Participatory budgeting has been a hot topic on Shareable since our founding because it's democratic decision-making where it counts — money. Though thousands of cities — including Porto Alegre, Chicago, Toronto, New York, and Montreal — are using participatory budgeting to help citizens decide how a city budget is spent, a groundbreaking new guide created by the Participatory Budgeting Project aims to bring the process into classrooms.
With 18 lesson plans and six worksheets, the guide helps schools implement a process whereby students decide how a part of the school budget is spent. The process is designed to build relationships between students and staff, teach vital civic skills, raise awareness of community needs, and more. This rich learning environment is created as students cull ideas about what their school needs, develop appropriate proposals, and vote on which projects should be funded. Because participatory budgeting has proven successful in universities and other public agencies, bringing it to the classroom is a natural next step.
The guide's curriculum gives students opportunities to be involved from A to Z through developing project ideas, creating and presenting proposals, and implementing approved projects. Problem solving, public speaking, budget management, community awareness, group governance, and other skills are developed during the process.
There's arguably no better time to learn how to practice democracy than when we're young. And there may be no more valuable lesson once the basics are mastered. This visionary guide, the first of its kind as far as I know, opens the possibility that this valuable experience can be made available to millions of children if not more.