This definitely isn’t how I’d planned it. When I announced last year that I’d step down as Co-Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project by April 2020, I wasn’t expecting to align this transition with the biggest global pandemic in a century. But here we are and March 31 will be my last day at PBP, so I’m writing to update you on five key changes and next steps:
1. My fellow Co-ED Shari Davis will take over as sole ED - and she will be AMAZING. Shari has already served as Co-ED for two years, after excelling as Director of Youth Engagement and Employment for the City of Boston. She has a gift for building deep relationships, communicating bold visions, and inspiring diverse communities to take action. I’m thrilled that PBP will be led by a black woman, and by a powerful leader with a track record of success in government innovation and nonprofit management.
Shari and Josh speaking at PBP’s 10th Anniversary Party in 2019.
2. I will continue to support PB and participatory democracy, at the international level. Last summer, I launched a new Global PB Hub. This year, we’re expanding that into a new organization to support leaders around the world that are building participatory democracy (like PBP!). To stay updated, sign up for the email list. COVID-19 has made clear how much we need to learn from and build with other countries, to address our common challenges. I’m excited to work with dozens of organizations around the world, to fix our broken democracy and build government by and for the people.
3. This will be a challenging year for nonprofits like PBP. Governments will have fewer resources for civic engagement. Foundation endowments are plummeting, leaving less money for grants. We’re thankful for funders who are providing more flexible funding, and especially those who are also increasing payout rates during this time of greater need. I’ve increased my monthly donations to PBP to do my part - can you join me?
4. We need better ways to (re)invest in communities devastated by COVID-19. The pandemic is sucking resources out of neighborhoods, especially for low-income people. It will leave many without jobs, homes, food, and other basic necessities. It requires massive government investment, but we know that government funds are not typically allocated to communities with the greatest needs – except in PB. So as we push for reinvestment, we also need to demand that impacted communities decide where funds go.
5. During and after the pandemic, we need PB to build more resilient communities. PB helps neighbors get to know each other, understand their community, and learn how to address common challenges. It increases trust in government, connections between residents and officials, and the strength of community organizations – especially in marginalized communities. We depend on these civic skills and capacities during times of crisis. We need to invest in them now, to survive and thrive in the future.
The past 11 years building and leading PBP have been one of the greatest joys and achievements of my life. Leaving PBP feels like my kid leaving for college. I’m so proud of how far my baby has come, and I’ll always be there in times of need. But I also know that PBP is strong and mature, and I can’t wait to see the new directions that Shari and the rest of the team will take the organization!
Thank you for supporting me and PBP in this grand experiment to transform our democracy!
Participatory Budgeting Project