Lessons from Civil Society Budget Analysis and Advocacy Initiatives

Aims and Objectives

This research project explored the impact and efficacy of applied budget work undertaken by independent civil society organisations. The research centred on the analysis and dissemination of budget data, advocacy initiatives designed to influence budget priorities, and efforts to improve the transparency of the budget process. The focus of the research was on an array of civil society budget groups that included research institutions, non-governmental organisations and social movements working at national and local levels.

Key questions investigated in the research were the impact of applied budget work on budget processes, priority setting, and expenditure outcomes; the strengths and limitations of approaches and methods for independent budget analysis and advocacy work; and the contextual factors and institutional features that explain successful impact and engagement. In particular the research sought to determine how far government budget policies, expenditure allocations and outcomes had been influenced by civil society budget initiatives in a manner that benefits poor and disadvantaged groups.


The research project entailed the production of six case studies of budget groups in Brazil, Croatia, India, Mexico, South Africa and Uganda. The research was carried out in collaboration with budget analysts and researchers associated with the International Budget Project (IBP) in Washington DC. Fieldwork and data gathering methods included the analysis of budget data and information prepared and collected by budget groups, review of secondary documentation and media reports, and interviews with key informants.


The findings demonstrate that the most significant impacts achieved by independent budget groups include improvements in the transparency of budgetary decisions and the budget process; increased budget awareness and literacy; and enhanced engagement in the budget process on the part of legislators, the media and civil society organisations. While the structure of the budget process makes substantial changes in expenditure priorities difficult to achieve, budget groups can directly contribute to positive impacts on budget allocations and implementation. Tracking of budgetary expenditures and impacts were also found to be effective in ensuring effective utilisation of education and health expenditures. Increased budget allocations and improved utilisation of public funds that benefit poor and disadvantaged groups can ensure greater equity in budget priorities and further social justice objectives.

The research was designed to generate fresh empirical knowledge through comparative case studies of non-governmental budget work, in which budget groups were actively involved in the research process and directly benefit from the research findings.

The project was designed to contribute to academic knowledge on the efficacy of non-governmental public action designed to influence tax and expenditure decisions. The findings from the research also have the potential to inform budget practitioners on which approaches, tools and methods are most effective in influencing budget priorities. A robust set of case studies and the resultant synthesis of the main findings are intended to assist experienced and new practitioners within civil society, legislators and government officials responsible for budget formulation and execution, and donors that provide financial resources for budget groups.

View the International Budget Process case studies

Project details

start date
2 February 2005
end date
2 February 2006


Recent work

Working Paper

Budget Analysis and Policy Advocacy: The Role of Non-Governmental Public Action

This paper examines the impact and significance of independent budget analysis and advocacy initiatives that are designed to improve budget transparency and the poverty focus of government expenditure priorities. It draws on case study research of six budget groups in Brazil, Croatia, India,...

1 January 2006