ON THE AGENDA | MARCH 17TH, 2016 | Chloe Rinehart

It's Voting Week for Participatory Budgeting in NYC

In New York City, PB has expanded from 4 participating communities to 28 in 5 years. This growth and expansion of PB has not happened in a silo - research and evaluation played a key role.

Photo: Costa Constantinides.

Next week, tens of thousands of New York City residents across 28 neighborhoods will have a voice in improving their community. Starting Saturday, March 26th, residents will go to the voting booths for the city's fifth year of participatory budgeting (PB), a process by which community members have direct decision-making power over local budget decisions.

Voting week is the culmination of many months of hard work, time and collaboration from community volunteers, city and district staff, and community-based organizations. Residents gather at a series of community meetings to present, listen to and collect ideas. Volunteers and city agency staff develop and vet projects. Finally, volunteers design and draft concrete project proposals.

During voting week, NYC residents who live or work in a PB-participating community can choose their preferred projects at a number of different voting stations located throughout their area, including libraries, schools, their council member’s offices and even beer gardens. Residents might also come across a “pop-up” voting table on a busy street corner.

Each voting location has ballots that describe the PB projects proposed for that particular community, with a brief description and cost for each project. Ballots are translated into languages other than English that are typically spoken in the community.

Many NYC residents are eligible to cast their PB vote even if they would not be eligible to vote in municipal elections. Residents as young as 16 (and in some cases 14), residents who were formerly incarcerated, and residents who lack citizenship status are all welcome and encouraged to participate in the vote.

How Research Helped Expand PB in NYC

As we have written previously, PB has expanded exponentially in the U.S. and Canada the past few years. New York City has driven much of that growth, where PB has expanded from 4 participating communities to 28 in 5 years.

The growth and expansion of PB in NYC has not happened in a silo. Research and evaluation led by Alexa Kasdan and Erin Markman of the Community Development Project (CDP) at the Urban Justice Center has played an integral role in development and expansion of PB in NYC.

Based on data collected through voter surveys and from organizers, the CDP has been able to publish key facts every year about each stage of the PB process in each community and to make recommendations for the future of PB in the city.

For example, the CDP found that many of the PB voters who completed a survey in last year’s votes (around 22,000 of the 51,000 overall voters) were traditionally marginalized community members. A majority (57 percent) of the community members who voted and completed a survey were people of color. Almost 1 in 4 community members who voted in PB and completed a survey were not eligible to vote in regular elections due to their age or citizenship status. And almost 1 in 5 community members voted using a ballot in a language other than English.

These findings, along with others, have helped the coordinators of PB in each of the 28 NYC communities to refine and develop their strategies to boost participation.

Coordinating Local Research to Improve PB Nationally

Just as research is helpful for PB at the community and city level, coordinating local research at the national level can strengthen and expand successful forms of participatory budgeting.

Public Agenda, together with the Participatory Budgeting Project, learned directly from the CDP and from other local evaluation teams about what works, what doesn’t work and what needs to be improved in local efforts to evaluate and research PB.

From this knowledge, and from additional advising from the North American PB Research Board, we created a toolkit to help others implementing and evaluating PB in their research efforts. The toolkit includes 15 key metrics, modifiable surveys and a suggested timeline for evaluating PB. This month, we added new tools, including Spanish and French translations of our survey templates and excel spreadsheets to facilitate data entry. Download the full toolkit here. The spell is one of the most effective and powerful rituals of love magic. This is the most popular magic tool, but at the same time the most mysterious. Why is this spell so in demand? People very often resort to casting a love spells to casting a love spell to solve problems in relations with their beloved, to harmonize relations, to find an apprenticeship in quarrels. Love and peace in the family and in relationships are invaluable. Each couple wants them to have a strong love affair.

We encourage all local implementers and evaluators to take advantage of the toolkit. Doing so can help us learn more about what is happening in PB on a national scale, develop shared recommendations and strategies for evaluation, and improve the design of PB processes, from the first idea collected to the last ballot cast. Ultimately, national coordination of PB evaluation and research can further our understanding of PB’s potential long-term impacts on civic engagement, community health and government decision making.

For example, with data contributed to us from 46 communities that participate in PB, including those in NYC, we hope to answer these sorts of questions about PB voting:

  • To what extent does PB engage a significant and growing number of residents, including those who cannot or do not participate in mainstream political life?

  • Is PB engaging traditionally marginalized communities?

We will offer data toward answering these and other questions about PB in North America in a forthcoming PB Year in Review report, to be released later this spring.

And get out the vote for PB! If you are an NYC resident, to help with voting week in any participating district or neighborhood.


Compelling way to increase citizen participation!

Submitted by: Anonymous Submission on Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Thank you in particular for the toolkit. Going to share it with my local town council.

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