Cambridge, Mass. – May 5, 2015 – The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized today Participatory Budgeting in New York City and Participatory Budgeting in Vallejo, two programs launched and supported by the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), as top 10 finalists for the Roy and Lila Ash Innovations in Public Engagement in Government Award. These initiatives represent the committed efforts of city, state, and federal governments to engage with the communities and citizens they represent and were selected by a cohort of policy experts, researchers, and practitioners.

A full list of the Top 10 and finalist programs is available at

Participatory Budgeting in New York City

Participatory budgeting is a community-level democratic approach to public spending in which local people directly decide how to allocate public funding. Participatory Budgeting in New York City (PBNYC), called “revolutionary civics in action” by the New York Times, is the largest and the fastest-growing participatory budgeting process in the United States. Since 2009 PBP has supported PBNYC and dozens of other participatory budgeting processes across the U.S. and Canada in giving residents a real voice in how real money is spent in their communities.

Participatory Budgeting in Vallejo

Vallejo’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) is an annual nine-month process of reestablishing citizen trust in their government, incorporating residents’ creativity into project design, and collaborating across demographic and bureaucratic boundaries. Now in its third year, residents come together at schools, community centers, and places of worship to share hundreds of ideas to improve their city — one of the most diverse in the US. Volunteers work closely with city staff to sift, combine, adapt, and develop those ideas into project proposals. A special election provides every resident 16 years and older with an opportunity to vote on which projects to fund with local sales tax revenue. The city’s annual event engages nearly 5,000 residents, many of whom are not yet 18 years old. Not only does Vallejo and its population of 115,000 benefit from the 20+ public projects totaling $5.6 million, it creates an opportunity for hundreds more “professional citizens” to sit at the table alongside civil service employees and elected officials to become real stakeholders and decision-makers in their government.


In commemoration of its tenth anniversary, the Ash Center is hosting nationally recognized scholars, policymakers, journalists, and artists in a public dialogue series on Challenges to Democracy. The goal of the two-year series is not simply to name the greatest threats facing democracy in the United States today, but to put forward and give due attention to the promising solutions we need. A core element of the Challenges to Democracy series is this special Innovations Award designed specifically to recognize government-led innovations that demonstrate enhanced public engagement and participation in the governance of towns, cities, states, and the nation.

Those programs named as finalists will be making presentations to the National Selection Committee of the Innovations in American Government Awards, with the winner to be announced this summer. The presentations will be streamed live starting at 1:30 pm EDT on May 20 at

“Government works best when citizens have faith that their needs and the needs of their community are shaping policy, and that their voices are being heard,” said Archon Fung, Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Citizenship and Academic Dean at Harvard Kennedy School. “By moving beyond traditional models of engagement that often only ensured the loudest voices were heard and incorporating technology, social media, responsive design, and community partners, these initiatives are exemplary solutions to problems familiar to citizens and leaders across the country, such as engaging disenfranchised populations, forming productive relationships between communities and politicians, creating informed voters, and addressing community crises as partners in dialogue.”

The Innovations in American Government Awards was created by the Ford Foundation in 1985 in response to widespread pessimism and distrust in government’s effectiveness. Since its inception, over 500 government innovations across all jurisdiction levels have been recognized and have collectively received more than $22 million in grants to support dissemination efforts. Such models of good governance also inform research and academic study around key policy areas both at Harvard Kennedy School and academic institutions worldwide. Past winners have served as the basis of case studies taught in more than 450 Harvard courses and over 2,250 courses worldwide.

For more information, contact:

Daniel Harsha
Associate Director for Communications, Ash Center

About the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation advances excellence in governance and strengthens democratic institutions worldwide. Through its research, education, international programs, and government innovations awards, the Center fosters creative and effective government problem solving and serves as a catalyst for addressing many of the most pressing needs of the world’s citizens.

For more information, visit