About the Conference

All around the world, innovations in civic engagement and participatory democracy are transforming communities. In March, we hosted an international conference bringing together leaders from 18 countries and 75 cities who participated on behalf of their communities, their work reshaping democracy through participation.

The Innovations in Participatory Democracy Conference took place on March 8 - 10, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona - presented by the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Jefferson Center, the Katal Center, the Participatory Budgeting Project, the Participatory Governance Initiative at Arizona State University, Phoenix Union High School District, and the Policy Jury Group.

We heard from students, educators, and administrators leading the first participatory budgeting process to use district-wide funds in 10 public high schools in Phoenix - and saw student power in action during their PB Vote!

We took part in—and observed—deliberation and dialogue in action through citizen juries and assemblies hosted by the Policy Jury Group and the Jefferson Center.

We connected with international leaders in participatory budgeting, citizen juries and assemblies, and other innovations in participatory democracy in a variety of session formats and social events!

Together, as a collaborative conference planning team, we committed to working to build a more participatory and inclusive democracy by lifting up the impact of public spending and the good that government can do, by bringing people together to connect with and learn from those outside their bubbles, and by building new spaces for those with the least power to make real decisions.

At the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA), we help define and shape Arizona's future through an action-oriented agenda that focuses on issues critical to our state. We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit "do tank" that combines research with collaborative partnerships and initiatives that drive the state's economic prosperity, quality of life and civic health, and create a better future for all Arizonans.

At the Jefferson Center, we’re unleashing the power of citizens by teaming up with nonprofits, universities, governments, and others to design and implement innovative, democratic solutions to today’s toughest challenges. We’re a nonpartisan nonprofit that engages Americans directly to solve shared challenges and craft better policy. Our mission is to strengthen democracy by advancing informed, citizen-developed solutions to challenging public issues.


At the Katal Center, our work is informed by community organizing methods and philosophies, draws on public health practices and tools, and is grounded in a racial equity framework. Through our Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, we create spaces for participation for both technical experts and community stakeholders, and weave them together to shape policy. In this program, we form working groups of involved agencies and experts and a Community Leadership Team of community members who develop and implement programming that reduces incarceration. More broadly, we seek to apply and deepen participatory democracy in an important policy issue in innovative ways, and have already started this work.

At PBP, we’ve seen how deep distrust in political systems leads to widespread rejection of government. And we've seen how powerless many people feel, desperate for ways to make government address their needs. Our mission is to empower people to decide together how to spend public money. We create and support participatory budgeting processes that deepen democracy, build stronger communities, and make public budgets more equitable and effective.

The Participatory Governance Initiative is devoted to undertake teaching, capacity building, research and dissemination activities aimed at the study and promotion of participatory democracy initiatives—particularly at the municipal level of government. As a university-wide interdisciplinary space, we aim to bring together academics, students, elected and non-elected government officials, community members and practitioners interested in the theory and practice of participatory governance.

At the Policy Jury Group, we recognize that recent innovations in public participation and civic engagement hold tremendous potential for increasing transparency in public policy making, and ultimately increasing the trustworthiness of state and local governing decisions.  We envision a future where key innovations from this movement can serve as a touchstone for a healthier political discourse—ultimately playing a key role in reversing the ascent of hostility politics and misinformation and forward toward a more resilient and engaging democracy for us all.

As one of the largest high school districts in the country, Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) serves over 27,000 students with nearly 3,000 employees. The school district offers more classes, more specialized programs, more support and more opportunities than any other school district. PUHSD was the first school district in the U.S. to do school participatory budgeting with district-wide funds. In the 2017-18 school year, 10 public high schools will directly decide how to spend more than $55,000.

Thanks to our Advisory Committee Members:

Civic Makers | Lawrence Grodeska

Civic Nation | Edna Ishayik

Generation Citizen | Scott Warren

Institute for Local Government (ILG)  | Sarah Rubin

Mikva Challenge | Brian Brady

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) | Keiva Hummel, Courtney Breese

Students Organizing for Democratic Alternatives (SODA)  | Susan Kalaz

Thanks to our Sponsors: