Death and Taxes — two things we can all be certain of. But once those taxes are taken, are we ever certain what our state and local governments do with the money?
Similarly within businesses or organizations, unless we’re at the executive level, it’s often a mystery as to how an organizational budget is carried out. It’s a classic power move: whoever has control of the distribution of money, has decision making power.
Participatory budgeting has the power to single handedly topple power structures. The Community Democracy Project is a homegrown example the Law Center has followed as we committed to participatory budgeting within our organization. CDP “promotes active citizenship, community learning, and direct democracy by putting the people of Oakland in charge of the City budget.” They help the people of Oakland imagine how they could spend their tax dollars with a tool that lets you build your ideal budget.
Self-organization is threatening to the current power structures. “Our participatory budgeting processes [at the Law Center] bring forth ideas and help nourish projects that emerge throughout our organization. We coordinate all of this through making and keeping good relationships, dialog, and listening to feedback that informs how each of us moves. It’s alive.”
Law Center Co-founder and Staff Attorney Janelle Orsi recently co-organized a coalition of community groups to reimagine how Oakland city planning could be reinvigorated with similar principles as participatory budgeting. In her blog post, she asks “What could it look like to have a city shaped by self-organization, undisrupted by top-down systems of control?”
Before heading out on family leave, the Law Center’s Director of Legal Education, Tia Taruc-Myers, penned this essay for Nonprofit Quarterly sharing her experience developing, proposing, and ultimately convincing the majority of staff to vote in favor of extending our family leave policy from 12 weeks to 40 weeks. If you're interested in how a worker self -directed nonprofit processes controversial proposals and works through collective tension, anger, and hard feelings together, you might want to give it a read!