Today’s lesson: How to learn democracy by doing democracy

As schools reconvene from summer break, more and more are empowering students to directly decide how to spend a portion of their school budget through participatory budgeting (PB).

One of the best ways to teach democracy is by doing real democracy; PB in schools does exactly that. Students who lead PB in their schools take part  in action civics and project-based learning by designing projects that are needed and feasible to be implemented with real money. In doing so, students discover and create new ways to lead and shape their school communities.

In August, 10 public high schools in Phoenix, AZ came together to learn about PB and design the process in their school.

One shining example of school PB recently doubled in size in Phoenix, Arizona – where 10 public high schools will use PB to decide how to spend $55,000 of the school district budget. In Philadelphia, students are collecting PB project ideas in the cafeteria, in after school detention, during homework club, and while walking around campus. Even more students in Boston, Chicago, NYC, Sacramento, San Jose, Tacoma, and more are also leading—or planning to lead—PB in their schools.

Click here to get the free PB in Schools Guide, watch a 4 minute video about PB in Schools, and learn how to bring PB to your school.

With the 18 lesson plans and six worksheets in this Guide to PB in Schools, you can bring what’s happening across schools to your school, and we’re here to support you. Even more, we’re thrilled to invite YOU to see school PB in action in Phoenix on March 8th—the final day of voting in Phoenix school PB, and the first day of our Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference.

At the conference, you’ll have the chance to meet many of the students and teachers leading school PB, and take a walking tour of this PB Vote.

Click here to check out what the PB Vote looked like at one of the high schools in Phoenix last year!

After kicking off the Conference with this student-driven process, we’ll launch into three days of exploring innovations in participatory democracy that empower community members to make real decisions and directly participate in government.

  • How are you shaping participatory democracy in your community?
  • Are you working to connect civic engagement and deliberation with decision-making?
  • How do you design action civics initiatives with student leaders so that they co-create their school community and have real power over real decisions?

Tell us! Submit your proposal for the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference, and register to join 250 community leaders, government officials and staff, practitioners, researchers, funders, young leaders, and technologists from around the world in Phoenix, Arizona.

Between now and when we meet in Arizona on March 8th, 10 schools in Phoenix will collect project ideas from nearly 18,000 students in the school district. Next, each school team will sort these ideas based on need, feasibility, and impact and work with school district staff to transform project ideas into project proposals. Finally, in March 2018, each school will invite all students to cast their vote and determine which project(s) to fund and implement.

In leading school PB, students at these schools intend to:

  • empower students to show them that they can make a change,
  • include as many people as possible,
  • identify school needs with a democratic process,
  • connect students in meaningful and fun ways to one another,
  • and leave a legacy to be proud of.

Are you ready to share about the ways an innovation you’re leading or studying is inclusive and works to connect folks in meaningful ways?

Submit a proposal to share about it with an international audience at the 2018 Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference!

If your school isn’t already doing PB, take the first step to lead it by downloading our PB in Schools Guide here.

Contact Ashley Brennan at for direct support with launching PB in your school.