What is your vision of democracy? Your answer is probably far removed from what we’ve experienced in 2017, which feels like democracy turned upside-down.

In Phoenix, AZ, 10 public high schools are using PB to decide how to spend $55,000 of the school district budget.

Most of us are infuriated with our political process, and angry that our voices aren’t being heard. And yet, we only look for solutions through the electoral process, thinking that if we elect someone new, everything will change, or “become great again.”

Organizing to elect and influence officials is essential, but it is not enough to fix our broken democracy. What happens when we instead seek solutions in we the people? When we invite people to actually govern, to help make the decisions that affect their lives?

This is democracy made by YOU.


“I was surprised by all those great [PB] ideas that were generated from the community given the Chinatown community is a lot more reserved in wanting to make changes,” said Hui Zhen Li–a 90-year-old community leader in Oakland who participated in the PB Process.

The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) creates and supports participatory budgeting (PB) processes that deepen democracy, build stronger and more inclusive communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective. For the past eight years, we have been the lead organization growing PB across North America. We have helped to support PB processes in more than 20 cities, distribute over $240 million to much-needed community projects, and engage more than 300,000 people.

On Giving Tuesday, November 28th, an international day of giving, PBP is launching our “Democracy Made by You” Campaign. Our goal is to raise $30,000 to grow PB processes, create new resources, and provide scholarships for our Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in Phoenix, AZ in March 2018. We invite you to become a PBP supporter this #GivingTuesday to help us to define what a real democracy looks and feels like.

Here is how PBP is making history in 2017:

“Seeing what’s wrong with my community, coming up with ways to fix it, and then acting upon it–that’s what I like doing. I just never really got a chance to act upon it until now because of PB.”

The Phoenix Union High School District in Arizona became the first school district in the U.S. to do PB in their schools with district-wide funds. Students voted to fund music programs and a study lounge. We also completed the first PB process for federal funds in the US for Community Development Block Grants in Oakland, CA. More than 1,200 people of all ages, speaking four different languages, came together to decide how to spend $784,678 to benefit low-income residents.

This is what Democracy Made by YOU looks and feels like: Empowered Residents and Engaged and Connected Communities.

PBP created new resources to make PB bigger and better in 2017.

We launched Data for Delegates, a tool that promotes equity by developing PB proposals that address the deepest community needs. This project was seeded with funding from individual donors like YOU. We also created a PB in Schools Video that shows you how PB works for school budgets.

This #GivingTuesday, please become a PBP supporter with a gift of any amount to help us build on our shared vision of what a real democracy looks and feels like.

In 2018, your gift will help us bring young people to our upcoming Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference in March 2018. It will help us expand PB in schools, launch more PB processes across North America, and create new resources like Data for Delegates and PB in Schools Video.

What is your vision of democracy for 2018?

If it involves building more engaged and connected communities and empowered residents, please become a PBP supporter this #GivingTuesday to help us continue to build on our shared vision of a real democracy.

Through the participatory budgeting process we’ve learned that there’s no age limit for change – all of us can make a change.” Chicko and Leslie, PB Youth Leaders at Red Hook Initiative

PS. We are a finalist in an opportunity called the Spark Prize. If we raise $5,000 on November 28th, we will receive a $5,000 match from the Brooklyn Community Foundation. Donate today and double your impact on Nov. 28th!

About Josh Lerner

Josh is co-founder and Co-Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project. He has over 15 years of experience developing, researching, and working with leading community engagement programs across North America, Latin America, and Europe. He is the author of Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics, Everyone Counts: Could Participatory Budgeting Change Democracy?, and over 20 articles.

1 Comment

  1. Karel democracy on December 28, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Red balloons, blue balloons, the Communists also gave their people two to three parties to choose from. Democracy is a hoax, a distraction to make us think we have power. Why wait every four years for some greasy politician who’s going to serve the rich anyway when we should be able to submit our own ideas and vote on them ourselves? Any time, not only every four years. For this reason I made a website http://arealdemocracy.org/ where people can submit ideas and vote on them. It can be broken down into regions, so the ideas and voting can concern only a certain neighbourhood, or an entire country, or a region of a certain kind of people that may cross several borders. We should be able to manage our own affairs without dictation from some capital city thousands of miles away. If people engaged in such discussions instead of letting themselves be brainwashed by the television or distracted by sports and the usual bells and whistles of society, they would feel increasingly empowered and we would move towards a system where the politicians would have to adhere to our decisions, or eventually entirely replace this archaic system.