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New York City distributes millions of dollars on community projects using a Czech participation platform

Company: Decision 21

Participatory budgeting in New York City is one of the largest and oldest PB processes in the USA, organized by the New York City Council. In cooperation with the Czech civic-tech company Decision 21, NYC gives communities real decision-making over more than $30 million in taxpayer money annually.

Real Money. Real Projects. Real People. Millions of New Yorkers across the boroughs of Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn annually have the opportunity to propose community projects and decide on the use of approximately $30 million that the New York City Council allocated for participatory budgeting. The finances are divided among the individual city districts which joined the project. In each of them, people decide on the use of $1 million. The money goes to improving local schools, parks, libraries, social housing, streets, and other public spaces.

Participatory budgeting has been organized by the New York City Council since 2011, the cooperation with the Czech civic-tech company Decision 21 which ensures online and paper voting started in 2016. „Participation allows residents to directly influence the process of distributing public finances and thus get involved in the running of the city. It motivates New Yorkers to meet and engage in civic life, share ideas, and vote on community projects. Although New York is a big city, our approach is very personal. Each participatory project is unique, and we prepare a tailor-made solution for each," explains Renata Klanova, Marketing & Communications Manager at Decision 21.

Participation as a tool for inclusion

As New York is the most populous city in the USA and represents different cultures and communities, participation has a more significant overlap. It serves as a tool for inclusion as it helps to involve all the communities that live in the city in the local government.

„Participatory budgeting empowers local people to get involved in their communities and make decisions about how public dollars are spent to strengthen our neighborhoods. I thank everyone who contributed to this process and encourage all eligible New Yorkers to vote for their top projects,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams in her speech.

The participatory process starts with New Yorkers creating and submitting ideas to improve their neighborhoods. They discuss the proposals at public meetings with budget delegates. With the support of city agencies and city hall employees, they evaluate the ideas and create concrete project proposals.

All citizens over the age of 11 can propose projects and vote on them, regardless of citizenship. Proposing and voting take place within individual city districts. Projects that receive the most votes during the nine-day vote week are implemented by the New York City Council.

Online voting and paper ballots

After collecting suggestions from New York residents, the voting phase begins, in which representatives of the Decision 21 company work intensively with the City Council. During Vote Week, New Yorkers 11 and older can vote for their favorite projects online on the Decision 21 platform, or in person at dozens of voting pop-up locations throughout New York City - in parks, schools, libraries, and individual offices of the City Council Members. Each person could cast multiple votes for projects they would like to implement.

Online voting is complemented by paper ballots that the Decision 21 team created in 22 language variants, including English and Spanish, but also Bengali, Yiddish, or Creole. Voting took place separately in each of the 29 city districts. In Manhattan's Upper East Side, they have completely different ballots with different projects than, for example, in the Bronx.

Paper ballots are scanned after the voting period and automatically added to the online voting results. „This reduced the error rate and saved New York City Council staff weeks of work. From the original several weeks, when the ballots were counted manually in the past, we now processed them within three days. Compared to previous years, we have also improved the system for recognizing scanned ballots," explains Van Doan from Decision 21.


Among last year's winning projects across the districts dominated improving equipment in New York City schools. For example, public schools in Brooklyn can look forward to new laptops, an improved school playground, or the reconstruction of social facilities. Students in the Bronx will get new air conditioning in the sports hall and a hydroponic science lab. So-called green projects improving city parks, planting trees in the streets, and other sustainable steps are also popular. In Manhattan, people voted for a new community garden and greening of the streets, in Queens they will repair water fountains at the request of the residents. Proposals for the construction and reconstruction of outdoor sports fields and playgrounds are also popular. „From upgrading schools to street trees to security cameras. No matter which project wins, it will have a lasting positive impact on our community,” said City Council Member Sandy Nurse about last year's PB Cycle.

You can read more about the Participatory Budgeting in New York City (PBNYC) here: https://council.nyc.gov/pb/

The Decision 21 team also cooperated with the NYC Civic Engagement Commission on the project The People's Money - the first-ever city-wide participatory budgeting in New York City. You can find more information about the project here: https://www.participate.nyc.gov/processes/Citywidepb


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