The 4th International Conference on Participatory Budgeting in North America, organized by the Participatory Budgeting Project in conjunction with the City of Boston, will take place from May 20th through the 22nd in Cambridge and Boston during the voting phase of the youth PB process.

The conference is a space for participants and organizers of PB processes around the world to share and reflect on their experiences, alongside interested activists, practitioners, scholars, elected officials, technology innovators and civic designers through plenaries, panels, workshops, and other activities. Programming will be organized around tracks on Youth, Research, and PB in Practice and will lift up themes of inclusion, diversity, tools/best practices, and how PB can contribute to larger movements for social change.

Conference participants will visit vote sites for Youth Lead the Change, The City of Boston’s PB process open to young people age 12-24 to decide how to spend $1 million. The program will also include concurrent sessions that include workshops, panel discussions, presentations, and skill shares to build the field of PB practice in North America and beyond.

See the list of presenters.


CONFERENCE PROGRAM


Locations

The Opening Plenary and VoteFest event will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the Tobin Community Center at 1483 Tremont Street (a short walk from the Roxbury Crossing T station on the orange line).

Breakfast and registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the 5th floor of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman building at 15 Eliot Street. You’ll see the elevator when you enter, and there will be staff to help direct you.


Download the PB Conference Program (PDF)


Friday, May 20th

  • Trainings 9:30-5:00 | Harvard Kennedy School – Taubman building
  • Opening Plenary/Youth Lead the Change Votefest 6:00 – 8:30  | Tobin Community Center
    The event will be followed by a gathering at nearby Puddingstone Tavern, at 1592 Tremont Street.

Saturday, May 21st


Sunday, May 22nd


Concurrent Sessions 1

1.1 Expanding Democracy – Participatory Budgeting in Action
SESSION NOTES
Room: Nye A, B, & C – Taubman
Description: For those marginalized in the mainstream political process, or forced to live in the shadows due to their citizenship status, participatory budgeting offers the tangible prospect of democratic participation, in a practice that directly impacts people’s lives. Each municipality represented on the panel will highlight their ability to engage citizens that do not traditionally participate in our democracy. Budgets are moral documents and people in cities across the United States are recognizing that budgets are democratic documents as well. This session will speak to both the participatory budgeting process and the greater democratic impacts and outcomes in traditionally marginalized communities.
Speakers: Julian Morales (New York), Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (Chicago), Alderwoman Megan Green (St. Louis), Council Member Rex Richardson (Long Beach)
Facilitator: Sarah Johnson (Local Progress, Center for Popular Democracy)


1.2 When and how does PB data matter?
SESSION NOTES
Room: Allison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: Evaluators and researchers around the US are developing research projects, collecting and analyzing data and presenting findings to better understand how PB is spreading. Evaluations are typically grounded in the needs of communities, and they feed back findings to PB implementers to improve the implementation of processes over time. But what do implementers think about PB evaluation and research? How helpful have these findings been in their practice? And how can we use implementers’ perspectives and experience to improve evaluations and research and the communication and sharing of data? This session will dig deep into these questions and encourage a frank conversation between PB implementers, researchers and evaluators across the US.
Speakers: Francesco Tena (City Manager, Mayor’s Youth Council, City of Boston), Alyssa Alford (Administrative Analyst, Office of the City Manager, City of Vallejo), Jeana Franconi (Budget Director, City of Cambridge), Ivan Luevanos (Senior Director, Community Engagement Division, New York City Council), Ismael Cuevas (Chief of Staff, Alderwoman Susan Garza, City of Chicago 10th Ward)
Facilitator: Carolin Hagelskamp


1.3 Real Collaboration with Young People
SESSION NOTES
Room: Malkin Penthouse – Littauer
Description: This panel will explore challenges, successes, and lessons learned about true inclusion of young experts in processes to create deep community change. Moving away from the language of youth as future leaders, we will discuss how to harness their ability to lead today. Takeaways will include strategies for how to improve youth engagement in your process and create meaningful opportunities for collaboration.
Speakers: Ashley Brennan (Arizona State University), Silaka Cox (Rockaway Youth Task Force), Stephen LaFume (Youth Lead the Change), Catherine McBride & Kiyana Slade (Red Hook Initiative), Mares Asfaha (Youth Voice, Youth Choice), Meghan Greeley (Generation Citizen)
Facilitator: Shari Davis (City of Boston)


