The Great Cities Institute is pleased to release the second annual evaluation report of the Participatory Budgeting Chicago (PB Chicago) initiative. The research effort examined the 2013-2014 PB cycle and sought to determine who participated in the initiative and why they chose to participate, to assess what new knowledge or skills participants gained as a result of their participation, and to evaluate which outreach techniques were most effective in encouraging participation.
Researchers administered 2,520 surveys to participants and systematically observed the PB process over the 2013-2014 cycle. Key findings include:
- More people of color, low-income individuals, and youth participated compared to the previous year’s cycle (2012-2013). In the 49th Ward PB vote, African Americans increased their rate of participation by 7% and lower-income individuals increased their rate of participation by 9% from Year One (2012-2013).
- Targeting youth at assemblies held in schools during school hours increased their engagement and turnout. Approximately 30% of 22nd Ward PB voters and approximately 10% of 49th and 45th Ward PB voters were under the age of 18.
- Over $1.6 million in additional funding beyond the commitment of aldermanic menu money was leveraged for community projects identified through the PB process. In the 45th Ward, for example, Independence Park will be renovated to be accessible to children with disabilities using $100,000 in funding from the PB Vote, $100,000 in privately raised donations, and $560,000 in State of Illinois funding.
- PB is becoming institutionalized into the City of Chicago government. In November 2014, the Mayor and City Council voted to fund the hiring of a new City of Chicago Assistant Budget Director whose primary task is to support alderman as they implement PB projects.
At the start of the 2013-2014 cycle, the PB Chicago City-Wide Steering Committee renewed three fundamental goals for the year: community building, equity, and inclusion. Research and evaluation data also demonstrate some success in achieving all three goals. Additional findings as well as detailed information and data on each of the three participating wards can be found in the full research report.
The 2014-2015 PB Chicago cycle is currently underway with a public vote coming up in April 2015. Stay tuned for the full public voting schedule so you can witness direct democracy in action!
About the Author:
Thea Crum, GCI Economic Development Planner: As an Economic Development Planner for GCI’s Neighborhoods Initiative, Thea works in collaboration with community-based organizations and university faculty, staff, and students to provide training and technical assistance on community and economic development projects. She is the lead staff person on the Participatory Budgeting Chicago initiative.