FirstRoot Participatory Budgeting Conference 2021

Collaborate to empower students around the world to use participatory budgeting to make an impact in their schools and communities!

Students and Teacher working on a project

FirstRoot PB Conference 2021 featured keynote speakers and engaging sessions on the topics of civics, financial literacy, community engagement, technical implementations, and more. It consisted of 1-hour long sessions over the course of 24-hours via Zoom.

The conference is for anyone interested in making a difference in their communities through the power of collaborative financial decision making. It is an invaluable event for students, educators, and change-makers!

Why? FirstRoot is on a mission to put the power in the hands of the most important stakeholders – students! Through participatory budgeting, students have the power to make a difference not only in their schools, but also in their communities and the world at large. Power may come from money, but change comes from you!

Luke Hohmann

Introducing FirstRoot – PB in Schools

Luke is one of the world’s leading experts on applying Participatory Budgeting at scale. His experience includes applying PB in large enterprises, cities such as San José, CA and Lublin, Poland, schools and families. In his keynote he shares an overview of FirstRoot and how our 5D PB process is transforming project-based learning for financial literacy, civics, and design thinking.

Leah Scott

Financial Literacy – A Student Perspective

At the time of her presentation, Leah was a dual enrolled senior at Roosevelt High School and North Seattle College, and served as the college’s student body president. A reformist and active community member with a passion for helping youth succeed, she is majoring in economics and political science and hopes to transfer to the University of Washington.

Leah’s presentation was an amazing overview of the transformative power of Participatory Budgeting from the perspective of the students who are leading the programs.

Christopher Selth

Building Local Capability

A social entrepreneur and co-founder of Beckon Capital, we are inspired by Chris’s commitment to creating economically sustainable enterprises and projects that have direct benefit on people and communities.

Chris’s presentation provided us with a deep analysis of the causes and impacts of economic and income inequality. His dissection of the impact of low interest rates is quite profound.

For #agile / #SAFe friends, Chris’s presentation on how to allocate capital in ways that promote local businesses and local communities (e.g., financial decentralization) is remarkable.

Haris Aziz

Fair and Representative Participatory Budgeting

One of the main goals of #participatorybudgeting is creating ‘fairness’. But what does this really mean? And how do we ensure fairness when we’re designing the algorithms that drive the voting? This is not easy, as it involves computer science, math, social science, and the determination of the responsibilities of humans and computers in human-computation systems.

Haris Aziz is a Scientia Associate Professor at UNSW Sydney. He works at the interface of computer science and economics, and is especially interested in fair decision making. He is an associate editor of several major journals in AI and is a recipient of several research awards including IEEE AI 10 to Watch.

Haris presentation provided an incredible foundation for how we might be able to consider these ideas. These ideas are central to PB – and many other aspects of community engagement.

You’re going to love his talk if you’re into the geeky side of PB (and if you’re not, you should be, because the geeky stuff has a massive impact on what actually determines fairness in a PB program).

Christina Liu Puentes

Education and Civic Engagement

A central goal of Participatory Budgeting in schools is promoting civic engagement and creating a project-based learning, positive experience of civic engagement. Doing this well means doing the research on how we learn about civic engagement so that we can design better ways to teach it.

Christina, an MPA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, gave a powerful and compelling presentation on civic education. A proud daughter of immigrants and a former public school teacher, she infused the academic rigor of her research with the passion that drives progress. While her academic focus is in public education policy, her advocacy lies in enhancing democratic participation and representation in the US.

Nimrod Talmon

Algorithmic Machinery Behind Participatory Budgeting

Nimrod Talmon is a researcher and lecturer in Ben-Gurion University and a consultant in Weizmann Institute of Science.

His talk further developed the important foundations of algorithmic design in Participatory Budgeting. Especially fascinating was the exploration of computational complexity and the impact of competing goals on algorithm selection.

Practically, his presentation helped us understand how proportionality in PB can serve to improve satisfaction of the results, which has profound implications to democratic processes beyond PB.

Luke Hohmann

How we’re creating a FinTech/EdTech Startup

Luke is one of the world’s leading experts on applying Participatory Budgeting at scale, both in communities and in business settings. Prior to founding FirstRoot, Luke started Conteneo, an enterprise software platform for collaborative decision making based on game theory.

Graeme Keir

PB: Lessons from Scotland

Graeme Keir is an English teacher at Glenrothes High School in Fife, Scotland. He’s the principal teacher for closing the attainment gap within the school. He talked to us his research for the Educational Institute of Scotland on Participatory Budgeting.

