As we reflect on 2017 and many challenges this year, we find hope in the thousands of people like you building real democracy through participatory budgeting (PB). We’re excited to continue pushing forward, and to share some of the year’s top victories at the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP).

What we did:

We expanded PB to new places and different types of public budgets, to empower more community members to make key decisions that impact their lives.

In Oakland, we helped residents in low-to-moderate income communities decide how to spend $784,678 of Community Development Block Grants, in the first PB process for federal funds in the U.S. Community leaders like 90-year-old Hui Zhen Li organized to lift up the voices, concerns, and needs of their neighbors.




In Phoenix, we brought together students in 10 public high schools to decide how to spend $55,000 of school district funds, doubling the number of schools using PB. And in Chicago, we launched PB in five public high schools. Schools doing PB this year averaged a 76.79% voter turnout rate!




In California’s Merced County, we launched the first PB process in the U.S. for county funds. The “People’s Budget” in Merced strives to create “community unity for improvement.”





In the South, we supported a second year of PB in Greensboro and advocacy for PB across the region.





In New York City, we partnered with the Coro New York Leadership Center to train PB Youth Fellows to engage people as young as 11 in deciding how to spend millions of dollars in their neighborhoods.



Through this work and our other programs, we grew PB to record levels — empowering 133,000 people in the U.S. and Canada to allocate $63 million, with almost 20% more voter turnout across all PB processes that we worked on compared to last year.

Our organization also added new team members: we welcomed new staff, board, and advisory board members; our West Coast team moved offices (now at 344 20th St, Oakland, CA 94612); and we worked with consultants to further position our work within a racial equity framework.

What we made:

Last year, our supporters (you!) voted to spend a portion of their donations to create a video about PB in schools. We made it happen: watch the video that we are sharing with students, parents, educators, and school officials! (Grab a tissue first; folks have teared up while watching.)

We also were busy adding tools to our toolbox for reshaping democracy. We released our Scoping Toolkit for staff and officials interested in launching PB, SMS Outreach Guide for engaging residents through text messaging, and revised Evaluation Metrics for PB researchers and implementers. See our full set of tools here!

We launched a campaign with the New Economy Coalition to amplify #PeoplesBudget stories from Chicago and across the U.S. and we teamed up with PB Chicago to build a PB Projects Map to better visualize PB’s impacts. You can explore all of the projects that were on PB Chicago ballots since 2010, both funded and not.

What’s next:

We’ll open 2018 with a big push for PB in Schools, including a webinar in which student leaders and staff will share their experiences.

In March, our Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference will kick off on Voting Day at a Phoenix high school, where participants can see the largest school PB process in action. Purchase your discounted ticket before the end of the year to join us at this international conference, alongside more than 250 community leaders, government officials, funders, researchers, and technologists!

And we’re already hard at work developing new resources, like a Community Data Hub for PBNYC (and beyond), which will make data on community priorities and PB’s impacts visible and accessible to participants and community advocates.

As we prepare for 2018, we look forward to tackling the work ahead of us with our partners and with community leaders like you!

Donate today to support our Democracy Made by You campaign.

Love and democracy,

Our work is only possible due to the generous support of individuals, public funding, and our foundation partners:

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.