About Community Dollars

The Community Dollars initiative poses one key question is: How would you spend up to $20,000 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.

Who is eligible to participate?

The process will be led by young people (between the ages of twelve and eighteen) residing in Wards 4 and 5. Small youth groups will develop detailed proposals and budgets under the guidance of one or two adults.

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

The program officially launched in October and is intended to run through 2022.

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 participants, in turn, responded with a variety of initial ideas for projects.

Timeline

The Steering Committee will continue to meet with participants and others on a regular basis.

Proposal development and reviews will take place through spring 2022. The Steering Committee will assess proposals to make sure they fit within both the budget allowances and the definition of a public improvement.

In the summer of 2022, a community-wide vote will be conducted in Wards 4 and 5. Based on that vote, the winning project will be announced and funds will be disbursed to begin implementation.

Proposal Design

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)

Program Mission

Participatory budgeting is ultimately about bringing power to the people and ensuring that government spending aligns with community needs and priorities. 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.