He shared that the Scottish National budget has targeted 1% of the National Budget is targeted to Participatory Budgeting programs. This is supported by the thematic approach from PB. Alas, there is a challenge to his story: they chose a platform designed for cities instead of a platform designed for schools. His ‘lessons learned’ have helped us in improving the design of the FirstRoot platform.

Paolo Spada

Serendipity in Participatory Budgeting

Paolo is a lecturer at the University of Southampton at the Centre for Democratic Futures. His research explores the diffusion and impact of participatory and deliberative processes aimed at deepening democracy in Public Administration, Parties and Organizations.

Paolo’s novel talk focused on the ‘Serendipity in Participatory Budgeting’ – the chance encounter with new ideas. His talk centered on the design aspects of PB that promote serendipity, including such time-tested techniques as the devil’s advocate. This is critically important as the social media machine is continually feeding us with ideas that are algorithmically designed to fit our preconceived desires.  

We’ve tried to integrate Paolo’s wisdom as part of the discussion points in the design of our software. Paolo’s talk is rich and deep and highly recommended.

Elizabeth Dudley

FirstRoot Implementation

Liz Dudley is the Coordinator of Student Activities (COSA) and Social Studies Teacher at Academy of American Studies, an American History high school founded by Gilder Lehrman. This was the first time, Student Government has worked with FirstRoot and their online PB app!

Don Waisanen

How to Hold Participatory Budgeting to its Promises

Don Waisanen is a Professor in the Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs. He is the co-author (with Daniel Williams) of Real Money, Real Power? The Challenges with Participatory Budgeting in New York City (Palgrave-Macmillan).

Iris Patterson

Participatory Budgeting at Huegel Elementary

Iris Patterson is a 4th/5th Grade MMSD teacher of 15 years. Iris has created new teaching innovations/models such as FITT (Fully Integrated Team Teaching) and the KNC (Kid Nation Community) learning approaches.

Taylor Spratt

Participatory Democracy & Social Justice Efforts

Taylor is a MS candidate in Comparative & International Ed at Florida International University. Passionate about social change, her work explores participatory democracy, solidarity & care. A feminist educator, she facilitates spaces for dialogue and practice of “real utopias.”

Andrea Ferrero & Dyalekt

Money Talks and So Should We

Pockets Change builds financial resilience through Hip Hop pedagogy. Money is about more than numbers, and change grows when we share stories and take action together. Let’s change the way we think about budgets, be real with ourselves, and reach our goals. Let’s change the way we talk about money.

Patrick Scully & Jesi Carson


The Participedia Project responds to a transformation of democratic governance that involves hundreds of thousands of new channels of citizen involvement in government, often outside of the more visible politics of electoral representation, and occurring in most countries in the world.

Scott Suzel

irstRoot Implementation

Scott Suzel is an instructor at A-List Education, a college access, tutoring, and test prep company providing education resources and services to families and organizations across the US.

Rebecca I. Gallagher

Personal Finance Education in Schools

Rebecca Ivanovich Gallagher is the Chair of the California Jump$tart Coalition. A career development coordinator for the Sonoma County Office of Education, she encourages inclusion of personal finance education locally and promotes the importance of financial literacy throughout California.

Samuel Debuse

Impact at FirstRoot

Sam is a summer analyst at FirstRoot and is currently sitting a Master program in Public Policy at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Sam has worked in impact investing at Beckon Capital where he focussed on impact strategies.

Scott Farber

More Than Numbers: Failure, Success, & Emotional Health

Experienced entrepreneur and leader. Strong business development professional skilled in Schools, Nonprofit Organizations, Entrepreneurship, Strategic Planning, Public Speaking, Operations, Mental and Behavioral Health, and Management.

Harry Max

Open the Aperture

Harry Max is a Silicon Valley executive coach, consultant, and leader, and has worked with companies like AllClear ID, Apple, DreamWorks, and Google. As co-founder of Virtual Vineyards (now, he designed the first secure user-friendly online store, which launched in January 1995.

The FirstRoot Participatory Budgeting Conference is a diverse, inclusive, accessible, and equitable event where all speakers, staff, volunteers, and participants whatever their gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation or identity, education or disability, feels valued and respected. We respect and value diverse life experiences and heritages and ensure that all voices are valued and heard. We’re committed to modeling diversity and inclusion for the entire participatory budgeting movement, and to maintaining an inclusive environment with equitable treatment for all.