Tools for Collaborative Governance–Returning the Local Economy to the People

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Collaborative tools help local residents come together and shape the political systems and economies within their communities.

Participatory Budgeting (PB) allows citizens to meet and decide how a portion of the public funds will be spent. Founded in 2009, the PB Project (PBP) is a non-profit organization that aims to “deepen democracy, build stronger communities and make public budgets more equitable and effective.” PBP is one of the most visible groups, active in sixteen different cities and communities around the U.S. PB recently gained traction in Oakland, CA, as the city was studying how to rekindle the diminishing resources and funds available for Housing and Urban Development. Some of the winning projects included apprenticeship and job training for youth, several different projects around homelessness and safe routes to schools, lighting and safety improvements in Chinatown, and community gardens. PB processes open up participation and voting to people who are typically disenfranchised or marginalized, including youth, non-citizen residents and the formerly incarcerated.

Residents of Detroit used a collaborative response to their high property tax rate crisis. Frustrated with the city’s failed attempts to fix this problem, community activists responded by launching Detroit’s first Community Land Trust (CLT) in Fall of 2015. A CLT allows local residents to control vital decisions about land use. A CLT is the perfect tool to ensure that development meets the priorities of a neighborhood’s existing residents. This is reflected in the CLT governance structure – governed by a board elected by the community with a “tripartite” structure – one-third of the seats are filled by members of the community, one-third by residents living on the land trust, and one-third by stakeholders invested in CLT’s mission.


Abigail Savitch-Lew, “How Community Land Trusts Can Fix Detroit’s Foreclosure Mess” YES! Magazine, Winter 2017, posted December 23, 2016, at

Kristine Wong, “Participatory Budgeting is Gaining Momentum in the US. How Does it Work?” Shareable, March 20, 2017,

Student Researcher: Audrey Shannon Johnson (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)