In the fall of 2019, the Healthy Places Student Group decided to launch the GSD’s first participatory budgeting initiative, focused on supporting projects that would make the GSD community healthier and advancing financial transparency and economic democracy at our school.
A Steering Committee comprised of GSD students (with support from two Healthy Places Design Lab Research Assistants) developed and implemented the project timeline below. This team created an RFP, supported the application process, developed a voting dashboard, got out the vote, and ultimately helped implement wining projects.
13 proposals were submitted in response to the RFP, 4 of which were funded by the Building Services and Student Services departments at the GSD without requiring a vote.* 9 proposals were put on the ballot, and 310 members of the GSD community voted, representing all programs, as well as staff and faculty, expressing their opinions on which projects would most meaningfully increase health equity at the GSD.
We are grateful to all the teams that submitted projects – each demonstrated great creativity in the ideas they put forward. We utilized the Stanford Participatory Budgeting Platform when compiling our ballot – their easy-to-use tool has been used to support participatory budgeting in cities all over the country. This tool allowed us to use ranked-choice voting, so that voters could support multiple projects. The Platform then weighted each person’s first/second/third choice, and created an overall score for each project. Results are shown below.
Voters were asked to name top factors that influenced their vote in a short follow-up survey. Top selected responses included connection to health (60%), the project’s scope (58%) and the project’s connection to equity (55%).
The Healthy Places Design Lab’s $5000 budget had the ability to cover the expenses associated with the top two projects, Green-in: Spaces for Plants and People and Increasing Exercise Opportunities at the GSD. However, due to the COVID19 pandemic and the closure of Gund Hall, we have had to postpone the implementation of the Green-in project until Fall 2020. Additionally, Student Services generously agreed to fund the costs of remote exercise classes created by the Increasing Exercise Opportunities at the GSD team, as well as the beginnings of the First-Generation Scholar-Practitioner Series. This freed up a significant portion of our budget for new uses.
Therefore, in the spring of 2020, we launched a $7,000 mini-PB process to meet student needs during the coronavirus with GSD’s Student Forum. More on our Spring 2020 COVID19 PB Process can be found here.
When you add up the value of all of these projects, our participatory budgeting process has influenced several thousand more dollars in addition to our $5K that went to vote. We are very proud of this, and hope to keep adding to that total! However, this is just 0.08% of the GSD’s total budget, which is shown below in the most detail made publicly available.
The participatory budgeting process aims for more financial transparency and economic democracy at the GSD. We hope that participatory budgeting can model what is possible for departments, student groups, and the GSD deans, when you let the people affected by these decisions weigh in on how they should be made. We are learning as we go, striving for more equity and collective leadership that goes beyond the traditional decision-makers or priority voices.