Grant Cycle 1:

The winner in our first grant cycle was Participatory Budgeting St. Louis (PBSTL), a project that engages residents in decisions about how public money is spent in their ward. PBSTL works with neighborhood organizations, alderpersons, and other non-profit organizations to help bring the power of democracy to community improvement.

Their Idea

In St. Louis, each ward is allocated a yearly budget for ward improvements. The budget is spent to improve things like sidewalks, streets, lighting, parks, etc. Usually the alderperson decides what projects get funded throughout the ward each year. Through participatory budgeting residents come together to share ideas on how they think the money should be spent, they create projects, then the entire ward gets to vote on which projects get funded for the year. It is a much more inclusive way of making community investment. It gives more power back to people and allows the community to take more control of the decision-making process than ever before.

Their Progress 

Hear from the Participatory Budgeting St. Louis Team:

The Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) in a non-profit organization in New York City that not only promotes participatory budgeting but helps cities navigate the process with consulting and guidance.
Funds from the Investl grant have been used to pay for technical assistance and training from the Participatory Budgeting
The goal of the neighborhood assemblies is to let residents come up with ideas on how we should spend part of the capital improvement budget.
Our biggest goal was to have a racially & economically diverse group and we achieved
that. Alderwoman, Christine Ingrassia, stated that over 25% of the attendees were people that she’d never seen before at another neighborhood function.
Since our intention was to activate residents that aren’t normally active in their community we decided to knock on doors in areas with a lower amount of registered voters and lower income areas in the ward.
In total, 35 people volunteered to take up this task as “budget delegates.” We will be working with these budget delegates from December-April to determine feasibility and cost for the ideas the residents created.
In October we began our neighborhood assemblies. It was great to watch residents from different neighborhoods within the ward discuss the needs in their area.
As we embark on St. Louis’ first ever Participatory Budgeting Process we are excited by the progress we’re seeing. We’re excited at the thought of truly expanding democracy and empowering the local community by giving them actual control of how their tax dollars are spent. Most of all we’re excited to think of how this process can grow into a demand that residents put on their government, to be included in the decision-making process, to be transparent, and to move beyond being “representative” and become more “participatory.”

Learn More and Stay in Touch

Follow PBSTL's progress on their website and on Twitter.