Concurrent Sessions 2

2.1 PB in Cities and Districts
SESSION NOTES
Room: Starr Classroom – Belfer
Description: PB is taking root in cities of varied sizes and political structures. Learn what it took to launch PB in Greensboro, NC, Long Beach, CA and Toronto, ON, and the successes and challenges of each in their pilot years. What tools and strategies for community engagement and evaluation were adapted from other cities to fit the local context? What resources and practices are needed to expand, institutionalize and deepen the impacts of PB in these diverse cities?
Speakers: Spoma Jovanovic and Vincent Russell (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), Anita Cafiero (Greensboro Steering Committee), Ranata Reeder (Participatory Budgeting Project), Alyzza May and Fanta Dorley (Greensboro Budget Delegates), Gary Hytrek and Andres Temblador (California State University, Long Beach), Councillor Shelley Carroll (City of Toronto)
Facilitator: Jennifer Godenzo (Participatory Budgeting Project)


2.2 PB in Small Cities and Towns
SESSION NOTES
Room: Land Classroom – Belfer
Description: The city of Saint-Basile-le-Grand, a municipality of 17,000 residents located in the suburbs of Montreal, recently completed a second cycle of Participatory Budget and is committed to a third one in 2016. The Montreal Urban Ecology Center will explore the innovative approach to PB in Saint-Basile-le-Grand, and will discuss the specificities of the implementation in the Canadian context and look at both challenges and what creates conditions for success.
Speakers: Judith Bourque (Dieppe), Tristan Bougie and Isabelle Gaudette (Montreal Urban Ecology Center)
Facilitator: Isabel Luciano (Participatory Budgeting Project)


2.3 PB in Schools
SESSION NOTES
Room: Malkin Penthouse – Littauer
Description: Participatory Budgeting (PB) is often regarded as a process for determining public budgets via institutions of local or state government. But PB can empower people in a variety of institutional settings, including schools and school districts. This session will feature participants and coordinators from Chicago’s Sullivan High School to share their experience with school PB. How are youth designing and experiencing participatory democratic processes in their high schools? What is the role of teachers, administrators, parents, staff, and community partners in these processes?
Speakers: Jorge Pule (Mikva Challenge), Jazeline Rodriguez, (Sullivan High School), Amanda Long (Embarc Chicago), Maria Hadden (Participatory Budgeting Project)
Facilitator: Ginny Browne (Participatory Budgeting Project)


2.4 PB in Colleges and Universities
SESSION NOTES
Room: T-275 Kalb – Taubman 
Description: This session will allow attendees to learn best practices and implementation methods to develop a successful participatory budgeting experience with college students. Presentations will focus on the overwhelming success of PB at Palo Alto College, a school in a traditionally underserved part of San Antonio, Texas; lessons from the operationalizing of Queens College’s first-ever PB process, and students’ engagement around PB with the wider CUNY community, and the empowering of actors who normally do not participate in the decision-making process through the implementation of PB at The Facultad de Ciencia Política y Relaciones Internacionales of UNR in Argentina.
Speakers: Cintia Pinillos (National University of Rosario), Carmen Velasquez (Palo Alto College), Alexander Kolokotronis (City University of New York), J.A. Strub (City University of New York)
Facilitator: Michael Menser (Participatory Budgeting Project Board President)


