Long hours, careful relationship-building, and hands-on community outreach have made New York City’s Participatory Budgeting process a successful experiment in civic engagement. In this post, Betsy Ribble (MPP ’17) explores what it will take to scale PBNYC without losing the qualities that made it work so well.
Read more posts on participatory budgeting here.
This piece by Hollie Russon Gilman, reposted from New America Weekly, calls on the American people to respond to the recent election by reengaging in civic life. A postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Russon Gilman has long been affiliated with the Ash Center, most recently as senior adviser to our Technology and Democracy Fellowship program.
Below is an excerpt from Hollie Russon Gilman’s 2016 book, Democracy Reinvented: Participatory Budgeting and Civic Innovation in America. A postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Russon Gilman has long been affiliated with the Ash Center, most recently as senior adviser to our Technology and Democracy Fellowship program.
Democracy Reinvented assesses the opportunities and obstacles of participatory budgeting (PB) and civic engagement using hundreds of interviews, survey research, process tracing, and field observations. Based on Russon Gliman’s PhD dissertation, the book is one of the first academic works to extensively analyze participatory budgeting in the United States and its efforts to mend our democratic state. Continue reading
This post excerpts from Building a Democracy Machine: Toward an Integrated and Empowered Form of Civic Engagement by Pennsylvania State University Professor John Gastil, the latest contribution to the Ash Center’s working paper series. Gastil is a leading scholar on deliberative democracy who headlined a spring 2015 panel discussion at the Ash Center on Citizens Initiative Review.
In Building a Democracy Machine, Gastil proposes a way to connect and unleash the latent potential of the dozens—and possibly hundreds—of available online platforms all aiming to facilitate civic engagement. With the intent of attracting feedback and collaborators, Gastil lays out both a vision and a practical plan for building a civic web portal that could generate the empowered deliberation and public legitimacy that healthy democratic governance needs. In the excerpt below, Gastil begins his paper by making the case for rethinking our current models of public consultation and engagement, mining the literature for what we have learned about designing effective deliberation and participation mechanisms, and highlighting some of the notable digital tools that would comprise the foundation of a new ‘Democracy Machine’. Continue reading
In this post, Juliette Keeley, MPP ‘17, explores the issue of elite capture in participatory budgeting processes. She highlights HKS Associate Professor of Public Policy Ryan Sheely’s randomized experiment in rural Kenya, which seeks to understand the links between mobilization, participatory budgeting, and elite capture. The study finds that mobilization is important in increasing participation, but may not prevent government officials, the wealthy, or other elites from co-opting the participatory budgeting processes in ways that serve their interests. More research and innovative solutions are necessary to ensure participatory budgeting enables everyday citizens, not elites, to decide how local funds are allocated. Follow our past coverage of participatory budgeting click here.
This post was originally published by Harvard Kennedy School. Katie Gibson profiles the work of Archon Fung, Linda Bilmes, Hollie Russon Gilman, and other Harvard Kennedy School faculty, fellows, students, and alumni who are involved in studying, teaching, and practicing participatory budgeting. You can read more of the Challenges to Democracy blog’s coverage of participatory budgeting in Boston, Cambridge, and beyond here. Continue reading
This post, originally published by the Ash Center, profiles recent Harvard Kennedy School grad Nada Zohdy, MPP ’15. As a student Zohdy studied the mechanics of new forms of citizen participation and engagement both close to home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and in the Middle East/North Africa. Zohdy now manages the OpenGov Hub in Washington, D.C., a co-working community where she interacts daily with people from across the globe who are working on the frontiers of open government. Read more about the Ash Center’s Democracy in Hard Places initiative, which seeks to understand why democratic institutions thrive in some countries while failing in others.
This post by Jane Wiseman, originally published by Data-Smart City Solutions, is based on her recent paper in an ongoing series published by Data-Smart City Solutions exploring data-related facets of civic engagement in today’s cities. In this paper, Wiseman explores strategies for governments that want to hear their constituents on how they can improve service delivery, prioritize their work, and more. Wiseman highlights great examples of cities and agencies employing two common platforms for soliciting and monitoring constituent feedback: surveys and social media. But the platform with the greatest untapped potential, Wiseman argues, is the 311 system that many cities now operate. “What if we went beyond asking 311 callers just about the call taker but also asked about the quality of service provided in response to their request?” Kansas City, Missouri, for example, uses every 311 interaction to assess the quality of services delivered by the city. Wiseman concludes with some key limitations and considerations for cities leveraging their 311 systems to assess and improve government performance. Download a PDF version of the full paper here. Continue reading
This post was originally published on the Government Innovators Network Blog. The Government Innovators Network is a marketplace of ideas and examples of government innovation for policymakers, policy advisors, practitioners, and researchers. The blog highlights successful innovations, features lessons learned from prominent academics, innovators and innovation experts, and public policy students from across the globe, and translates current research on innovation in the public sector and the future of innovation. Read more here.
