The Participatory Budgeting Project

Giving real people a real say over how public money is spent.

The Problem

Most young people, especially those living in low-income communities, are disconnected from the decision-makers and the spending decisions that shape their lives. Public budgets provide for education, libraries, housing, healthcare, transportation, and other services and infrastructure that are essential for young people to fulfill their potential. Within schools, budgets provide the facilities and programs that shape a young person’s engaged learning, expanded view of the world, and creative expression. Because public school students generally have little say in their school or community, this decision-making is far removed from their daily lives. Additionally, civic engagement is at an all time low. Civic disengagement is most pronounced among young people of color and those from underserved communities. This disengagement is connected to deficits in academic progress, literacy development, and social-emotional competencies, which are detrimental to college and career readiness, and to active participation in all forms of civic life.

The Solution

Participatory budgeting (PB) is a new approach for building stronger school communities and more informed and empowered students. Through PB, students learn democracy by doing it, coming together to assess school needs, develop proposals to address these needs, and vote to allocate school budget funds to their top priorities. PB offers youth-relevant, peer-engaged opportunities to collaborate and build mutual understanding with each other, as well as with adult anchors in their lives including teachers and school decision-makers. PB is proven to increase leadership and essential skills impacting students’ educational success and career readiness. Through PB, students learn to work collaboratively, develop research, interviewing, and surveying skills, as well as develop an understanding of the budgetary processes and basic budgeting.

The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP)’s mission is to empower people to decide together how to spend public money. We create and support participatory budgeting processes that deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective. Participatory budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which communities make real decisions about how to spend part of a public budget. We have launched PB in over 29 cities, empowering 400,000 people to directly decide how to spend $300 million in public funds. PBP has supported school-based and youth-focused PB processes since 2013. We have collaborated with the cities of Boston and Seattle and school districts in Phoenix and New York to launch youth processes that engage thousands.

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

The Participatory Budgeting Project

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