2.5 PB in Public Housing
SESSION NOTES
Room: Allison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: How do you start PB in public housing and what can it accomplish? What’s unique about it? Community Voices Heard, the outreach partner for PBNYC, will share experiences advocating for PB in public housing in New York City. Toronto Community Housing manages the longest-running PB process in North America. Representatives from Toronto Community Housing Corporation will explain the process and how it works in Toronto, sharing both challenges and lessons learned for a long-running PB process in public housing.
Speakers: Gail Johnson, Bernadette Thomas (Toronto Community Housing), Aaron Jones, (Community Voices Heard)
Facilitator: Melissa Appleton (Participatory Budgeting Project)


Concurrent Sessions 3

3.1 Youth development approach (Workshop)
SESSION NOTES
RoomA, B, & C – Taubman
Description: In this workshop, a presentation defining the positive youth development approach will be followed by activities exploring positive youth outcomes, youth participation, and adultism, three of its primary components. Participants will be able to interact with the presenters and each other and share experiences and challenges in supporting youth as resources and promoting effective youth development programming. The session will target adults working with youth, and will focus on engaging youth in adult focused initiatives, as well as youth programs.
Facilitator: Laurie Jo Wallace (Health Resources in Action)


3.2 Making Community Data Accessible
SESSION NOTES
Room: T-275 Kalb – Taubman 
Description: In PB, participants are empowered to make real decisions about real money for their communities. But in order to make informed and equitable decisions, participants must do research and have access to information and data about their communities. In this session, panelists will present exciting and useful resources for getting the data in the hands of communities who need it most, and will present strategies for making this data accessible to people of all backgrounds.
Speakers: Rebecca Gluskin (Measure of America), Derek Eder (DataMade), Abbie Langston (PolicyLink), Drew Zachary (White House Domestic Policy Council)
Facilitator: Aseem Muji (Participatory Budgeting Project)


3.3 Institutionalization: PB for the Long Haul
SESSION NOTES
RoomAllison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: This panel discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities that arise as PB develops from an experiment to a regular and lasting part of local governance. How does this transition happen? What impact can it have on the growth and transformative potential of PB? And what strategies can we use to sustain, deepen, and expand participation? To preserve flexibility and overcome opposition? To ensure participatory governance of the PB process itself and to craft effective arrangements for process implementation?
Speakers: Shari Davis (City of Boston), Gabriel Hetland (SUNY Albany), Isaac Jabola-Carolus (The Graduate Center, CUNY), Gail Johnson (Toronto Community Housing), Tarson Nunez (Fundação de Economia e Estatística, Porto Alegre)
Facilitator: Isaac Jabola-Carolus


3.4 Participatory Budgeting in Europe in the Digital Age: Paris and Funchal
SESSION NOTES
RoomStarr Classroom – Belfer
Description: This presentation will demonstrate how cities who engage in participatory budgeting have used digital platforms to accelerate adoption and to engage a broader citizen base. Through several examples, including the Paris experience (and the experiences of other smaller French towns), we will outline the deployment phases and key success factors to be considered when implementing a digital platform for participatory budgeting. We will also hear about how lessons learned through digital engagement and outreach tools used for PB in Funchal, Portugal.
Speakers: Alexandre Laing (Bulb in Town, Tudigo, Paris Participatory Budgeting Initiative), Domingos Rodrigues (Councillor, Funchal City)
Facilitator: Josh Lerner (Participatory Budgeting Project)


Concurrent Sessions 4

4.1 Best Practices: Accessibility, Diversity and Language
SESSION NOTES
RoomT-275 Kalb – Taubman 
Description: How does a city engage diverse language communities, a common concern for PB around the country? Hear about one creative project developed to increase participation of diverse language communities in Greensboro, NC, for its inaugural PB vote. And learn about key obstacles to accessibility and language inclusion seen in the 5th cycle of PB in New York City.
This session will highlight the successes and challenges of various outreach strategies and processes to ensure inclusion of historically underrepresented community members.
Speakers: Spoma Jovanovic and Vincent Russell (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), Erin Markman (Community Development Project, Urban Justice Center)
Facilitator: Ranata Reeder (PBP, Greensboro)


