FirstRoot Rays of Light

Like the sun, our CEO & Founder, Luke Hohmann, shares near daily rays of light that strive to warm your soul and make our world a bit brighter. And while that introduction is admittedly a bit ‘over the top’, you’ll find that Luke’s updates are practical, thoughtful, and just what you need to grow

February 2022

I like that when I meet someone my brain is starting to get rewired from gender-based pronouns.

For example, I know Ari’s who are he/him, she/her, they/them.

My old approach was to guess a gender. My new approach is to refer them by name or they/them.

I thank my kids for this improvement.

We just accepted a unique challenge: one of our schools wants to produce an entire #participatorybudgeting program in ONE WEEK. Phew. We have two weeks to prepare.

Each class is just 20 – 25 minutes long, and the budget is fairly large ($30K), so the proposal costs don’t have to be incredibly precise. Just ‘good enough’ for voting and rough budgeting.

Here’s the plan:

Before the launch

  1. Prepare adults (teachers and parents).
    1. Watch the video ‘What is Participatory Budgeting’:
    2. Watch the FirstRoot App Overview video:
  2. Develop daily teaching points and outlines for the teachers.
  3. Confirm that all teachers can submit a proposal on a test PB cycle. This will help them in their classes.
  4. All students create accounts in the FirstRoot App.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Discover

  • Teachers share the two videos with their classes.
  • Teachers discuss ‘What kinds of proposals create a positive impact’, providing examples of proposals that are more or less likely to be accepted and voted on. This is a bit tricky – normally we want the students to generate any ideas. In this case we have to frame some options to keep the program moving.
  • Students leave the class with instructions to talk with other students and to bring ideas back to class the next day.

Day 2: Dream

  • Teachers lead a discussion on student ideas.
  • The class, working as a class, reduces their ideas the two most promising proposals.
  • Teachers submit at most 2 proposals on behalf of their class.
  • Parent helpers kick in overnight, weeding out duplicate proposals and researching preliminary costs and implementation plans for the most promising proposals.

Day 3: Design

  • Teachers review the results of the overnight work, discussing design options with the students.
  • Students also get the chance to review the proposals from other classes.
  • Parent helpers once again kick in overnight, finalizing the costs.

Day 4: Ballot Creation and Voting

  • The morning of Day 4 the teacher administrator prepares the voting ballot.
  • Class time is spent voting, with each student casting their own personal ballot.
  • In the evening the voting results are ratified.
  • An email is distributed to all stakeholders with the final results.

Day 5: Do

  • During class the voting results are reviewed.
  • Teachers and students start implementing the winning proposals. For example, equipment and supplies are ordered and forecasted vs. actual budgets are analyzed.

Phew. One week PB. It will be #epic.

Contact us when you’re ready to produce a PB program in your school. We can handle any duration and put any budget to good use.

I’ve been thinking about three vectors of growth that drive our business:

  1. More schools
  2. More students
  3. More money

Let’s explore more schools.

FirstRoot can be modeled a bit like an enterprise B2B SaaS company, in which a school can be thought of as a ‘division’ or ‘business unit’ in a company, and a school district or school network can be thought of as enterprise. In this regard, the aspect of growth is simple: more schools!

We’re happy to share that we have been adding a number of schools to our platform. What is especially exciting is that we’re growing in a way that maximizes learning and improves our solution. Here are some recent examples:

  • Toki Middle School in Madison, WI is producing a one week program, helping us learn how to design and support accelerated Participatory Budgeting programs.
  • George Washington High School in Philadelphia, PA is producing their first ever program for their 11th graders, helping us learn how to we can support the Mayor’s offices of cities adopting Participatory Budgeting.
  • Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA is also producing their first ever program. We’re learning how to time the launch of the program to align with their academic objectives. And we might even find a way to use PB to combat senioritis ;-).

The positive impact of adding more schools is that each school helps us smooth out our platform and streamline our processes so that we can serve more schools in the future!

Contact us when you’re ready to bring FirstRoot to your school!

How about we end the week with another inspiring testimonial about the power of #participatorybudgeting?

Thank you, Rachel Lauderdale, for all of your hard work. Teachers like you create extraordinary opportunity for our children.

I just watched Andrew Miller’s excellent TEDx talk on success.

I recommend it. It aligns with the deeper values that we promote in our #participatorybudgeting programs and what we are trying to teach in our financial literacy curriculum.

Success is not about money.

Making a difference – genuinely caring about others – is a deep and enduring part of #participatorybudgeting.

Teaching these values are critical to the future happiness of our society.

To my #agile, #participatorybudgeting, and #financialliteracy friends, check this out.

I will be adding this as an optional video to our lessons that help students identify the kinds of jobs they might want to pursue.

PS. Help me convince Andrew Miller that he should be a speaker at the 2022 FirstRoot conference ;-).

This week has been *amazing*. Sharing some #participatorybudgeting happiness…

  • A middle school in Madison, WI has committed $30K to their PB program – that’s a new record for us!
  • A Canadian charter school is rolling a $1K PB program with a mix that includes several homeschooling parents
  • We signed up new schools in Sacramento, CA and Philadelphia
  • We have designed new ways to use PB on accelerated timelines – can you say “one week PB”? It rhymes nicely with 5D PB!
  • We faced a challenge with Docusign… and our extended network got it solved in ONE DAY (I’m not singling out any one person, but I gotta say thanks to Jeff Shupack for being that one person).

