VoterMedia as Participatory Budgeting

9 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2012 Last revised: 5 Feb 2012

Date Written: February 4, 2012


This paper compares two experimental models for participatory budgeting: the model pioneered by the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil; and the "votermedia" blog competitions implemented at the University of British Columbia and at several municipalities in Metro Vancouver, Canada. The mainstream Porto Alegre participatory budgeting (PAPB) model is well documented elsewhere, so more detailed descriptions are given here for votermedia.

Votermedia is designed primarily to fund voter information. PAPB typically funds a range of municipal services, not including voter information. Votermedia is more competitive and entrepreneurial, with open entry for various potential providers, who may make a profit or a loss. With PAPB, the voter-selected services are provided by municipal employees with specified budgets. The system for voting funds in votermedia can be seen as an extension of PAPB-style voting, to further empower citizens to determine the size of each budget slice. Votermedia blog competitions can cost as little as $8,000; PAPB processes generally involve much larger budgets.

The changing economics of media have strengthened the case for government funding of public interest journalism, especially at the municipal level. Votermedia is proposed as a cost-effective way to enhance citizen engagement and information in a PAPB process. This would ideally include a continuous-time blog contest with online voting that starts at the beginning of the budget's public consultation stage. Blogs could also be rewarded via a competitive vote on the same ballot when citizens are choosing which projects to fund from the participatory budgeting finalists menu; and/or votermedia could be one of the candidate projects to fund going forward.

The potential future evolution of participatory budgeting including votermedia is explored. This could include providing other public benefits besides voter information, as well as political reform of other democracies and corporations.

Keywords: economics of journalism, participatory budgeting, municipal politics, democracy, media reform, political reform, free-rider problem

JEL Classification: D72, H41, H72, L33, P16

Suggested Citation

Latham, Mark, VoterMedia as Participatory Budgeting (February 4, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Mark Latham (Contact Author) ( email )

Vancouver, British Columbia
(604) 608-9779 (Phone)


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