Dreaming through uncertainty: democracy doesn’t pause and neither do you

This past month, contending with COVID-19 and the ensuing shelter in place orders, has stretched and tested us all in many ways. We have felt the limitations of technology, questioned how we can prioritize equity in a virtual world, and moved to support our partners across the country as they come together to adapt.

Democracy doesn’t pause and neither do you. That’s why our team is already up and running, ready to help. We can’t thank you enough for your ongoing support.

We’ve responded by centering our partners and people on the ground. From the start of the pandemic, we’ve been reaching out to communities, asking - what do you need? How can PBP support the work you are already doing? Now, we are prioritizing sharing the initiatives, projects, and tools we have - and cultivating new offerings for spring and summer.

While we are facing the (surreal) crisis of a global pandemic, the crisis of a broken democracy isn’t new. So the team at the Participatory Budgeting Project is doubling down on our commitment to participatory budgeting to build a more equitable future with you. I am proud of all we can, and will, accomplish.

Donate today to support PBP's crucial work in this moment.

Latest Updates

PB Can

We are so excited to announce our newest tool for discovering the power of PB - PBCan.org! On this site, you can view case studies of the diverse sets of issues PB can address, from equity, to public transportation and infrastructure, and you can add your voice! What case studies are you curious about? What would help your city, town, school, or community? Find out more here. 

PB in NY

In March, advocates gathered in NYC to insist on an investment in PB. Nearly two years after voters across the city showed up to cast their ballots in favor of a city-wide PB process, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio had allocated exactly $0 to making that decision a reality.

Gathering with partners including Civic Hall, TakeRoot Justice, and Coro New York Leadership Center we urged Mayor De Blasio to put forward $500 billion toward city-wide participatory budgeting. For more details, read the coverage from the NY Daily News.

PBP Transpo Awards

In 2019, residents of Bayview, a historically under-resourced town with a large population of people of color, allocated $720,000 to increase transit access. PBP’s work on the Bayview PB process caught the attention of the Transportation Research Board, a group that recognizes organizations that are implementing innovative practices in communicating the need for transportation funding to stakeholders and the general public.

Last month, PBP was showcased in a poster session and honored at the Transportation Review Board (TRB) 99th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. and featured in a 2020 edition of Transportation Research News. The Planning and Environment Group of the TRB awarded Jennifer Godzeno, Deputy Director of PBP, with the “Communicating with John & Jane Q. Public Competition" prize for successfully communicating and implementing transportation finance and related policy solutions to stakeholders and the general public. Read more here. 

Thank you for your help selecting us via the SXSWEdu Panel Picker

as presenters at the 2020 SXSW Edu Conference and Festival. In this experiential workshop, participants will actually experience a school PB process, hear about lessons learned from the past decade, and delve into how you can launch PB in your school/district. We can’t wait to bring the magic of real money, real power to Austin. Join us by registering here!

How are we confronting this moment

Photo Credit: Alison Boulier
Photo Credit: Alison Boulier

Participatory budgeting, in many ways, thrives on communal space. The process counts on community members gathering to talk through ideas, to meet each other and discover the diverse needs and priorities of their neighbors, and, of course, to vote.

We have seen the current pandemic and shelter in place orders challenge business as usual. As such, PB processes in cities and schools across the country - some just days away from their final vote, were made to take a step back and pause or suspend their processes. While this saddens us, and each of these communities, we know that now more than ever, our own and each other’s safety is the priority.

The PBP team is hard at work putting together new ways to make sure participatory democracy emerges stronger than ever, and our values of interdependence are centered all along the way.

In early April, we had a chance to convene PB practitioners from across the country for a virtual temperature check. We shared best practices, hopes for digital alternatives, and just took a minute to ask one another - how are you doing? Check out this blog highlighting the key takeaways from that conversation.

And please, follow along on Twitter and on Facebook to be a part of ongoing efforts to generate solutions that fit the moment.

Wondering how to keep PB volunteers engaged?

PB processes require cooperation and collaboration at all levels, from elected officials and school administrators, to volunteer budget delegates. “Budget delegates” are integral community members who volunteer to keep a PB process rolling smoothly. Budget delegates help with anything from idea collection and design, showing up at community gatherings, creating tangible proposals, or coordinating logistics for the big moment - voting day!

Without budget delegates, PB cannot roll on. The hard work and commitment of these community members ensures that PB is a process unlike any other - but anyone who has been a part of this ride can tell you - it’s definitely not easy.

That’s why we teamed up with the NYC Behavioral Design Center from Ideas42 – a group that applies behavioral science insights to improve programs and policies and solve complex social problems – to answer two big questionsWhat stands in the way of robust and sustained community involvement in PB? And what can we do to combat those barriers?  Find out what we learned here!

In the News:

The Philadelphia Citizen’s 2nd annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival | In December, PBP’s ED, Shari Davis spoke at The Philadelphia Citizen’s 2nd annual Ideas We Should Steal Festival -  an annual convening that brings together the most innovative urban thinkers and global thought leaders to share bold ideas that can transform the city of Philadelphia and beyond.

“Participatory budgeting involves people making real decisions about real money – it’s not a consultation,” Davis said. “PB has worked in over 3,000 cities around the world – in districts, cities, counties, states, public housing, schools, universities – pretty much every kind of public institution has tried PB somewhere.” Check out the video and read more!

PBP on Twitter in the time of social distancing | Since we have been sheltering in place - the PBP team took to Twitter to see what creative interventions in this moment can look like. Not everyone has access to the same types of technology, even in 2020. But we asked - how would you engage people while staying safe and social distancing?

The responses were so creative! They ranged from utilizing private messaging on social media platforms to communicate with legislators directly, storytelling and keeping record of what we are experiencing in this moment so that when we come out of the other side we can get right to work, Facebook Live, repurposing existing neighborhood platforms - even some potential collaborators and innovators working on the same issue! Scroll through the thread, you might even find a spark of inspiration. Do you have an idea? We want to hear it - add your voice as the conversation continues to build.
From the Covid-19 Crisis to Rebuilding our Public Technology Infrastructure in Local Government | As technology becomes more central to our lives, the battle against vast inequities wages on in the digital realm. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into stark relief the ways access to technology has been used as a way to gatekeeper decision making - locking out major portions of our communities.

A recent article from Next City points to the current crisis as a turning point in that dynamic - “According to recent Pew Research “[r]acial minorities, older adults, rural residents, and those with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service at home.” The author goes on to describe the value of PB and opportunity for more “deep-but-distant” civic engagement this crisis requires of us all.

 

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