Balancing Act was created by Engaged Public, a Colorado-based public policy consulting firm founded in 1998 and specializing in engagement-driven strategies and public policy leadership development. Engaged Public’s mission is to bridge people and policy through meaningful, productive dialogue and other innovative tools.
Over the years we have helped our clients – municipalities, elected leaders, and others—communicate with constituents on tough, complex financial issues. In the early days, this work usually took the form of facilitating meetings, town halls and what some refer to as “three minutes at the mic.” We built in innovative features, but communicating with the public on the budget is challenging. Further, while some town hall meetings on budget are well attended, we recognized that there are many people who have the interest but don’t have the appetite or time to attend a meeting or hearing on the budget.
Given these challenges, in 2007 we built our first interactive online simulation, “Backseat Budgeter,” to model the State of Colorado’s budget. Our purpose was for Coloradans to gain a better understanding of budget complexities and the trade-offs that elected officials and staff make while developing the budget. That website was viewed by over 40,000 Coloradans during the Great Recession, and subsequently we started receiving requests from local governments around the world to adapt the simulation for their budgets.
In 2014 we made the commitment to build an easy to adapt, easy to understand tool for governmental entities and other organizations to conduct high quality online—and face-to-face—budget engagement. The following year we released Balancing Act. Since then we have added scores of local and state governments to our list of partners and continued to evolve the software adding Taxpayer Receipt, Meeting Mode, and a number of other features that make Balancing Act the best budget simulation available.