The Ballot Box Project

Northeast Shores Development Corporation

Funding Received: 2015
Cleveland, OH
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
October 19, 2015

Ballot Box Project works to give individual neighborhood stakeholders stronger voices in the civic arena. Residents, artists, and city employees will work together to solve community concerns through art.

Ballot Box Project will be the first Participatory Budgeting (PB) endeavor in Ohio. We knew participatory budgeting is the democratic process where community members decide how to spend a portion of a public budget to make decisions that affect their lives. But what does that really mean?

To find out what PB is really about, we traveled to New York City where we joined two participatory budgeting assembly meetings. One was in Manhattan and the other in Brooklyn. While the process was identical, we found them completely different.

The meetings began with a brief introduction, and then the magic happened. We watched an amazing video explaining the process, and how everyday people get involved to make their home great. All I can say is “WOW!”



After watching the video, we were ready to break into groups and discuss how capital funds can make their neighborhood better. Topics were diverse, ranging from park improvements and green space, solar powered trash cans and composting, bike lanes, and public wifi. The list goes on and on. Once we created the list, each of us voted on our top three choices, and we shared our thoughts with the group at large. These suggestions will potentially be turned into more refined projects that will be voted on in the spring.

Since we made the trip to New York, we met with our project partner Caron Atlas, from Arts and Democracy. They put arts and culture on agendas where it hasn’t been before, connect artists, and activists to create connective tissue necessary for cross sector collaboration to succeed. The insight Caron shared really helped fill the gaps in our learning experience. One of their practices that we would like to tie into our project is a workshop where residents will create their own artistic interpretation of what they would like to see implemented.

As for Ballot Box, we are preparing for our big launch. We’re getting our artist leadership team in place, who will work with residents to help them define their neighborhood needs. Soon residents will decide what topics are most important to them, and will begin defining community needs.