, socially and financially, is one of the pressing challenges of governance and public financial management (e.g. Steccolini, 2019). The concept of sustainable governance was initially developed in the field of natural sciences, but it has recently drawn attention in disciplines and organizations which focus on public policy and administration (Fiorino 2010). As one element of sustainable governance, we consider the influence of citizens in decision-making with diverse participatory tools, such as participatory budgeting (PB). This idea of PB as a democratic process which gives people real power over real money is crossing continents with various experiments and experiences from different parts of the world (Sintomer et al. 2008; 2012; Pinnington et al. 2009). Since its origins in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, PB has spread to over 7,000 cities worldwide and interest continues to grow (Dias et al. 2019). Simultaneously with the practical interest, academia has also become interested in studying PB from different perspectives with various methods and settings (e.g. Ebdon 2002; Ebdon & Franklin 2006; Aleksandrov et al. 2018; Jayasinghe 2020). However, most of the interest in PB has focused on explaining PB from a practical viewpoint and typically based on single qualitative case studies leaving room for comparative studies and critical perspectives on PB.

This special issue approaches PB as a form of sustainable governance dealing with focal issues of citizenship participation in decision-making but also the demands that PB puts on public organizations, public administration, and public financial management practices (i.e., Lehtonen 2018; Irvin & Stansbury 2004; Bartocci et al. 2019; Holdo 2016). Sustainability is here intended also as “the continued utilization of an externally promoted activity for multiple years after external assistance for its introduction has come to an end” (Bland, 2017: 112). Few studies (e.g. Kasimova 2017) have addressed conditions for sustainability of PB and little is known on the role of organizational and individual  factors.

In this sense, this special issue takes a step forward from previous symposia on PB. While earlier special issues focused on discussing PB’s core idea, the viewpoint of citizen engagement and analyzing different experiences of utilizing PB as part of participatory governance, this special issue will explore  the role of PB in the context of sustainable governance. From a comparative perspective, it introduces studies that have analyzed PB as a possible tool towards strengthening sustainability and welfare. In addition, this special issue offers possibilities for less studied research topics on administrative structures, relationships and practices in and between organizations implementing PB.

Topics for Submission

The goals of this special issue are to collaborate in the analysis of how participatory budgeting is implicated in the public management of complex social, economic and environmental issues. The research may be contemporary, historical or comparative, adopting qualitative and/or quantitative methodological approaches. Some indicative topics to be covered in the special issue are the following:

  • Social sustainability viewpoint on PB:
    • Participation as a means to social sustainability: How can PB strengthen social sustainability at the local level?
    • How is PB connected with well-being and social sustainability? 
    • Participation as a process of reconstruction: How is PB implemented in communities that need to “heal”?
  • Environmental sustainability viewpoint on PB: 
    • What is the role of PB in responding to climate change? 
    • Can PB serve as a means to bring about the green transition regarding environmental sustainability?
  • Financial sustainability viewpoint on PB:
    • What are the financial impacts of PB on sustainable governance?
    • To what extent can PB be used as a tool in dealing with austerity? 
  • Organizational viewpoint on PB:
    • What does PB require from organizations promoting sustainability?
    • What are the challenges that have already been identified in the implementation of PB for organizations?
    • How do organizations adapt to the implementation of PB (to the constitution of a “participatory space”)?
    • To what degree has PB been institutionalized in governments, and what factors are related to this sustainability? 
    • How do differences in PB practices (e.g., use of online tools versus face-to-face opportunities) affect sustainability?
    • What is the role of individual actors (politicians, public managers, consultants, etc.) in designing and implementing of PB practices?
  • Methodological reflections on the methods and analytical tools used in PB studies
  • Influence of COVID-19 on PB processes for sustainable governance (practical challenges, issues for research)

These themes are only suggestive. Papers on other topics with relevance to understanding participatory budgeting practices in the changing environment of sustainable governance are welcomed.

How to Submit

The deadline for submissions is 30 December 2021.

Each paper will first be reviewed by the guest editors; if it is judged suitable for this publication, it will be then sent to at least two referees for double blind peer review. Accepted papers will be published in a special issue in 2023. 

Submissions to the Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration and access is available at Please prepare your manuscript according to the journal’s authors’ guidelines which can be viewed at:

Contact details: For inquiries and further information please contact the corresponding Guest Editor Dr. Lotta-Maria Sinervo (Tampere University, Finland) – [email protected]


Aleksandrov, E., Bourmistrov, A., & Grossi, G. (2018). Participatory budgeting as a form of dialogic accounting in Russia. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 31(4): 1098–1123.

Bartocci, L., Grossi, G., & Mauro, S.G. (2019). Towards a hybrid logic of participatory budgeting. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 32(1): pp. 65–79.

Bland, G. (2017). Sustainability as a Measure of Success: Externally Promoted Participatory Budgeting in El Salvador 10 Years Later. Public administration and development, (37)2: 110–121.

Dias, N., Enríquez, S., & Júlio S. (2019, eds.). Participatory Budgeting World Atlas,

Ebdon, C. (2002). Beyond the public hearing: citizen participation in the local government budget process. Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, 14(2): 273–294.

Ebdon, C., & Franklin, A.L. (2006). Citizen participation in budgeting theory. Public Administration Review, 66(3): 437–447.

Fiorino, D.J. (2010) Sustainability as a Conceptual Focus for Public Administration. Public Administration Review, 70, 78-88

Holdo, M. (2016). Reason of power: explaining non-cooptation in participatory budgeting. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(2): 378–394.

Irvin, R.A., & Stansbury, J. (2004). Citizen Participation in Decision Making: Is It Worth the Effort? Public Administration Review, 64(1): 55–65.

Jayasinghe, K., Adhikari, P., Simon, C., & Sopanah, A. (2020). Multiple rationalities of participatory budgeting in indigenous communities: Evidence from Indonesia. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 33(8): 2139–2166.

Kasymova, J. (2017). Understanding the challenges and sustainability of citizen engagement in the budgeting processes of developing countries. Administration & Society, 49(3): 374–393.

Lehtonen, P. (2018). Shifting the Power to People: Opening the practices of governance with participatory budgeting. Nordicom Information, 40(1): 63–69.

Pinnington, D., Lerner, J., and Schugurensky, D. (2009). Participatory budgeting in North America: The case of Guelph, Canada. Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting & Financial Management, 21(3): 455-484. 

Sintomer, Y., Herzberg C., & Röcke A. (2008). Participatory Budgeting in Europe: Potentials and Challenges. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32 (1): 164–178.

Sintomer, Y., Herzberg, C., Röcke A., & Allegretti G.(2012). Transnational Models of Citizen Participation: The Case of Participatory Budgeting. Journal of Public Deliberation, 8(2): 1–32.

Steccolini, I. (2019). Accounting and the post-new public management. Re-considering publicness in accounting research. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 32(1), 255–279.