May 2014 Newsletter: White House Meeting, Chicago & St. Louis Results

The White House & PBP Host National Convening

White House collage

On Tuesday, May 13th, The White House and the Participatory Budgeting Project co-hosted a day-long meeting on participatory budgeting, as part of the White House’s efforts to advance PB. “Promoting Innovation in Civic Engagement: Exploring Community‐Led Participatory Budgeting in the United States” brought together over 60 city leaders, community organizers, residents, funders, researchers and technologists to share best practices and identify next steps for expanding and deepening PB.

Invited experts, including PBP Executive Director Josh Lerner and Associates Gianpaolo Baiocchi and Madeleine Pape, spoke about the latest developments in PB and about research efforts to measure PB’s impact. Our partner organizations Community Voices Heard and the Community Development Project shared their experiences from PBNYC, and we discussed key engagement, implementation, and research strategies in small break-out groups with dozens of partners from across the country, as well as representatives from the White House and federal agencies.

“Five years ago participatory budgeting was an obscure idea in the US,” concluded Josh Lerner. “Now, as the White House has recognized, it’s a best practice for civic engagement, used by over 40 cities, districts, universities, schools, and other institutions across the country.” Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this rapid transformation!

Celebrating Our 5 Year Anniversary!

On May 8th over 150 supporters joined us on the roof of the Ethical Culture School in New York City for Celebrate PBP!, our first annual benefit. Together with our community partners, elected officials, and PB participants, we celebrated 25 years of PB around the world and 5 years of PBP’s work in empowering 46,000 people in North America to decide on $45 million.

Guests enjoyed food from Great Performances, Lagunitas beer, Brazilian desserts from Carnaval, the sounds of DJ Oscar Nñ, and views of Central Park. We honored the visionaries who worked with us to bring participatory budgeting to NYC, including NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, and Eric Ulrich, and Community Voices Heard. See photos of the celebration here.

Chicago & St. Louis Vote Results

Mikva Sullivan HS GOTV Team

In the second year of the multi-ward PB Chicago process, nearly 3,000 voters decided how to spend $3 million. In the 49th Ward’s 5th cycle, 1,793 residents voted, breaking the ward’s record. Ward staff took mobile voting to a new level with 37 voting sites at senior centers, schools, grocery stores and transit stops. Youth participation was bolstered with the help of the Mikva Challenge student group at Sullivan High School, and residents had the chance to vote electronically through a program developed by a Stanford research team.

In Chicago’s 45th and 22nd wards, youth as young as 14 were eligible to vote. Winning projects in the 22nd, 45th, and 49th wards included street resurfacing, street lighting and sidewalk repairs, bus stop benches, library renovations, a new playground, tree planting, sports field lighting, murals, and park improvements. PBP is already working the Great Cities Institute, Enlace, Blocks Together, and our other partners to prepare for the next PB cycle, with new support from the City of Chicago Budget Office.

Meanwhile, Participatory Budgeting in St. Louis wrapped up its first year pilot process in the 6th ward, with support from PBP. In a ward of only 12,000 people, organizers turned out 436 voters – the highest voting rate of any district or ward to do PB in the US so far! The ward also did a great job engaging people of color – 58% of PB voters, compared with roughly 50% of the ward’s population overall. See the full results here. 6th Ward Alderman Christine Ingrassia, community partner MORE, and the PBSTL team are working to add more wards to the process next cycle.

PBP Wins Democracy Medal

Want to connect with hundreds of PB leaders from around the world at the 3rd International Conference on PB in North America? Want to share your skills, expertise or PB experience? Have an idea for an action-oriented, interactive session? Great! You can still submit a session proposal – the deadline is April 21st.

We recently won the first Brown Democracy Medal from Penn State University, given to the best practical innovation that is advancing democracy in the United States and around the globe. Learn more about this work in our new report on the first 5 years of PBP.

Upcoming Events

Want to get involved or learn more about PB? Join us at one of these events, or volunteer to help with outreach, planning, and more! Click on the links for event details.

Conference Talks by PBP Staff:

More PBP events and speaking dates coming soon. Let us know if you want us to come to your city!


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A non-profit organization that empowers people to decide together how to spend public money

What You Can Do

1. Spread the Word

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2. Donate

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3. Volunteer
Can you contribute a few hours a month to help PB grow? Do you have experience with outreach, facilitation, fundraising, communications, or design? Sign up to volunteer.

4. Organize
Want to start a PB process in your city, school or neighborhood? Get started here.

New: PBP Office Hours
Do you have questions about participatory budgeting? Curious about how to get PB started in your community? Doing research on PB for a paper?

Call in to PBP’s Office Hours! Once a month, we’re holding an open webinar with PBP staff to discuss your questions. The next call is Wednesday, June 18th 12-1pm Eastern Time. You must register here in advance to participate.

Featured Book
MDF cover

The new book by PBP Executive Director Josh Lerner is now out! Making Democracy Fun explores how the tools of game design can be used to fix democracy. Two chapters focus on participatory budgeting at Toronto Community Housing. More info on upcoming book talks and how to get your copy at Join us at the Brooklyn Book Launch and PBP Office Warming Party on Friday April 18th!

Featured Resource
Our partner OpenPlans recently released a new roadmap for open source engagement tools for PB. Their Shareabouts platform has helped PBNYC participants propose, discuss, and view project ideas, and OpenPlans is eager to talk with other developers to help build or support these and other tools. Take a look and get in touch!.

In the Press
NPR’s Marketplace discuss how Participatory Budgeting Vallejo, which we launched in 2012, is injecting people power and civic imagination into government.

Capital Public Radio highlights that representatives of the City of Vallejo joined other cities and organizations at the White House to talk about PB last May 13th.

Fox2 St. Louis and KPLR11 St. Louis reported that St. Louis’ 6th Ward alderwoman, Christine Ingrassia, also joined the meeting at the White House to talk PB on May 13th. With our technical assistance, Ms. Ingrassia launched the first PB process in St. Louis last year.

Progress Illinois takes a look at the 2014 participatory budgeting cycle in Chicago as well as the projects approved in the city’s 22nd, 45th and 49th Wards.

Streets, trees and a new playground are the big winners in the Chicago’s 45th Ward’s PB. According to the DNAinfo Chicago.

PBP T-Shirts, Postcards, Magnets, and Stickers!
Check out our new postcards, and send us an email to order PBP t-shirts, stickers, or magnets!