PBP has worked directly with civic leaders in dozens of cities and institutions in the US and Canada to plan and run PB processes, and our work has inspired dozens more PB processes. You can see where PB is happening on the map; and read about key processes below.
Developing Young Leaders: PB in Schools
Cyndi Tercero-Sandoval has a front-row seat to how participatory budgeting impacts students and schools. Cyndi coordinates the PB process for the Phoenix Unified High School District, the first school district in the US to use PB to allocate school district funds. PBP has worked closely with Cyndi to support students as they collect ideas, create proposals, and vote on improvements for their schools. We helped the popular initiative triple in size to 15 schools by the third year, and continue to expand to more schools.
Cyndi and students were excited about a collaboration with the County Recorder’s Office to make the PB vote, held in school gyms and cafeterias, feel like an electoral voting experience. This included using official voting booths, ballots, ballot scanners, and of course, “I voted” stickers. Cyndi said that it felt like “...the turnout at a real election!”
Cyndi is amazed at how PB has led to more engaged and invested students, as well as school administrations that now involve students in other kinds of decision-making. She’s seen students gain new abilities to collaborate with each other and school administrations, communicate and interact with other students across social groups, and be empowered to have a voice.
PBP is working with Cyndi and other dedicated staff, teachers, and students at schools around the country, to show students how democracy can work and why their participation matters, and inspire greater civic engagement in their schools and communities. Learn more about PB at Phoenix Union High School District here.
Scaling up Civic Engagement: PBNYC
PBP has worked with incredible city and community partners in growing PBNYC into the largest local civic engagement program in the US and Canada. More than 102,800 New Yorkers voted in Spring 2017, almost a third using a new online voting system, to allocate $40 million.
In addition to funding hundreds of community projects, PB has important ripple effects on policy. Air conditioning in schools is often proposed as a PBNYC project. In response to this growing demand, the City announced a new $30 million plan to install AC in all city classrooms. And beyond the city, the Regional Plan Association’s Fourth Regional Plan recommended PB as a key strategy to “promote greater participation in local government’ and “make the planning and development process more inclusive.”
Community Control over Federal Funds: Oakland PB for CDBG
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) may be a mouthful to say, but this important federal funding stream supports economic development in low-to-moderate income communities. Public participation in deciding how to spend these funds is mandated, but in practice is often shallow and inaccessible. This leads to inequitable spending decisions and public distrust of the program.
This is why February 2017 was so exciting, as more than 1,200 residents of two Oakland council districts voted on community-created funding priorities for almost $800,000 in CDBG funds. These projects included meals, mobile showers, and health services for people experiencing homeless, housing counseling and legal advice for tenants at risk of eviction, life-skills classes, support for immigrants and seniors who speak English as a second language, and internship and apprenticeship placement and career counseling for youth.
PBP collaborated with grassroots community partners like the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) to engage hundreds of residents living in Oakland’s Chinatown. PBP and APEN made sure that there was interpretation and translation every step along the way, in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Spanish. This enabled leaders like Hui Zhen Li, a 90-year old community activist, to participate in developing project proposals and do outreach to her neighbors to participate in the vote.
As federal funding programs are increasingly at risk of cuts, we are heartened by the growing crop of cities using PB to engage their residents in determining how to use crucial federal funds. This includes Niagara Falls, NY which used PB to decide how to spend $360,000 in CDBG funds, and St Louis, MO which is using PB for community resiliency ReCAST funds.