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Youth Lead the Change

Youth Power, Youth Vote, Community Change

Youth Lead the Change (YLC) gives young people power over one million dollars of the City's capital budget. The process is led by youth in Boston.


Youth Lead the Change (YLC) gives youth the power to imagine a better Boston and vote for the ideas to make it a reality. 

The Youth Lead the Change program is a youth-led participatory budgeting program that gives young people ages 12-22 real power over one million dollars of the City of Boston’s budget every year. Boston’s youth have been allocating capital funds to innovative projects in neighborhoods across the City since 2014. 

The program is led by the Youth Lead the Change Committee of the Mayor’s Youth Council and the Office of Youth Engagement and Advancement. Anyone aged 12 to 22 who lives, works, or goes to school in the City of Boston is invited to participate in this process by submitting ideas, and voting on the finalists.

The Process

The Process

The first step of the process is to lay out a plan for the participatory budgeting cycle. Writing the rules doesn’t just mean determining, for example, who is eligible. It means determining how outreach is done, how ideas are sorted, specific timelines for each phase of the process, and much more. The YLC Committee along with other stakeholders discuss, debate, and amend the previous cycle’s plan until they can vote to approve a new one.

  • YLC Committee: Reviews plan and proposes changes.
  • OYEA: Provides committee with plan from the previous cycle.

The goal of this phase is to collect at least 1000 ideas. It is the first phase of the process that involves the general public. The goal is to collect as many ideas, from as many eligible youth, from as many backgrounds (cultural, socio-economic, neighborhood, etc.) as possible. Ideas can range from one sentence suggestions to improve an aspect of life in Boston, to more fully fledged project outlines involving locations, specific changes, and more. Ideas of all kinds are OK. Some ideas will be more specific than others, but we want to hear all voices at this point in the process. It is the YLC Committee’s job later in the process to sort these ideas and create a ballot that represents them. 

  • YLC Committee: Members collect ideas, and train others to collect ideas, in their schools and communities.
  • OYEA: Planning and coordinating a city-wide outreach effort, and training YLC and MYC members, as well as partners, to collect ideas. 
  • Public: Eligible youth submit ideas, and adult partners sign up to host idea collection workshops, and promote the program. 

This phase of the process, like YLC as a whole, has taken many different iterations over the history of the program. The goal is to take the raw ideas collected, in their various states of specificity, and develop them into more specific ideas that could go onto a ballot. Ideas are sorted into categories based on what issue areas submitted ideas are focused on. From there, ideas are ranked in order of specificity. Within each category, more complete ideas can be edited for length and clarity, while less specific ideas can be grouped together to represent the spirit of those ideas. The draft ideas in each category are then narrowed down by the YLC Committee through a collaborative process. These finalists are then checked for feasibility with the City offices and departments that are most likely to implement them should they win. Read on for more information about this part of the process. 

  • YLC Committee: Members sort and rank ideas, develop finalists into detailed projects. 
  • OYEA: Check ideas for feasibility with City departments and print the finalized ballot. 

The ballot will consist of 8 ideas, of which 2 finalists will be chosen. Idea sorting and the drafting of ballot language must occur during official meetings of the YLC Committee. The process shall be as follows:

  1. Submitted ideas are sorted into categories (e.g. “homelessness”, “public transportation”) based on the nature of ideas submitted. The YLC Committee has the discretion to determine how many and what groups there are. 
  2. Then, ideas will be checked for the following criteria, which they must meet:
    • The idea describes a capital expenditure, with the resulting project meeting all capital requirements of the City of Boston.
    • The idea must be reasonably possible to accomplish with less than $1 million. 
    • The City must have the ability and authority to carry out the idea (e.g. City owned land). ​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  3. Then, ideas in each category will be ranked according to the following criteria: 
    • How complete and specific the idea is.
    • How large of an impact the idea would have on Boston’s youth.
    • How many of Boston’s youth the idea would impact.
    • Does the idea address specific needs among youth or Bostonians at large, especially those who are historically disadvantaged.
    • Is the project evenly distributed or more concentrated geographically speaking. 
  4. ​​​​​​​Ideas in each ranked category are edited for length and clarity, about two sentences at an appropriate reading level, and less specific ideas are grouped together to preserve the spirit of those submissions. The YLC Committee will have the discretion to combine vague ideas.
  5. At this point, ideas are narrowed down by the YLC Committee through multiple rounds of voting to include only the ideas which will be checked by OYEA for feasibility with other City departments and offices. 
  6. OYEA staff will meet with relevant City offices and Departments to check ideas for feasibility. Feasibility checks determine whether an idea is possible in the following ways:
    • Whether the idea is technically feasible, can it be built or created
    • Whether the idea is likely to be within the available budget
    • How the idea relates to existing city programs and policies. Ideas should not directly oppose standing City policy, nor should they replicate existing programs in a confusing manner. 
  7. Ideas that make it past the feasibility check will then be narrowed down further by YLC, and finalists from each of the original categories will be added to the ballot. 
  8. The finalized ballot will be approved by the YLC Committee and converted by OYEA into digital and scannable paper ballots. ​​​​​​​

The goal of this phase is to collect at least 10,000 votes. Boston residents ages 12-22 vote which projects from the ballot they would like funded. The three projects with the most votes are chosen to be implemented the next year. This phase consists of everything from planning the outreach strategy for YLC voting, to collecting digital and paper ballots from as many eligible youth in the City as possible. Like idea collection, this process involves the public, MYC and YLC, OYEA staff, as well various partners.

  • YLC Committee: Members facilitate voting in their schools and communities and train others to facilitate voting.
  • OYEA: Runs a coordinated city-wide get out the vote effort, including distributing materials, and training facilitators. 
  • Public: Eligible youth vote for their preferred projects and adult partners host voting at their sites and promote the program. 

This is the final, celebratory phase of the process. The YLC Committee, MYC members, OYEA staff, partners, and other stakeholders all gather to tally the votes for each project, and announce the winners. There will be at least one event allowing everyone to participate in learning what was funded, and celebrating what has been accomplished. 

  • YLC Committee: Hosts VoteFest activities, counts the ballots, and announces the results! 
  • OYEA: Plans VoteFest activities and supports the YLC Committee.
  • Public: Attends VoteFest activities. 

Winning Projects

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