What is Participatory Budgeting?
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is grassroots democracy in action. Participatory Budgeting was first implemented in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1989 by the socialist Workers’ Party known as Partido dos Trabalhadores. The political party sought to bring its decentralized and democratic party into government and thus PB was born. Rather than budget details being decided in secret behind closed doors, PB allows everyday people to engage with their government and decide how their public dollars are spent. In New York City, our city government sets aside a portion of the budget that individuals Council Members can decide to use for PB. Every day people in those districts can submit ideas for projects they’d like to see, vote on their favorites, and ensure their priorities get funded by their public dollars. Cities around the world (from Barcelona to Seoul) engage in this form of direct democracy and budget justice, where government and people work together to allocate resources to community needs.
PB started in NYC right here in the 39th District as one of the first neighborhoods in the United States to engage in this form of direct democracy. Participatory Budgeting is also personal for Council Member Shahana Hanif, who led PB while working as the Director of Organizing and Community Engagement for the 39th. Council Members Hanif knows that PB is an important pathway to leadership for young people, and communities historically excluded from governing.
How To Get Involved
Participatory Budgeting Cycle 12 is underway! This year, our focus of PB is Climate Justice, so we’re focusing on developing ideas on how to address local climate problems right here in District 39. You can submit an idea online on the PB map here.
The next step in the PB process this year is convening a group of community members to deliberate and decide on the projects that will go on the ballot! This “Civic Assembly” will have the opportunity to hear presentations from climate experts, government agencies, and Community Based Organizations before discussing collectively which projects will go on to the PB ballot. This model is based on a form of deliberative democracy known as the Citizens Assembly, you can learn more here. We’re asking community members to nominate four people from your community (including yourself if you are interested!) to participate in the Civic Assembly! After the nomination window closes, we will randomly select delegates from the nominee pool to create the final group (taking demographic and geographic information into consideration). You can nominate folks with this form. The time commitment for the Civic Assembly will be four meetings, each will be two hours long, from mid-January to early February.
We’re also looking for dedicated volunteers to help set up events, facilitate small group discussions, and get out the vote. Sign up here to volunteer for Participatory Budgeting!
Past Projects Examples
Here are some examples of past projects that you helped get funded!
1: Storytelling garden with micro-amphitheater at the Park Slope Library
2: Self-Defense Classes for young Muslim women and allies
3: New “Lake Mess Monster”, an aquatic weed harvester for Prospect Park!