4.2 PB and its Cousins
SESSION NOTES
RoomAllison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: Participatory Budgeting isn’t the only way to open up decisions about public budgets. We’ll visit the extended family of PB , including Priority Based Budgeting, budget simulator games and other “cousins” in deliberation and public engagement. How have these “cousins” complemented and preceded PB in communities? What elements that can be be adapted or adopted to improve current PB practice?
Speakers: Marcia Godwin (University of La Verne), Won No and Daniel Schugurensky (Arizona State University), Richard Frieder (formerly Hartford Public Library), Linda Bayer (City of Hartford)
Facilitator: Jennifer Godenzo (Participatory Budgeting Project)


4.3 The Importance of “Place” in PB Processes
SESSION NOTES
Room: A & B – Taubman
Description: Each community is unique and desires to tailor their participatory budgeting process to meet the needs of their community and engage its Members. A focus on “place” within the participatory budgeting process can provide a deeper understanding of each community, increase a community’s ability to realize its potential and vocation and to tackle deep, systemic issues.
Speakers: Michael Menser (Brooklyn College, CUNY Graduate Center), Erin Sanborn, Bill Reed (Integrative Design, Inc. and Regenesis)
Facilitator: Maria Hadden (Participatory Budgeting Project)


4.4 Democracy in the Workplace: Participatory Budgeting within Organizations
SESSION NOTES
RoomStarr Classroom – Belfer
Description: Participatory budgeting isn’t only for cities, schools, and big public institutions–organizations can do it too! In this session, speakers will describe examples of PB and other democratic practices within non-profit and social impact organizations. We’ll then launch into a full-group discussion to imagine how participatory budgeting could and should work within different kinds of organizations, like businesses, non-profits, unions, and co-ops.
Speakers: MJ Kaplan (Loomio, Enspiral, Cobudget), Aseem Mulji (Participatory Budgeting Project)
Facilitator: Isabel Luciano (Participatory Budgeting Project)


Concurrent Sessions 5

5.1 Comprehensive Tech Platforms for PB
SESSION NOTES
RoomMalkin Penthouse – Littauer
Description: Participatory budgeting is a complex engagement process that involves coordination of many moving parts with thousands of people: communicating with participants online and offline, delivering them easy to understand data and information, and tracking the outcomes of their participation through the whole the PB process. How can technology make PB better and easier for all participants, including keeping government accountable from start to finish (and beyond) and connecting community members with one another? Hear from groups around the world that are developing comprehensive technology platforms to strengthen citizen participation, including EMPATIA, Civic Budget, and Democracy 2.1.
Speakers: Lex Paulson (D21), Giovanni Allegretti (Empatia), Migle Bareikyte and Cristhian Parra (Civic Budget)
Facilitator: Jennifer Godenzo (Participatory Budgeting Project)


5.2 Budgets for Black Lives (Presentation and Workshop)
SESSION NOTES
Room: Allison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: This session will focus on the intersection of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and public budget practices in the U.S. Presenters will highlight examples of local groups engaging in campaigns for economic justice and discuss how participatory budgeting could be a tool used to achieve movement goals. The session will highlight campaigns from Madison, WI, St. Louis County, MO and Chicago, IL, focused on achieving change through to participatory budgets.
Speakers: Maria Hadden (Participatory Budgeting Project), Rossanna Mercedes (Participatory Budgeting Project)
Facilitator: Maria Hadden and Rossanna Mercedes (Participatory Budgeting Project)


5.3 Best Practices: Advocacy to Win PB
SESSION NOTES
RoomA & B – Taubman
Description: What does it take to win PB in a new city? In Buffalo and Greensboro, PB was won through long advocacy campaigns. In this session, we will hear from grassroots organizers and a council champion from these cities about the strategies they used to build support among residents and electeds, the challenges they faced, and the lessons they learned for successful PB advocacy. We will also hear from researchers at Public Agenda about the results of new study of U.S. elected officials’ perspectives on PB. What motivates elected officials to launch PB? What benefits are they seeing from PB, and what concerns do they have about sustaining these efforts over the long term?
Speakers: Natasha D. Soto (Clean Air: Organizing for Health and Justice), Sean Mulligan (Councilman David A. Rivera’s Office), Ranata Reeder (PBP, Greensboro), Carolin Hagelskamp (Public Agenda), Rebecca Silliman (Public Agenda)
Facilitator: Ginny Browne (Participatory Budgeting Project)


