Empowering young people

Graham Connelly is feeling inspired by Boston’s empowerment of young people.

This July, I visited the Department of Youth Engagement and Employment in the City of Boston, Massachusetts. I learned about the Participatory Budgeting Project, launched in January, which gives young people the power to decide priorities for spending a $1m budget.

Thirty local organisations were involved in participatory rule-making workshops to design the process. Training was provided for young people and city staff who supported them. The young people aged 12 to 25 proposed ideas for community projects and then worked them up into concrete proposals.

Fourteen projects were put to a vote, with seven selected for funding. These included an art wall for urban artists, the purchase of Chrome books for three high schools, and, perhaps unexpectedly, a plan to install security cameras in a park. CCTV cameras can be controversial because of their association with surveillance, but the young people said their presence in the Dr Loesch Family Park and surrounding area would help the community feel safer.

Participatory Budgeting Project is a global phenomenon. Begun in Brazil, there are said to be around 1,500 projects world-wide, including two in England (London and Newcastle), according to the PBP website,  though no Scottish projects are listed.

A quick internet search threw up the PB Network website, which lists several projects in Scotland. I learned that the Leith Decides Participatory Budgeting Project voted on disbursing a £23K budget in February. Projects funded included community arts projects and a new mums’ get-together.

What seems special about the Boston project is the size of the capital budget made available and the fact that the decision-making responsibility was given exclusively to young people. I wondered what interest there might be among Scottish young people in taking on similar responsibilities.

Pictured: Graham Connelly in Boston

About our blogger

Graham Connelly is Research Lead for CYCJ. His specialist area of interest is the education of looked-after children and care leavers. Read more about Graham.