City Invites Community to Decide How to Spend $500,000 as part of a Participatory Budget Pilot Program


Boston Skyline by Bob Coe

For the first time ever, the City of Cambridge will set aside $500,000 of the FY2016 Capital Budget for community members to allocate through a pilot participatory budgeting(PB) process.

The City is currently accepting applications from community members and non-profit organizations interested in serving on the PB Steering Committee.  The Steering Committee will meet approximately 8 times between November 2014 and April 2015. During the initial meeting, the Steering Committee members will help review the rules and structure for the PB process. During each subsequent phase of the process, the Steering Committee will be responsible for making key decisions about issues that arise.

Please submit your application online here, or drop it off at the Budget Department at City Hall (795 Massachusetts Avenue, 1st floor).  Applications will be accepted through Wednesday, November 5th at 5pm.  

Applications will be reviewed by the City of Cambridge to make sure that the Steering Committee represents all areas of the city, the city's diversity, and a variety of resource organizations.  Steering Committee members will be announced on Monday, November 10th.  The first Steering Committee meeting will be on Monday, November 17th

If you do not wish to join the Steering Committee, there will be many other opportunities to get involved in the PB process, such as by volunteering to host an idea-generation assembly, volunteering as a Budget Delegate, or by simply spreading the word to colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, and constituents.  Our goal is to get as many residents involved across Cambridge as possible. 

 We look forward to working with you on this exciting new initiative!

 Meeting Documents (October 28, 2014):


What is Participatory Budgeting (PB)?

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. 

Residents making real decisions about real money.

The goals of Cambridge’s pilot PB project are to directly involve residents in the budgeting and city-building process, foster civic engagement and community spirit, and help ensure that the City’s capital plan reflects the priorities of Cambridge residents.

How much money is Cambridge setting aside and what can it be used for?

The City is setting aside $500,000 in capital funds for the 2014-2015 pilot PB process.  These funds can be used for one-time, physical improvements or infrastructure projects that benefit the public.  

Examples include making improvements to playgrounds or parks, repairing streets and sidewalks, installing accessibility ramps, renovating public buildings, installing benches or street lights, creating a community garden, resurfacing a basketball court, etc.  What would you like to see in your neighborhood?

How will Cambridge’s PB process work?  What happens when? 

The City is partnering with the nonprofit organization the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) to help us organize Cambridge’s first PB process.  Learn more about PBP and its successful PB work in other communities at

Key phases of Cambridge’s 2014-2015 pilot PB process will include:


  • Creation of a STEERING COMMITTEE consisting of non-profit and community-based organizations as well as a few residents at large to guide the overall PB process (November 2014)
  • Residents brainstorm and submit IDEAS (December 2014)
  • Volunteer Budget Delegates turn ideas into concrete project PROPOSALS (January-February 2015)
  • City staff vet proposals for FEASIBILITY and COST (February-March 2015)
  • Residents VOTE on which projects they’d like the City to fund (March 2015)
  • RESULTS are announced and winning projects are included in the City’s FY16 capital budget (April 2014)
  • Projects are IMPLEMENTED (July 2015 onward)


 Please contact the City’s Budget Department at or (617) 349-3266. 

Visiting City Hall

Cambridge City Hall

795 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge MA, 02139
Ph: 617-349-4000
TTY: 617-349-4242

Hours of Service

Monday: 8:30am-8pm
Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5pm
Friday: 8:30am-12pm

Louis DePasquale
City Manager

Lisa C. Peterson
Deputy City Manager