Boston Lets Teenagers Help Allocate Its City Planning Budget


Since 2014, Boston has received budgeting help from an unusual source: teenagers. Each year, the city lets Bostonians between the ages of 12 and 25 vote on how to allocate $1 million for new infrastructure projects. The Guardian reports that Boston’s Youth Lead The Change initiative is the first participatory budgeting initiative in the United States targeted towards young people.

Each year, Youth Lead The Change spends two months crowdsourcing ideas from young people around the city. Then, committees of “change agents,” led by teenage facilitators, meet up to eat pizza and pore over proposals. Finally, once agents have narrowed down the proposals to a few of the most promising ideas, they open it to a public vote for those in the teen to young adult sweet spot. Since the initiative began, similar youth engagement projects have popped up in Seattle and more recently, Baltimore.

According to The Guardian, the program was designed to teach young people about government processes, and simultaneously allow them to voice their opinions about issues affecting their communities. So far, winning proposals have included park projects aimed at making playgrounds more accessible to kids with disabilities, and an initiative to provide laptops to schools around Boston.

“It’s a truly transformative process for these young people,” former White House advisor Hollie Russon Gilman told The Guardian. “I joke that they come in for the pizza, but they stay because they’re amazed that they actually have decision-making power.”

Check out the short video profile of Youth Lead The Change above to learn more about the program.

[h/t The Guardian]

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