I just love that feeling of running downhill with the wind flying through my hair.

PS. Don’t even get me started on the AWESOME Figure Skating at the Olympics…

We are extending the FirstRoot #participatorybudgeting platform to leverage and teach such things as cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

Which has introduced me to a lot of people who are very passionate advocates who are both for and against these technologies. Let’s focus on the people who are against cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Let’s start by acknowledging that they raise many valid concerns, ranging from energy consumption to the potential misuse of these technologies.

But that’s not the reason we’re extending our platform to cover cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

The reason is simple: our children are inheriting a world in which cryptocurrencies and NFTs will be part of their everyday life. Accordingly, we need to teach our children about these concepts so that they make informed decisions that are good for them.

My best analogy is that some adults claim that we shouldn’t teach kids about sex or pregnancy prevention because they might have sex.

Except that denying education isn’t a good strategy. Last I checked, kids are still having sex: the U.S. has the highest teen pregnancy rate of developed nations (

An alternative that I advocate is properly educating our children about sex so that IF they choose to have sex they can do so safely. And for the record, I do promote abstinence until all parties are physically, emotionally, and cognitively ready, with no abuse or coercion or fear involved of any kind.

You may not like crypto. I understand that. At this point, it isn’t going to go away. I want to prepare our children for the world they’re inheriting.

I just shared a delightful conversation with Jeremy Vollen, a PhD student in Australia exploring #participatorybudgeting algorithms.

I don’t often get the chance to totally geek out on algorithms, proportionality, and the merits of collaborative vs. individual voting algorithms.

It was super fun.

Thank you, Haris Aziz for connecting us.

To our other research friends, including, but not limited to, Don Waisanen and Nimrod Talmon, please know that we’re open to collaborating to help advance the foundation of knowledge that continues to help advance #participatorybudgeting.

Last week I decided to rename my (near) daily posts ‘Rays of Light’ because my goal is to help all of my followers grow every day. Sometimes that means sharing insights. And other days it means sharing the goodness that others are shining on FirstRoot and our mission to bring #participatorybudgeting to all schools.

This post is a sharing the warmth we are feeling from others.

One of our active programs is at Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, CA. Their first program, with $2,000 from the FirstRoot School Fund, was so successful that we started planning a second, more comprehensive program. In this case, we wanted to increase the budget to $5,000 and include more students – the entire senior class.

One of the elements of our solution is that we do everything we can to help our schools raise as much money as possible for their PB program. I was overjoyed when I received a note last night that the League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale, along with several individuals who are members of the League, would be joining the Rotary Club of Sunnyvale in sponsoring the Fremont Participatory Budgeting program.

The support of the League is deeply meaningful and more than just money. Like the Rotary, the League of Women Voters is one of the most respected institutions in the United States. Our alignment of values and our shared commitment to create positive #civic engagement is helping us grow Participatory Budgeting programs everywhere.

We’d be happy to help you implement a PB program in a school you care about.

We’d also be thrilled if you sponsored a school through the FirstRoot School Fund.

Donate here:

Congratulations to the good people in Connecticut who are putting kids in charge of more than a million of dollars of federal funding through #participatorybudgeting.

It is a great start. And with FirstRoot it would be so easy to expand this program to every school in Connecticut!

Heads up: Nick Panarella, Devin Rogozinski, Laura Ruhe, Karen Smith, CFA, Edward Addotta, Kevin Bodie, Don Frehulfer, John Bottiglieri, Michael Bogatz, MBA, SAFe 5 RTE/SM, Ann Marshman, Angela Rizzolo, MBA, Scott Kaslusky, Wayne Cooper, Paul Lang, Ellen Walsh, Paul Dunay, Kaihan Krippendorff, Ravi Chamuturi, SPC,RTE,CSM,PMP, Jason Koulouras (he/him/his), Dan Teixeira, Mark Souza, Geoff Schneider, Tim Washer, Daniel Mezick, Anna P. Napolitano

Read more:

Yesterday I shared that Connecticut is putting kids in charge of more than a million of dollars of federal funding through #participatorybudgeting. That’s awesome.

Today I’d like to share that the City of Los Angeles is launching LA REPAIR (Los Angeles Reforms for Equity and Public Acknowledgement of Institutional Racism), a PB program that will nine communities impacted by high rates of poverty, COVID-19, pollution and other issues power to allocate US$8.5 million in city funds.

This is awesome. In 2011 I helped launch the PB program in the City of San José, CA, so I know how important it is to engage residents in their governance.

What would make this program even better is if the Los Angeles Unified School District were to join the city and integrate Participatory Budgeting into every school. Our children have proven countless times that they know how to wisely spend money to improve their schools.

LA should let them!

Heads up: Eric Garcetti, Capri Maddox, Joumana Silyan-Saba, Myra Madero, Ronnell Hampton, M.A., Sarah Wray, Nuri Djavit, Richard Hensley, Ruven Gotz, Moe Abdou, Steve Cundari, Doug Landis

Read more:

Yesterday in an interview with Ennis Lynch he called me an OG – as in an OG agilist, THE OG Innovation Gamer, an OG #participatorybudgeting leader, an OG creator of such things as Visible Architecture, Common Ground for Action, and other stuff…

… and I spent the rest of the day basking in the glow of that compliment.

Stay tuned, kids… this OG is still dropping gems and facts and building incredible solutions…

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