The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) works with communities across the US and Canada to decide together how to spend public money. We create and support participatory budgeting (PB) processes that deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective.
Since 2009, PBP has collaborated with grassroots and government partners to launch PB processes in over 40 cities, empowering more than 739,000 people to directly decide how to spend over $400 million in public funds.
The idea for PBP began when scholars Josh Lerner, Michael Menser, and Gianpaolo Baiocchi met at the 2005 World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil—the very place where participatory budgeting was first launched in 1989. All three of them had been researching, writing about, and/or working with international communities to do participatory budgeting.
They shared their excitement and ideas about PB, created a resource website, and started to build support for this democratic process in the US and Canada. Along the way, they met Chicago Alderman Joe Moore and organizers from New York City-based Community Voices Heard (CVH), who would become important partners in piloting PB in the United States.
In 2009 Josh and Gianpaolo officially launched PBP to formalize their work supporting the first PB process in the US, in Chicago’s 49th ward, and leading a participatory evaluation of PB in Toronto.
In 2011, PBP incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, with Josh as Executive Director and Mike as Board President. PBP launched an ambitious new PB process in four NYC districts. PBNYC has since become the largest PB process in the United States.
Since then, PB’s popularity has grown exponentially because of PBP’s work. This includes milestones such as a youth-only PB process in Boston, PB for federal community development funds in Oakland, and PB in public schools. Our work has been recognized by governments and institutions as a key innovation in democracy, one that deepens civic engagement, builds equity and inclusion, and makes government more effective and responsive.
In 2018, Shari Davis joined Josh Lerner as Co-Executive Director. In 2020, Josh transitioned out of his role at PBP and Shari stepped into their role as Executive Director.
As of 2021, PBP is co-led by our three Co-Executive Directors — Kristania De Leon, Kristina Banks, and Shari Davis.
The following values guide our work externally in communities and internally in our organization:
We strive to bring people together across differences, and support them in learning from each other, forging new bonds, and working together to achieve shared goals.
We believe in democracy by and for the people, in which community members are able to directly participate in making the decisions that affect their lives.
We focus on including those who face the greatest barriers to participation, distributing power and resources to where they are needed most, and reducing disparities between groups.
We strive to share information clearly, make decisions openly, and communicate courageously, to help people access information, understand decisions, and create a culture of accountability.
We seek to constantly improve our work by experimenting with new approaches and learning from successes and failures, in order to execute swiftly, develop our individual abilities, and advance our mission.