The Roy and Lila Ash Innovations Award in Public Engagement in Government was a key component of the Ash Center’s Challenges to Democracy public dialogue series. PBNYC was selected from among 100 submissions from government-led innovations that demonstrate enhanced public engagement and participation in the governance of towns, cities, states, and the nation.
This post by Derek Pham continues our coverage of a new participatory budgeting (PB) initiative in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Residents were given the opportunity to decide how to allocate $500,000 between various capital projects. This post highlights the results and conclusion of its initiative, though which Cambridge hopes to cultivate a more diverse and participatory culture in local politics. Pham spoke with Michelle Monsegur, an analyst at the Budget Office who helped oversee much of the PB process. Monsegur shared her initial thoughts upon the recent completion of the city’s PB effort. Pham also reviews the city’s initial goals for the effort: make democracy inclusive; have a meaningful social and community impact; create easy and seamless civic engagement; and promote sustainable public goods. Continue reading
This column profiles five recent entries in Participedia, an open global knowledge community for researchers and practitioners in the field of democratic innovation and public engagement. For more ideas, read our review of Participedia’s top innovations of 2013. Even better, visit Participedia to join the conversation and explore over 400 experiments in new forms of participatory politics and governance.
This post by Derek Pham begins our coverage of a new participatory budgeting initiative in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. PB, as it is commonly referred to, was piloted by the city of Boston last year and resulted in the funding of $1 million to capital projects. Across the country, much of the investment by cities in PB is driven by the belief that it can catalyze changes in the relationship between the government and the governed for the better. Through PB, Cambridge hopes to cultivate a more diverse and participatory culture in local politics. Continue reading
This post continues our ongoing coverage of Boston’s first in the nation youth participatory budgeting initiative, which is soon starting up its second round. Read more about Boston’s Youth Lead the Change initiative here.
By Tara Grillos
In No Citizen Left Behind, Meira Levinson asserts “that there is a profound civic achievement gap between non-white, poor, and/or immigrant youth, on the one hand, and white, wealthier, and/or native-born youth, on the other.” She goes on to provide some guidelines for effective civic education to close this gap, emphasizing the importance of civic knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors. Continue reading
This post by Hollie Russon Gilman was originally published by Next City. We have been following the City of Boston’s first-in-the-nation youth participatory budgeting initiative all year. Read earlier posts from Russon Gilman and others here. Continue reading
By Richa Mishra
In December 2013, the White House included Participatory Budgeting as a key initiative in its Second Open Government National Action Plan. As a follow-up, in May 2014, the Office of Science and Technology hosted a day-long discussion on Participatory Budgeting among practitioners, academics and researchers, government staffers and funders. Around the same time, the Africa Research Institute published a report on a PB initiative in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The contextual details of these two events could not be more disparate and yet the key objectives and concerns revealed a striking similarity. Continue reading
This post by Hollie Russon Gilman is part of our ongoing coverage of Boston’s first-in-the-nation participatory budgeting initiative, which is distinct in that it is youth-focused and being driven by the mayor’s office. Read our earlier posts here and here. Continue reading
This post by Crosby Burns recounts the first session of a new Cities, Technology and Democracy Study Group at Harvard Kennedy School hosted by student groups Tech4Change and Regional, State, Local and Tribal Professional Interest Council, along with the Ash Center. The session featured HKS Professor Archon Fung and Chris Osgood and Shari Davis from the City of Boston. The subject was Boston’s first-in-the-nation youth participatory budgeting initiative, with a focus on the practical challenges of implementation from political leadership to performance indicators. Continue reading
By Hollie Russon Gilman, PhD
There is a general sense that young people don’t want to engage in politics. And yet, we are seeing young people increasingly using new technologies to express their civic identities. Maybe young people are engaging politically in new ways? From crowdfunding for good or using social media to convey political preferences, perhaps young people can help us imagine and innovate new relationships with traditional governance institutions.
Boston’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) is an interesting example in envisioning just what is possible. Continue reading