What is "PB Speed Consulting?"
Every PB cycle, dozens of volunteer PB Delegates sort through the 1,000+ ideas collected during idea collection and turn 20 into concrete proposals for the PB ballot. This four-month-long exercise is called the “proposal development process,” and it is the second key phase of PB. While PB Delegates are experts in their community, they may not know all the technical information that goes into planning capital projects. To help fill in the gaps, the Budget Office hosts two “speed consulting” sessions, in which PB Delegates get the chance to sit down with staff from departments across the City – Public Works, Traffic, Community Development, the Library, the Schools, Human Services, Water, Electrical, etc. – to discuss potential PB projects and learn about government operations.
For PB Delegates, speed consulting is a valuable opportunity to get information that will help them decide which ideas should make the ballot. There are many factors that make capital projects more complicated than they might seem. For example, the City government must navigate a variety of state laws and local ordinances that can make a project more expensive and complicated than it would be if it were implemented on private land. There may be a reason a project implemented by another municipality in a warmer climate might not be able to stand up to New England winters. Speed consulting gives Delegates a chance to take a project that might not be feasible on its face and, working with department staff, find changes to make it work for PB.
The sessions are also popular among department staff, who regularly call it a favorite community outreach event. It provides an opportunity for staff to sit down with residents and discuss the intricacy of government operations and learn first-hand what residents would like to see their departments do. Delegates are often happy to hear when the answer to the question, “Can we do ____?” is “We already do!”
There also may be a reason why an idea that seems easy actually can't work for PB. For example, every year, there are many ideas submitted related to Memorial Drive and the riverfront. However, the land is under the jurisdiction of the state government, meaning that Cambridge doesn’t have the ability to implement any projects there. This distinction is not readily visible to residents who would not know about it without the chance to ask a question of department staff. Speed consulting provides that opportunity.
Finally, speed consulting is a favorite event for Budget Office staff. Connecting residents with City staff is a core component of the PB proposal development process and it always provides an opportunity for participants to learn more about their local government. Additionally, speed consulting is where ideas evolve into concrete proposals based on the new information provided to PB Delegates. Bringing city staff and residents together to eat cookies and have lively discussions about the specifics of PB capital projects is a win-win!
The Budget Team
PB9 Summer Outreach Recap
The 9th phase of Participatory Budgeting Idea Collection ended after 8 weeks of community outreach from June 1 to July 31. The Budget Office Intern Team began with distributing flyers at parks, city buildings, and local businesses across Cambridge. Afterwards, we transitioned to setting up idea collection tables and sparking conversations with community members. This summer, you may have seen our idea collection outreach table at one of the Cambridge libraries, at public events, or commercial markets. Our first public event in June was the Brazilian Dance and Drum Showcase at Greene-Rose Heritage Park. There, our team had the privilege of not only speaking with members of the public about ways to improve Cambridge, but the opportunity to watch a wonderful music and dance performance. Two weeks into Idea Collection, we were present at the Dragon Boat Festival, one of the biggest events of the summer in Cambridge, where we collected many ideas and chatted with community members, each with different backgrounds and connections to Cambridge.
Juneteenth was a big outreach weekend for the PB team, we tabled public celebrations at Greene Rose Heritage Park, the Central Square Library Branch, as well as the first ever Cambridge Juneteenth parade. Additionally, we had the opportunity to engage community members at the Fresh Pond Apartments Community Fair, Mayor Siddiqui’s Bollywood Night, and CX Summer Nights in both June and July, all of which were lively events.
In July, we began our youth center and door-to-door outreach. At our youth center PB workshop sessions, we loved speaking with young people and hearing how committed they were to building a more equitable Cambridge. Our team worked alongside the Cambridge Community Corps for our door-to-door outreach in The Port, North Cambridge, Wellington-Harrington, and Riverside neighborhoods. Despite high temperatures in July, we were fortunate to have a good contact rate with residents and were able to collect ideas and recruit volunteer PB Delegates. We finished the Idea Collection phase at the Cambridge Jazz Festival in Danehy Park. Our PB team was present for both days of the festival speaking with festivalgoers and listening to the spellbinding jazz performances.
