The City of Vallejo has unveiled a new online community collaboration platform for Participatory Budgeting (PB). The customized platform, AppCivist, was developed by the Social Apps Lab at CITRIS, University of California, Berkeley. The user-friendly platform allows delegates and staff to develop proposals online, view developments and comments in real-time, expand City-resident collaboration, and submit proposals for the PB ballot. The developer team is led by Social Apps Lab at CITRIS Principal Investigator and Professor of Anthropology James Holston, Co-Investigator and Senior Research Scientist Dr. Valerie Issarny, and Lead Design Researcher and Engineer Dr. Cristhian Parra.
“Rooted in participatory citizenship, AppCivist was created by the Social Apps Lab to help communities discuss and develop solutions and mobilize action,” said Professor Holston. “UC Berkeley’s collaboration with the City of Vallejo is an innovative partnership, with the goal of helping Vallejo residents exercise collaborative decision-making and tackle projects in their city.”
In addition to strengthening collaboration between delegates and staff, the new platform answers transparency concerns from the public by providing the status and evolution of ideas submitted in the PB Idea Collection phase. The public can now view the 23 project proposals submitted by committees to the City for review, track how their ideas were integrated into project proposals, and leave comments. The public will have the opportunity to view final proposals after Wednesday, March 22. A special PB ballot, including online voting, will begin in April 2017, when the public selects projects it to be recommended to the City Council for funding.
The Social Apps Lab team has been a positive collaborative partner, diligently tailoring the new platform to fit the needs of Vallejo’s PB process, at no cost to the City. The team has incorporated feedback from staff and the PB Steering Committee, and has worked closely with residents during committee meetings.
In 2012, Vallejo became the first in the U.S. to implement a city-wide participatory budgeting process. Funded by Measure B, a one-percent sales tax originally approved by voters in 2011, PB is a democratic process that elicits project ideas from residents and stakeholders. Community volunteers, with the support of City staff, develop ideas into full project proposals for a special ballot. At the conclusion of each PB cycle, Vallejo residents vote on which projects to recommend to City Council for funding.