Making participation political: Activists learn about PB in Madison, Wisconsin
We typically think of PB as a binding process that decides how to allocate a specific pot of public money. But what can PB offer when there is no pot of money on the table and a great need to organize communities around a given issue?
In Madison, Wisconsin, local activists Young, Gifted and Black have been changing the political landscape of the city by giving voice to the oppression, disempowerment and violence experienced by the Black community. Also in Madison, the graduate student teaching association at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (the TAA) has been brainstorming ways to reimagine the state’s budget such that it more justly serves all the people of Wisconsin.
The Havens Center at UW-Madison saw an opportunity to bring these two groups of activists together to learn about how they might use PB as an organizing tool to activate and empower communities and as a political tool to challenge the status quo of the State budget.
The Havens Center worked with Maria Hadden (PBP Program Manager, Mid-West) to develop a workshop that outlined how PB has been conducted in North America to date, highlighting the features of the process that could be useful for activist groups when there isn’t a committed pot of money on the table.
Young, Gifted and Black are now working on developing a participatory process in which local Black residents develop a county budget that better serves their needs and breaks the cycle of state investment in the carceral system. The TAA is planning a participatory process for the Fall semester to engage students in envisioning a university and state budget that strengthens the state’s education system and alleviates student debt.
While we aren’t currently playing a formal support role, we are excited to follow their processes over the coming months to learn from these new experiments in community engagement.