Seattle's Participatory Budgeting Process

Introduction

In June 2021, the City of Seattle placed the development of a request for proposal (RFP) for the Participatory Budgeting process into the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR). SOCR will not be distributing the funds for participatory budgeting, but will be developing the RFP that will contract the agency to run the participatory budgeting process. 

This page will be updated regularly as we receive new information. 

History

In May 2020, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers sparked nationwide protests, with calls to defund the police and justice for Black victims of police violence. This horrific and public tragedy forced people to confront the racism, oppression, and white supremacy of the systems that our governmental foundations are built upon, and the role that the Seattle Police Department has in perpetuating institutional racism and violence.  

These calls to acknowledge the systematic harm done to Black communities resulted in numerous proposals coming from Black, Indigenous, and people of color community groups like Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now on how to reinvest funding for housing, education, and healthcare directly back into the community.   

What resulted was an amendment in the City's budget on September 22, 2020 that directed $3 million to community-based research groups to evaluate the processes needed to promote a reimagined public safety. From this was born the participatory budgeting process through a report by the Black Brilliance Research Project submitted in February 2021.   

While the development of the RFP initially began in Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods (DON), Seattle City Council ultimately decided to move the program into SOCR. Our previous work on RFPs in Community Alternatives to Incarceration and Policing provided opportunity and background to utilize the same community-led solutions we sought in 2020.    

With over $25 million of the City's budget allocated for the Participatory Budgeting process, this will be one of the largest PB undertakings in the nation.  

Our Commitment to Transparency

Our vision at the Seattle Office for Civil Rights is a city of liberated people where communities historically impacted by racism, oppression, and colonization hold power and thrive. We understand that liberation cannot happen without full transparency and honesty to the communities we serve.  

Our mission is to end structural racism and discrimination through accountable community relationships and anti-racist organizing, policy development, and civil rights enforcement. We understand that we cannot be true to our mission without developing an RFP process that repairs the harm experienced by Black community and staff.   

We commit to openness, authenticity, integrity, collaboration, and thoughtful planning through the process of creating this request for proposal.   

We acknowledge the valid criticisms that exist on the transparency that the City has displayed throughout this process and how that has caused significant harm, especially to Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. Our commitment with the development of the RFP in the Office for Civil Rights is to offer access to information; that you, as members of the communities most impacted by racism, oppression, and colonization hold the right to see how this process works, how decisions are made, by whom they are being made, and how they will affect you.   

Timeline

Timeline graphic for the Participatory Budgeting process. Current timeline: October/November 2021 - Onboarding new staff.

Where are we in the process? 

June 1, 2021 - Seattle City Council places development of Request for Proposal (RFP) into Office for Civil Rights (SOCR). 

June 2021 - Seattle Office for Civil Rights begins the hiring process for staff to support the development of the request for proposal (RFP). The hiring process includes developing the job description, posting the job, interviews and candidate selection, offer negotiations, and setting start dates. After this hiring process, SOCR will begin the staff onboarding process. The hiring process with the city can take up to four months. 

June - September 2021 - SOCR will recruit and hire staff to support the development of the request for proposal. 

October 2021 - SOCR will complete onboarding for new staff in understanding city policies and providing background information on the participatory budgeting process. 

TBD - Request for proposal is posted to the website and information sessions on the process are held. 

TBD - Applications for the RFP are submitted and reviewed by the selection committee. 

TBD - SOCR runs the RFP and selects a contractor for the participatory budgeting process. 

FAQs

This FAQ will be updated as more inquiries arise throughout this process. 

What is Participatory Budgeting (PB)?

Participatory budgeting is a democratic process, where communities and members of the public decide how to spend allocated public funding. PB allows those generally left out and marginalized from budgetary conversations to have a voice in the process.  

Graphic explaining the participatory budgeting process. White background with teal letters.

Graphic from Participatory Budgeting Project

Where else has participatory budgeting been done?

Seattle is not the first city to utilize a participatory budgeting process. Other cities across the US have enacted similar programs, using PB to make investment decisions in education, community development, housing, and so on.  

See how participatory budgeting works in other jurisdictions and the potential Seattle holds to revolutionize the way we invest in our communities.  

Participatory Budgeting Project
New York City, NY
Cambridge, MA
Boston, MA

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

A request for proposal, or an "RFP", is a document that announces and describes a project, along with its intentions and funding availability, and then invites people to submit a proposal or plan that meets the projects' needs.  

Organizations submit a proposal that is then reviewed by a committee. The proposal that meets minimum qualifications and is rated the highest by the selection committee is awarded the contract. In this case, the organization that is awarded the contract will conduct the participatory budgeting process. 

What is the process for the RFP?

SOCR will hire new staff for the additional workload of the development and implementation of the Request for Proposals. Once the RFP is drafted and published, organizations submit a proposal that is then reviewed by a selection committee. The proposal that meets minimum qualifications and is rated the highest by the selection committee is awarded the contract. In this case, the organization that is awarded the contract will conduct the participatory budgeting process.  

Who is involved in the RFP process?

SOCR will develop the Request for Proposal with counsel and input from BIPOC community-led organizations and the Interdepartmental Team. As with our Community Alternatives to Incarceration and Policing, SOCR anticipates requesting a review by the City Attorney's Office to make sure it meets all legal requirements. 

What does the Seattle Office for Civil Rights do?

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) works to advance civil rights and end barriers to equity.

We enforce laws against illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and contracting within Seattle city limits. We enforce the All-Gender Restrooms Ordinance, the Ban on Providing Conversion Therapy to Minors, and the Closed Captioning in Places of Public Accommodation Ordinance. 

We also lead the Race and Social Justice Initiative, a citywide effort to end institutional racism in City government and to achieve racial equity across our community. 

Learn more about what SOCR does here

What is SOCR's Role?

In collaboration with and input from community-driven organizations, SOCR will develop the parameters and criteria that will be outlined in the Request for Proposal (RFP).