Now that the Idea Collection phase has ended, the PB team is working closely with volunteer Cambridge residents (PB delegates) to narrow down the 1,320+ collected ideas to 20 for the PB ballot in December.
Thank you to everyone we spoke to this summer! Your commitment to PB helps the City 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. We hope you vote for your five favorite projects this December 1-11! Cambridge residents who are at least 12 years old (as well as students in the 6th grade), regardless of citizenship status, are eligible to vote in Participatory Budgeting.
The Budget Intern Team
Youth Center Outreach
This week, the Participatory Budgeting team is visiting Youth Centers asking young people, how they would like to spend $1 million to improve Cambridge. We saw happy faces and received many creative ideas!
Do you have an idea for a PB project? Be sure to submit it before the July 31 deadline!
Door-to-door PB outreach!
The PB team, in collaboration with the Cambridge Community Corps, has been conducting door-to-door outreach in neighborhoods around Cambridge collecting PB ideas and recruiting volunteers for the proposal development process. In the last week, our team visited The Port, North Cambridge, and Wellington-Harrington having conversations with residents, and we plan to be in Riverside next week! so far, we’ve received over 800 ideas from the Cambridge community, and we hope to collect many more ideas in the final week of the Idea Collection phase. The deadline to submit ideas is July 31. If you see us in our blue t-shirts, please come say hello and tell us what projects you’d like to see funded by PB!
Stay cool Cambridge!
Meet the Budget Intern Team for PB9!
Hello! We are Yash, Victoria, and Gabriela and we are the Budget Office Interns for the 9th Participatory Budgeting (PB) Cycle. Our role in PB is to conduct public outreach, assist volunteers, and most importantly, collect ideas and connect with the community about ways to improve Cambridge. We are excited to join the Budget Team because we’re interested in building stronger relationships with Cambridge residents through PB.
PB is a unique democratic process that allows us to come together and hear the ideas of all Cambridge residents, regardless of age, immigrant status, ethnicity, etc. Our goal is 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 and stakeholders. As we kick off this new cycle, we look forward to hearing all of your great PB ideas and seeing you in person at events around Cambridge. If you see us in our blue PB shirts, please don’t hesitate to say hello!
See you soon!
Yash, Victoria, and Gabriela
How would you spend $1 million to improve Cambridge?
For the 9th time since PB launched in Cambridge in 2014, Cambridge residents will be able to choose how to spend part of the City’s Capital budget. This cycle, the City has committed $1,000,000 to PB projects. Projects that won in past years include youth center upgrades, home essentials for newly housed residents, solar panels for the Main Library, laundry access in public schools, and many more!
To submit PB ideas to improve Cambridge, please click HERE, or:
- Call: 617-349-4270
- Email: [email protected]
- Mail: City of Cambridge Budget Office, 795 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139
- Drop off ideas at the back of City Hall in the white drop-box.
Cambridge residents who would like to volunteer and have a more hands on approach in the PB process can volunteer as PB delegates HERE.
PB Delegates are essential to Participatory Budgeting. PB Delegates are volunteers who work in the fall to research, evaluate, and prioritize the project ideas submitted by community members from August - November. These volunteers will ultimately develop the final project proposals for the annual PB vote in December. They do this through research, community assessments, and site visits, as well as through consultations with City staff regarding project feasibility and cost. This years' PB Delegate Orientation will be on August 4, 2022, from 6pm-8pm. Join us!
New Technology for the Cambridge Community Learning Center and the Main Library!