5.4 PB & Crisis
SESSION NOTES
Room: T-275 – Taubman
Description:Leaders from Brazil, Puerto Rico, and the US talk share experiences and lessons learned for implementing PB amidst government crises.
Speakers: Michael Menser, Eva Prados, Tarson Nunez


Concurrent Sessions 6

6.1 Welcome to EMPAVILLE: An Interactive Workshop on ICT Solutions for PB
SESSION NOTES
RoomA, B, & C – Taubman
How can technology help facilitate and evaluate participatory budgeting? What does multi-channel participation look like in practice? Find out by playing a new role-playing game called EMPAVILLE, developed by Empatia, a consortium that aims to produce the first comprehensive technology platform to make PB better and easier for all participants. As a player in this session, you will have the opportunity test out various tools and modules of the Empatia platform like electronic kiosk voting and reporting modules, all while role-playing an active citizen in the fictional metropolis of EMPAVILLE.
Facilitators: Giovanni Allegretti, Michelangelo Secchi, Luis Cordeiro (Empatia)


6.2 Engagement and Outreach Roundtable
SESSION NOTES
Room: T-275 Kalb – Taubman 
Description: Inclusion is a fundamental pillar of PB and effective outreach is the key to having more representative and diverse participation. How do you go about reaching beyond the “usual suspects” and engaging folks who are traditionally underrepresented in government? How do you breakdown the common barriers to public participation? Join this roundtable discussion to gain insight on engagement and outreach best practices and to share your experiences as well! This will be an informal discussion where everyone will have the opportunity to share their experiences, expertise and questions.
Facilitators: Anita Cafiero (Greensboro), Aaron Jones (Community Voices Heard), Esther DeVore (Community Voices Heard), Mary Regan (PBP, Cambridge 2014-2015)


6.3 Voting Tools for PB
SESSION NOTES
RoomMalkin Penthouse – Littauer
Description: Voting is one of the most exciting times of the participatory budgeting process, when residents get to come together to decide on projects that they themselves have developed. Building on innovations in more traditional voting experiences, the last few years have seen a burst of experimentation and innovation in making PB voting easier, more accessible, and more enjoyable. In this session, we will hear from some of these innovators: The Smart Voting system allows PB processes to prioritize tens, hundreds, and thousands of proposals in one step, using the wisdom of the crowd; Voatz is a new mobile and civic tech tool that better engages citizens in PB; We’ll hear more about how each of these tools work and discuss their benefits and challenges.
Speakers: Ashish Goel (Stanford Crowdsourcing Democracy), Asher Novek (D21), Volker Vorwerk (Smart Voting), Nimit and Simer Sawhney (Voatz), Michelle Monsegur (Cambridge)
Facilitator: Isabel Luciano (Participatory Budgeting Project)


6.4 When does Participation Lead to Empowerment?
SESSION NOTES
RoomAllison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: Proponents of participatory budgeting, which gives residents control over public budget funds, often claim that it will help to “empower the marginalized”. Yet the nature of the link between participation and empowerment is poorly understood. This session will feature activists, scholars, and practitioners in answering the question of the panel, “Does Participation Lead to Empowerment?”, in diverse contexts including a “socialist city” in Venezuela, PBNYC, and elsewhere. Following these presentations the facilitator and panelist will engage with everyone present to collectively think about whether, how, and why participatory experiments like PB lead to empowerment.
Speakers: Gabriel Hetland (SUNY Albany), Maria Hadden (Participatory Budgeting Project), George Nakkas (Brooklyn College), Alexander Kolokotronis (City University of New York), Claudia Galicia (Sunset Park Latino Democrats)
Facilitator: Ginny Browne (Participatory Budgeting Project)


