Youth Voice, Youth Choice – Seattle Participatory Budgeting
Location: Seattle, Washington, DC
Number of participants: over 3000
Sponsoring organization: The City Hall of Seattle
The current mayor of the city: Ed Murray
KEYWORDS: Youth / local governance / participatory budgeting
This work represents the case study for the first participatory budgeting project from the city of Seattle, starting in the later 2015, empowering youth with power to make influence on decisions about on the city’s development, which at the same time aims the establishment of PB in the City of Seattle. On January 2015, many public meetings were held in Seattle to explore the interests of establishing the PB within the city. In July of the same year, the Mayer, Ed Murray announced that the city hall would allocate $700,000 dollars from the budget, in favor of launching the citywide PB campaign called ‘Youth Voice, Youth Choice’. The aim of the project was to empower the younger generation, regardless of their age, to vote directly on how certain city money should be spent, which would indicate the fact that their vote is also important
Originating Entities and Letter from the Mayor.
The City Hall of the Seattle is always concerned about the improvement of the life style in the city, through establishing innovative, creative and new rightful programs. Those are the core principles why the local government has committed $700,000 of the 2016 budget to the Youth Voice, Youth Choice preparations, which in fact is the first Participatory Budgeting initiative in the history of the city. During the program, youth will have an opportunity of gaining the unique experience which is expressed as important in making the decision of how the City should spent a portion of the budget, creating more equitable and lasting outcomes within their communities. The City Hall retains much hope that; as many people, as possible will be involved in this project. PB is a growing national innovation, expanding the discussion by connecting with youth, many for the first time, in government and the democratic development. The more youngsters engaged, the more comprehensive and capable the outcomes will be. It would be ideal if you go along with us in Youth Voice, Youth Choice for this memorable activity in the City of Seattle.
The underlying goals of the administration for the project were:
- Giving the opportunity to youth people to exercise and improve their skills and knowledge in decision making.
- Empowering youth with important voice in government.
- Stimulating the other fund projects towards creating equality in the city.
- Inclusive democracy.
- To bring people to the table who don’t usually have a seat at the table when budgets are being made.
- establishing the first PB Initiative in Seattle’s history.
(Youth Voice, Youth Choice, 2015)
Given the fact that the Youth Voice, Youth Choice, was the first participatory budgeting project in the city, the special rulebook has been developed in December of 2015 by the steering committee, in order to avoid the confusion, which genuinely is accompanied by such innovation. Despite the fact that, participatory budgeting is often inspired by other similar events and experiences elsewhere, the beneficial side of existing the special rulebook gives the irreplaceable chance of providing the guidelines which reflect the unique needs, issues, and interests of the participants in the City of Seattle. The rulebook was designed mostly for the beginning stage, and it was proposed to remain the process in advanced.
The whole participatory process was guided by the steering committees, that included young people as well as adults, from the different institutions of the City. This advisory group regulates PB in Seattle and they were responsible of creating the following guidelines:
- Design and guide PB process
- Help plan and carry out idea collection efforts
- Recruit volunteers for outreach, assemblies, and the vote
- Distribute educational and promotional materials about PB
- Develop and execute outreach plans to mobilize broad, inclusive, and
- representative community participation
- Serve as facilitators for assemblies and budget delegate committees
- Serve as spokespeople for city-wide and local media
- Monitor project implementation
- Evaluate and revise the rules of the PB process
According to the rules established by the Steering Committee; anyone was eligible for voting on the project if they were between the age of 11-25; and fit in one of those circumstances: Live, Work, go to school, receive services, volunteer, or were the part of the program in the City of Seattle. Each participator could only vote for once.
The idea assemblies are the events where people are given the chance to brainstorm different opinions for the project they wish to carry out in their communities. In the City of Seattle seven assembly events were conducted on following times where without any restrictions, more than 3000 participators have attended:
- January 28 from 4 – 6 p.m. at Meridian Center for Health
- February 3 from 3 – 5 p.m. at UW Ethnic Cultural Center, Unity Room
- February 4 from 4 – 6 p.m. at Greenwood Library
- February 9 from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. at Douglass Truth Library
- February 10 from 4 – 6 p.m. at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
- February 18 from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. at New Holly Gathering Hall
- February 23 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Seattle Center Armory, Loft Room
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
The process had several key stages:
- Planning (November – December 2015)
The specially organized Steering Committee that has been established with a primary purpose of deciding the rules of the PB process.
- Idea Collection (January – February 2016)
At the first step, young people had to agree on what type of project would they like to see in their communities.
- Proposal Development (March – May 2016)
On the second stage volunteers, along with appropriate staff turned those ideas into the 19 more concrete proposals.
- Expos & Vote (May 2016)
Now that the choices have been made, young people were invited and empowered to vote on the final project list. More than 3000 youths aged 11-25 participated in May, 2016.
