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Participatory Budgeting

The Office of Participatory Budgeting provides an official point of entry for Boston residents to contribute to the city's budget process. 

The Office of Participatory Budgeting (OPB) advances its mission by:

  • Furthering public engagement and direct democratic involvement;
  • Building collective capacity on issues of racial and social justice; and,
  • Aligning with the City's goal of achieving and embedding equity and inclusion into City practices.
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About Our Work

What is Participatory Budgeting?

Participatory Budgeting is a democratic process where community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Participatory Budgeting started as an anti-poverty measure in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Since then, it has spread to over 7,000 cities around the world.

Participatory Budgeting is a practice that deepens democracy, builds stronger communities, and creates a more equitable distribution of public resources. 

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Participatory Budgeting in Boston

In Boston, Youth Lead the Change was established in 2014 as a youth-led participatory budgeting initiative. The process is currently led by the Office of Youth Engagement and Advancement. It invests one million dollars of the City’s capital budget to give young people the power to decide how to spend it for the benefit of their communities.

In the 2021 Municipal Election, Boston voters approved a ballot measure to create the Office of Participatory Budgeting. The Office is charged with furthering public engagement on how the City’s budget is created and how tax dollars are spent.The Participatory Budgeting process is designed to empower constituents in working alongside the City in budget development.

What's Next?

OPB is currently establishing the structure necessary to begin the first City-wide participatory budgeting cycle in early of 2024. In the coming months, members of the External Oversight Board will assist in the creation of a rulebook, which will outline the policies and procedures for Participatory Budgeting in Boston.

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External Oversight Board

  • Betsy Cowan Neptune, Executive Director, BUILD
  • Esther Chong Weathers, Associate Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at the Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Khalid Mustafa, Coaching Supervisor, Fathers’ Uplift
  • Carla Stovell, Board Member, New England United 4 Justice
  • Jarret Wright, Director of Cybersecurity, Massachusetts Port Authority
  • Lisa Hy, Program Manager, Tufts Medical Center Community Benefits and Health Initiatives
  • Carolline de Paula, Director of Adult Education, Jackson Mann Community School
  • James Kennedy, Retired member of the Office of Budget Management, City of Boston
  • Marilyn Forman, Director of Community Organizing and Resident Engagement, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation
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