6.5 Tour of Funded Projects in Cambridge and Boston
Facilitators: Francesco Tena, Shari Davis (City of Boston)


Concurrent Sessions 7

7.1 PB Games
SESSION NOTES
RoomA, B, & C – Taubman
Description: The Big Easy Budget Game enables any New Orleans resident to create his/her version of the city’s entire budget, typically in less than 15 minutes. In addition to being an educational tool, the results are compiled into the People’s Budget and provided to city government at budget time, making it an ideal compliment to Participatory Budgeting. The Game has been designed to be replicable for any city in the world. The workshop will include playing the Game and learning how to adapt it for other cities. @Stake is a digital card game that fosters democracy, empathy, and creative problem solving for civic issues. Players take on various roles, create questions based on real life issues, and deliberate over solutions that incorporate multiple stakeholder appeal. All participants pitch their ideas under a time limit and one of the players, “The Decider” chooses who has the best idea, awarding points to the winner. @Stake facilitates creative ideas, empathy, and learning about local issues through a playful, safe approach. This workshop will demo some of the game and discuss tips for implementation.
Speakers: Eric Gordon, Becky Michelson (@Stake Game – Engagement Lab, Education Arcade, Emerson College), Jason Haas (MIT), Keith Twitchell, Kelsey Foster (Big Easy Budget Game, Committee for a Better New Orleans)
Facilitator: Josh Lerner (Participatory Budgeting Project)


7.2 PB in Film
SESSION NOTES
RoomMalkin Penthouse – Littauer
Description: Count Me In follows the stories of ordinary Chicagoans who are part of an innovative experiment in direct democracy—one that empowers them to propose and vote directly for publicly funded projects in their neighborhoods. As support for participatory budgeting begins to spread across the United States, Count Me In offers an engaging look at the complex and riveting task of revitalizing democracy from the ground up. And, in the context of New York City’s steadily increased investment in participatory budgeting since 2012, Public Money follows the process over one year in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park – a diverse neighborhood of Mexican immigrants, Chinese immigrants and white gentrifiers – and asks, what happens when community members come together to discuss and decide what development should look like in their neighborhood?
Speakers: Jay Sterrenberg (Meerkat Media), Ines Sommer (Count Me In), Maria Hadden (Participatory Budgeting Project)
Facilitator: Maria Hadden (Participatory Budgeting Project)
PBP Room Monitor/Tech/Notetaker: Rossanna Mercedes (Participatory Budgeting Project)

7.3 Best Practices: Steering Committees
SESSION NOTES
RoomAllison Dining Room – Taubman
Description: What makes an effective and empowered PB steering committee? This will be a panel discussion of steering committee members about their PB experiences multiple cities – from large citywide processes to smaller district-level processes. The discussion will focus on the successes and struggles steering committee members face in governing local processes while serving as the connecting point between PB implementers and participants. What best practices are common across local sites? Where do experiences differ? Speakers will share lessons learned and engage participants in collective problem solving.
Speakers: Esther Idassi (Greensboro), Catherine McBride (Red Hook Initiative, Co-Chair PBNYC), Aaron Jones (Community Voices Heard, Co-Chair PBNYC), Joni Ricks-Oddie (PB District Committee Co-Chair, Long Beach, CA), Kelly Dolan (Cambridge)
Facilitator: Ginny Browne (Participatory Budgeting Project)


7.4 Launching a PB Network
SESSION NOTES
Room: T-275 Kalb – Taubman 
Description
: Are you working on a PB process and eager to learn more from your peers in other cities? Many countries and regions have successfully launched PB Networks, composed of cities and institutions that are implementing PB and seek to improve their work through peer-to-peer learning and collaboration. PBP is planning to launch a North American PB Network, to help expand and deepen PB. At this session we will learn about international experiences with PB networks and discuss key questions for a North American network.
Speakers: Deise Martins (Brazilian PB Network), Lena Langlet (Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions), Shari Davis (City of Boston)
Facilitator: Donata Secondo (Democracy Fund)