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Liczy się miasto – City counts: The first participatory budget monitoring in Poland

This piece was co-authored by Kalina Michocka. 

In 2013 the Polish organization Jeden Świat and the Dutch Centre for Budget Monitoring and Citizen Participation started a project to introduce budget monitoring in the cities of Konin and Kalisz in Poland.

The level of active citizenship in Poland is very low compared to Western European countries. Local authorities acknowledge citizens’ need to take part in the decision-making processes, but no actions seem to follow their recognition. Monitoring the budget is a practical tool for citizens to join the public debate about public spending. It is also a perfect start for many participatory practises, a solid “background” knowledge about basic rules of public finances and the structure of public administration.

Budget monitoring as a methodology was developed by the Brazilian NGO INESC and was introduced in the Netherlands in 2011. The Dutch Centre joined with Jeden Świat from Poland to implement the first experiment on participatory budget monitoring in Poland. The methodology worked in Poland as an instant “click” connecting the dots between:

  • the problems NGOs, citizens, local communities and activists are facing regarding active citizenship;
  • the question about what tools have to be used to enhance participation and active citizenship.

In June 2013 the communities of two Polish cities, Konin and Kalisz, visited Amsterdam, where they met local leaders, civil servants and politicians of the local district. They were also given presentations on the first Dutch pilot ever on budget monitoring and the Neighboorhood budget.

The level of transparency and communication between local authorities and citizens is similar in the Netherlands and Poland. But still, the Polish delegation thought that introducing budget monitoring in Poland was far too early. They also thought that the communities in Kalisz and Konin need at least a few years to grow.

In September 2013 the Dutch trainers from the Centrum in Amsterdam and the Polish delegate met again – this time in Poland for a training session on Polish regulations concerning budgeting, administrative law and good practises with access to public information.

In parallel to monitoring budgets, Jeden Świat started a series of open meetings about subjects related to the project, such as public administration and budgeting, open data, transparency and access to public information in Poland.

The communities who want to monitor the budget of their towns, started to study the budgets, which were almost 200 pages long. Then they went to the City’s Treasurers for help.

So Jeden Świat invited the Treasurer of the city of Kalisz for an open meeting to find out how to read the budget in order to find information.

At this point the communities realized that the precise monitoring of the whole budget document would be very difficult. So they decided to focus on specific sections in order to be able to investigate it thoroughly. The communities asked the citizens of Kalisz and Konin which section in the budget interested them the most through a poll. The poll was made available through the website and a print version was also offered. After having received about 300 responses, they decided to focus on investments in Kalisz and welfare and expenses on promotion of Konin.

The communities arranged meetings with citizens and talked with civil servants and politicians about the budgets, the differences between budget procedures in Kalisz and Konin and the way to involve citizens. The meetings held with citizens were a very clear sign to the communities that the methodology of budget monitoring and the notion of open data are important issues for many citizens.

And now certain changes have already begun to take place! In spring 2014 the first visualizations of budget data will be introduced to the citizens of Konin and Kalisz. Just like in Amsterdam.

But more changes still need to take place. Creating citizens recommendation for the City Council, for example, will be the beginning of another stage of the project. Together with the citizens and local communities,  Jeden Świat will create a paper based on collected information concerning what citizens of Konin and Kalisz think about their city, what they lack in public debate and most importantly what is their view on the budget.

For updates in English about the project, see:


Kalina Michocka, urban movements activist, trainer and project coordinator since 2008. Currently local coordinator in „Liczy się miasto” – participatory budget monitoring in “One World Association” (Poznan, Poland). Co-founder of „Kaliska Inicjatywa Miejska” (Urban Initiative of Kalisz).

Open Government Partnership