- Evaluation & Monitoring (June 2016 onward)
The final stage of the project directly involved the Implementation of the process.
Evaluation and Monitoring of Funded Projects
After the voting, the Steering Committee as well as other participants have met and evaluated the first stage of the PB, and through the joint effort they have decided the ways to improve it for the next year. Over the following months, Steering Committee members and participants will be in charge of monitoring the implementations of the funded projects.
Outcomes and Effects
The accomplishments of Youth Voice, Youth Choice have caused big ovations, happiness and joy for all participants involved. Such projects that usually costs little often have a remarkable influence on society, as it was the case for the Youth Voice, Youth Choice, which in fact has changed many vulnerable lives, and improved the involvements of youth in democratic governing. The project has identified the 7 most innovative winner idea. The votes were distributed in the following way; where the winner projects were funded by the City Hall of Seattle.
|Houses for people experiencing homelessness.
|Youth homeless shelter improvements||$ 42,000||1828|
|Job readiness workshops for homeless youth||$ 43,600||1517|
|Homeless children and youth liaison services||$ 70,400||1515|
|Wi-Fi hotspot checkout||$ 165,000||1377|
|Park bathroom upgrades||$ 205,000||1307|
|Safe routes to schools||$ 45,500||1306|
Regrettably, the data is not specified on what basis were the winning ideas practically implemented and an exact date they be fully completed. However, by January 2016, some of the winner projects are being carried out under the following recommendations: Youth collaborated with carpenters to build 10 tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness. The map has been created for public bathrooms in the city, and some of most needed bathrooms have already been repaired in parks. After all, as Sam Read states, they are all moving along, some faster than others. (Read, 2016)
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Ultimately, the PB project turned out to be much more entertaining. The participants generally were satisfied with the project. In fact, the judgments of the experiment turned out to be much more positive, then it was expected from the first PB event. The process revealed that young people are concerned about the homeless community, as well as equality issues and public safety. They are trying to support an innocent and generally care about their city’s amenities.
Youth has shown astonishing skills in the participatory process activities. The organizers as well as other audience were pleasantly amazed, by the capacity of the youth who contributed in the assemblies and the PB process for the City of Seattle. It turned out to be clear to the adults that youth is not an impediment to the assumption of collective responsibilities. But it was once additionally clear that, simply including youngsters is insufficient. Political will is demanding in receiving a motivation concentrated on youth. It is just along these lines that true democratic governance is guaranteed. The concrete tools as well as technique is necessary for the right execution of commitments and for mutual interests. Most importantly, the key lesson has acknowledged that; how valuable youth votes are, and how much influence do they have when serving the common good for their own city. In order to achieve that, it is crucial to provide equal opportunity for everyone in common programs, including youth. It is possible and thoroughly enjoyable to discuss the budget and public investment with youth, in fact, many of them rapidly become excited and, in many cases, end up involving their friends and family.
Additionally, the online poll conducted by ‘The Stranger’ website after the successful completion of the project; “Should Seattle use this kind of participatory process to decide more of the city’s spending?”; Showed that, 68.75% of people expressed a desire to participate in similar projects, for the future; “Yes! The more direct democracy, the better” (Herz, 2016). Conclusively, Seattle has joined the list of many other cities across the globe, that are using the BP processes.
- Youth Voice, Youth Choice. 1st ed. Settle: About Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, 2015. Available at: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/Neighborhoods/ParticipatoryBudgeting/Youth%20Voice%20Youth%20Choice%20Rulebook%2015-16.pdf [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].
- Herz, A. (2016). Seattle Youths Vote to Spend Nearly $300,000 of City Budget on Homelessness. [online] The Stranger. Available at: http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2016/06/15/24217154/seattle-youths-vote-to-spend-nearly-300000-on-homelessness [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].
- “Seattle Participatory Budgeting – Neighborhoods | Seattle.Gov”. gov, 2015. Available at: http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/programs-and-services/seattle-participatory-budgeting [Accessed 4 Nov. 2016].
- Read, S. (2016). Youth Voice, Youth Choice Project Update – Front Porch. [online] Front Porch. Available at: http://frontporch.seattle.gov/2016/11/10/youth-voice-youth-choice-project-update/ [Accessed 8 Jan. 2017].
Challenges with data collection
At the beginning the case seemed to me very interesting. Thus, I did not hesitate a lot for adopting the case. Data collection is critical when preparing the case about Participatory Budgeting. When carried out correctly, the data collection has a significant influence on the quality of research study. However, at some point during completing the assignment I faced the difficulty, where I found it to be very limited in terms of availability of broad information. Very limited data was posted on the Settle Government website; thus, it was also lacking in the google database. However, seeking more data patiently was resulted in success and I found the PDF Rulebook specially designed for the case, which helped me to finish the case.