About Community Dollars

The Community Dollars initiative poses one key question: How would you spend $20,0001 to improve your neighborhood? This question was asked of participants, who subsequently created proposed improvement plans—one of which will ultimately be put into action.


In collaboration with the initiative’s Steering Committee, a group of Ward 4 and 5 residents (ages twelve to eighteen) was selected to brainstorm and identify potential local improvement projects. The group further developed its two best options into detailed proposals and budgets and presented them to their Wards’ wider community.

Why the focus on young people in Wards 4 and 5?

Takoma Park’s Wards 4 and 5, which include many people of color, have historically been excluded from political discourse. This project aims to:

  • educate youth about financial and budgetary matters and impress upon them the value of active participation in community and civic life; and
  • give youth a unique opportunity to directly influence improvement planning for their neighborhoods

Program Details and Timeline

The program officially launched on October 23, 2021 when several Steering Committee members held an informal meeting at Essex House with nearly twenty youth participants. A program overview was presented and potential participants, in turn, responded with a variety of initial ideas for projects.

In the spring of 2022, Steering Committee members conducted outreach and information sessions for potential participants and parents to learn more about the program.

On May 14, 2022, the program entered its next phase. Youth learned more about the program, asked questions, and filled out applications. Beginning in the summer, youth and Steering Committee members participated in monthly team-building activities. Proposal development took place over the next twelve months. While the Steering Committee assessed proposals to make sure they fit within both the budget allowances and the definition of a public improvement, Community Dollars has always been a youth-driven program.

A final community-wide vote for residents in Wards 4 and 5 will be open June 19, 2024 and continue through late August 2024. The winning proposal will be announced in early Fall 2024. Project implementation details and timeline will be shared as soon as they become available.

Proposal Design

There are two broad categories that project proposals fell under:

  • Vendor: Includes projects that require outside support such as the building of physical infrastructure.
  • Community Support: Includes projects that can be completed solely by community volunteers.

Within these categories, participants had the freedom to decide on projects they deemed important to their community. The Steering Committee welcomed creative ideas and fresh thinking.

The following are examples of possible projects and the subcategories they may fall under, many of which were considered by the group:

  • Wellness (e.g., childcare, outdoor exercise station, free provision of women’s hygiene products)
  • Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (e.g., financial literacy classes)
  • Food Security (e.g., community gardens, food pantries)
  • Environment (e.g., composting or recycling, Zero Waste education)
  • Infrastructure (e.g., improvements to recreation facilities, picnic tables)

Program Mission

Participatory budgeting is ultimately about bringing power to people. When people are invited to decide on their own needs and priorities, the larger community becomes more inclusive and resilient.

Community Dollars is a pilot project. We hope that government agencies and private developers will use similar concepts in their own endeavors. Though a lot of work remains to be done, this is an exciting moment.

Building a more inclusive Takoma starts with ensuring that development initiatives are community-driven.

How You Can Help

If you’d like to support Community Dollars (either through a financial contribution or supplying project materials) please contact us.

  1. Amount shown represents the budgeted funds for the pilot program. Final funding may be an amount higher or lower, depending upon the success of ongoing fundraising activities specific to the Community Dollars initiative as well as the final budget of the winning proposal.