We are delighted to share that the winning PB7 proposal "Bridging the Digital Divide” ($95,000)" has been completed and installed at the Cambridge Community Learning Center (CLC) and the Main Library! To help address digital equity, the PB proposal called for purchasing 100 Chromebooks and 75 mobile hotspots for the Cambridge Community Learning Center and Public Library to better serve their adult learners and borrowers. As of March 2022, CLC learners and community borrowers at the Main Library can now access these new devices. Below is a photo of the new technology at CLC, for more pictures, please check out the project proposal page here!
Vote on PB Projects December 3 - 12
Participatory Budgeting voting is around the corner! The City of Cambridge invites residents age 12 and older (including all 6th graders) to vote on projects to improve the city from December 3-12, 2021. This process is open to everyone in the Cambridge community, including non-U.S. citizens and university students.
Starting December 3, Cambridge residents can vote online at: pb.cambridgema.gov.
Online voting will be text message authenticated; voters will enter their cell phone number on the PB website, a code will be sent to them via text message or email, and then they will enter that code online for one-time access to the ballot. The online ballot will be available in English, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Portuguese, Amharic, Arabic, and Bengali.
Residents can also vote over the phone by calling the Budget Office at 617-349-4270 during regular business hours: Friday, Dec. 3, from 8:30 a.m. - 12 p.m., Monday, Dec. 6, from 8:30 a.m.– 8 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, Dec. 7- 9, from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Friday Dec. 10, from 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Past winning PB projects have included musical instruments for CRLS students, universal swing sets in parks, laundry access in Cambridge public schools, pedestrian-controlled crosswalk lights, bilingual books for kids, extension of outdoor Wi-Fi, and many others.
Projects are eligible for funding if they:
- Benefit the public;
- Are capital projects (something bought or built);
- Are one-time expenditures that cost $1 million or less;
- Are implemented by the City of Cambridge on city property (streets, sidewalks, parks, libraries, schools, youth centers, senior centers, municipal buildings, etc.).
New Laundry Access in Public Schools!
We are proud to announce that the winning PB6 proposal "Laundry Access in Public Schools ($50,000)" has been completed and installed at Cambridge Rindge and Latin and Cambridge Street Upper Schools! The proposal called for installing washers and dryers for students who do not have easy access to laundry services to use for their clothing and necessities. As of October 2021, students at CRLS and CSUS can now access these new laundry units. Below is a photo of the new Falcons Laundromat at CRLS, for more pictures, please check out the project proposal page here!
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is back!
For the 8th time since PB launched in Cambridge in 2014, Cambridge residents will be able to choose how to spend part of the City’s Capital budget. This cycle, the City has committed $1,000,000 in FY22 capital funds for PB projects, doubling the allocation from $500,000 in last year's condensed and modified COVID-19 PB7 cycle.
Anyone interested in submitting PB ideas for how to improve Cambridge please click HERE, or:
Email: [email protected]
Mail: City of Cambridge Budget Office, 795 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139
Drop off ideas at the back of City Hall in the white drop-box.
Cambridge residents who would like to volunteer and have a more hands on approach in the PB process can volunteer as Budget delegates HERE
Budget Delegates are volunteers who work in the fall to research, evaluate, and prioritize the project ideas submitted by community members from August - November. Budget Delegates ultimately develop the final project proposals for the annual PB vote in December. They do this through research, community assessments, and site visits, as well as through consultations with City staff regarding project feasibility and cost. Budget Delegates evaluate submitted ideas on three main criteria: need, impact, and feasibility. This years' Budget Delegate Orientation will be on Tuesday, August 3rd from 6-8pm. The deadline to apply is August 1, 2021.
As Cambridge emerges from such a difficult and tumultuous period, it is our sincere hope that PB8 can serve as a vessel to re-animate our bonds of fellowship through collaboration and participation. We hope that Cantabrigians can get back to working together to tackle issues through PB with an innovative civic spirit that will form new relationships with community members and City officials. In doing so, not only will Cambridge bear the fruits of creative PB projects, but residents will be able to once again be able to claim and improve the parks, streets, and community spaces that make our City so special.