Participatory budgeting unlocks collective radical imagination

PBP’s Executive Director, Shari Davis, recently gave a TED Talk on how participatory budgeting (PB) can transform the relationship between governments and the communities that they serve, and act as a roadmap in reimagining what true participatory democracy could look like in America.

In a time where we’re experiencing a global health pandemic and uprisings against police brutality, and witnessing how both of these crises are exacerbating existing inequities, the timing of this talk could not be more imperative as we evaluate our current political and democratic processes to reimagine what a post-pandemic America could look like.

Davis’ talk provides an incisive critique of our current political processes, but also a way forward through a collective radical reimagining of those systems, by placing real power in the hands of the people who are most impacted through processes like participatory budgeting.

Building community control over public budgets has never been more urgent. People across the country are leaning into conversations and demands in ways that will have lasting implications for decades to come. PB offers a clear pathway for communities to real power over the budgets, policies, and decisions that impact their lives. 

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We know the problems we face in today's society. How can we expect people to feel motivated to show up to the polls when they don't trust that the government is by and for the people? I'd argue that we have never actually experienced true participatory democracy in these United States of America just yet. But democracy is a living, breathing, thing. And it's still our birthright.
...we change government - by opening doors so that people can really show up. - Shari Davis
It's time to kick the walls of power down and plant gardens of genuine democracy in their place. - Shari Davis
Participatory. Budgeting. PB, for short. PB is a process that brings people and government together to ideate, develop concrete proposals and vote on real projects that solve projects in community. - Shari Davis

Shari Davis

Shari is the Executive Director of the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) where she leverages nearly 15 years of government service and leadership, a passion for youth engagement,  and a dedication to equity to return the reins of government budgeting to the people. Shari leads an amazing team to advance the core mission of PBP: to empower people to decide together how public money is spent.

As Director of Youth Engagement and Employment for the City of Boston she launched Youth Lead the Change, the first youth participatory budgeting process in the US, which won the US Conference of Mayors’ City Livability Award. Prior to being the Executive Director, Shari led PBP’s strategic initiatives and oversaw technical assistance and advocacy.

Shari is a 2019 Obama Fellow, joining a cohort of 20 global civic innovators and leaders working with their communities to create transformational change. Shari dreams of a day when we have a democracy that works - when community and government are on the same side of the table, making decisions that benefit us all.