The Community Dollars initiative poses one key question: How would you spend $20,0001 to improve your neighborhood? This question will be asked of participants, who will create 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) has been selected to brainstorm and identify potential local improvement projects. The group will further develop its three best options into detailed proposals and budgets to present 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 in October 2021 and is intended to run into 2023.
On October 23, 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. During the summer, youth and Steering Committee members will participate in monthly team-building activities. Proposal development will take place in the fall, and the Foundation expects to have at least three proposals completed by the end of 2022. The Steering Committee will assess proposals to make sure they fit within both the budget allowances and the definition of a public improvement.
A community-wide vote for residents in Wards 4 and 5 will occur in early 2023. The announcement and implementation of the winning proposal is expected to begin in the spring of 2023.
There are two broad categories that project proposals may fall 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 will have the freedom to decide on projects they deem important to their community. The Steering Committee welcomes their creative ideas and fresh thinking.
The following are examples of projects and the subcategories they may fall under:
- 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)
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.
- 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.