Over this past Indigenous Peoples' Day weekend (Oct 8-10th), we convened PBP’s first youth-designed, youth-led conference. Nine youth committee members and partner PBP staff gathered 25 young people from across the country for three days of panels, performances, and a $5K mini-PB process.
A PB2 Winner
A winning idea during last year’s PB2 process, our community called on us to convene youth across the country to train them in Participatory Budgeting so they could bring it back to their communities. As PBP embarked on its conference planning journey, it became clear that the conference should be planned with young people if we were to make a meaningful and actionable experience suited to their lives.
We put out a call for youth with experience in PB to join us in planning the conference, and our nine person youth planning committee was born. The committee (made of youth under 23 with experience in PB) met over the course of 6 months to plan the purpose, outcomes, duration, feel, and content of the conference. They also decided how to use the conference budget, prioritizing honorariums for speakers and youth artists and meal stipends for participants over a conference platform.
Our young leaders kicked off the event with an inspiring keynote address from PBP’s Co-Executive Director Shari Davis. On Day 1 of YOUthDecide, participants grounded themselves in the weekend’s mini-PB process to spend $5,000. Our participants dove deep into designing the mini PB process and decided on the rules that would guide the process including the age to submit ideas and vote on proposals.
During our first panel “Putting the YOU in YOUTH Needs Assessment,” we heard from young NYC PB practitioner Serena Prince, Milena Veliz, and People's Fellow Darlene Uzoigwe about how they facilitated discussions with youth about their needs during the pandemic. This thoughtful discussion raised important ideas on how to conduct strong needs assessments in collaboration with youth-led organizations and youth-serving adults.
Once participants approved their mini PB process rules, we closed out Day 1 with a performance from People’s Fellow Willington Vuelto.
“Trying to get from the youth to describe in their own words what they need from you is the best way to engage with youth in my experience. We are sick of the narrative that young people need to be told what they need - that they need to be spoken for by the older generations. I think that narrative is changing, and what we need to do is to be welcoming them to more tables and facilitating that discussion with them as much as possible.”
-Darlene Uzoigwe , Youth Speaker
On Day 2 of the conference, youth participants led Idea Collection for the $5,000 mini-PB process. The day began with a rousing panel discussion on “Youth-Led Outreach Innovations,” where we learned creative strategies for engaging communities in PB. We heard from youth PB practitioners Zenayah Roachë, Eddie Barron, and Willington Vuelto about their approaches to community engagement.
“A lot of young people want to do this work and have the energy for it, but many aren't even aware it exists. How do we use these tools to educate?"
-Willington Vuelto, Youth Speaker
“Effective outreach is when we are reaching into those spaces that youth are in and mobilizing around the very busy schedule that young people are dealing with.”
-Eddie Barron, Youth Speaker
With these lessons in mind, our young participants pivoted directly into Idea Collection for the mini PB process. They planned outreach strategies and used creative messaging and actions to gather ideas from their personal networks of family, friends, and community members. Over an engaging afternoon of ideation, they collected 10 PB ideas to set the stage for Proposal Development before closing the day with a hip hop performance from young artist Ajari!
With the final conference day on Oct 12th , we kicked off Day 3 with a stirring opening speech from indigenous youth practitioner Elexis Ariana Moyer about Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Elexis reframed the holiday from their perspective: “I am a survivor of many traumas. Indigenous Peoples' Day is not a celebration for many people in my community. It's a continuous cycle of rest, resilience, and traumas. It's another day to look back on the past day, past week, past month, and lifetime. As we speak, there are native children being abused in foster care systems. The lack of acknowledgement for our struggles while also taking our children away is a total violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act."
After calling us into awareness and advocacy about this ongoing issue, Elexis joined fellow youth leaders and youth-serving adults to discuss practices for sharing power and collaboration between institutions and young people as part of an intergenerational panel “Learning from the Past, Innovating Our Present.”
“High schoolers work full time jobs. Many are full time caretakers too. A lot of them are paying bills in their homes. And you expect them to come to a workshop with the main benefit being to speak to a public official? It doesn't work like that. Part of the role as a facilitator for youth spaces is cutting down the red tape so that youth can get to the magic of the community work itself.”
-Lilyanne Pham , Youth Speaker
"Adults should not think of young people as incapable. Youth can be part of any process that is part of running an organization.”
-Elexis Ariana Moyer, Youth Speaker
Later in the day, we closed the conference with a final session that summarized key events and outcomes from the mini PB process. We want to share our immense gratitude for everyone who helped the event come together including the youth service providers who helped with recruitment and the amazing youth who participated in this national youth-led knowledge exchange. We look forward to continuing to harvest our learnings from the event.
The mini PB process continues! Our participants had four categories of ideas they could develop to support youth engagement in PB beyond the conference. They decided to develop two ideas: one in the “funds to donate to organizations” category and the other in the “professional development mini grants.”
We’ll be working with a few of the participants to finalize the details of these projects. Stay tuned for more details and check out our YOUthDecide space for updates.