Democracy Reinvented

Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America

Hollie Russon Gilman
Release Date: January 26, 2016

Democracy Reinvented is the first comprehensive academic treatment of participatory budgeting in the United States, situating it within a broader trend of civic technology and innovation. This global phenomenon, which has been called “revolutionary civics in action” by the New York Times, started in Brazil in 1989 but came to America only in 2009.  Participatory budgeting empowers citizens to identify community needs, work with elected officials to craft budget proposals, and vote on how to spend public funds.

Democracy Reinvented places participatory budgeting within the larger discussion of the health of U.S. democracy and focuses on the enabling political and institutional conditions.  Author and former White House policy adviser Hollie Russon Gilman presents theoretical insights, in-depth case studies, and interviews to offer a compelling alternative to the current citizen disaffection and mistrust of government. She offers policy recommendations on how to tap online tools and other technological and civic innovations to promote more inclusive governance.

While most literature tends to focus on institutional changes without solutions, this book suggests practical ways to empower citizens to become change agents. Democracy Reinvented also includes a discussion on the challenges and opportunities that come with using digital tools to re-engage citizens in governance.

Hollie Russon Gilman served as policy adviser on open government and innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is a fellow at New America and Harvard’s than Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and has taught at Columbia University and Georgetown University.  She holds a PhD from Harvard’s Department of Government.

Advance Praise for Democracy Reinvented

At this nadir of confidence in America’s political institutions, Democracy Reinvented illuminates a method of democratic reconstruction that begins in Brazilian cities and then moves to the neighborhoods of Chicago, New York and Boston. This book, the first assay of the varieties of participatory budgeting in the United States, shows how politicians and citizens can reinvigorate democracy by rekindling their democratic imaginations together.
— Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship and Academic Dean, Harvard Kennedy School

Civic participation and innovation is occurring through small and larger initiatives all over the United States and around the world through the use of new technology. This timely book offers important insight on this phenomenon and reveals its potential and impact.
— Merit E. Janow Dean, School of International and Public Affairs and Professor of Professional Practice, International Economic Law & International Affairs, Columbia University

In this high-tech era, the high-touch process of participatory budgeting reinvents how government spends money and, in so doing, creates a profound new mechanism for citizens to exercise power at scale. With great empirical rigor, Democracy Reinvented sheds light on a surprising democratic innovation taking place around the world in community centers and church basements that is reinventing the meaning of citizenship, transforming the relationship between governments and governed, and teaching us how to create more effective tools for governance. Democracy Reinvented is an important and persuasively crafted contribution to the field of both participatory democratic theory and practice.
— Beth Simone Noveck, Jerry M. Hultin Global Network Professor, New York University Tandon School of Engineering and Director, The Governance Lab

At its best, participatory budgeting leads citizens to ‘reimagine what is possible’ in how they are governed and govern themselves. Democracy Reinvented pushes past the hype that so often surrounds civic technology and participatory democracy to describe experiments that have actually worked and to give us a larger framework and vocabulary for civic engagement in the digital age. This is a book for political scientists and political campaigners alike.
— Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America



Hollie Russon Gilman served as policy adviser on open government and innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is a fellow at New America and at Harvard's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and holds a PhD from Harvard's Department of Government. She has served as faculty at Columbia University and Georgetown University.