A couple months ago, I was awarded a Reciprocal Exchange Grant through the Mandela Washington Fellowship program and IREX Foundation to assist MAYEIN‘s founder Edem Ossai with the launch of participatory budgeting in three secondary schools around Ibadan, Nigeria. I’ll be in Nigeria from May 6th to the 21st.
I am so excited to go and have been super busy because it moved my timeline up for getting ready for the Peace Corps from the end of May to the end of April. I’m pretty much back on track now with all my planning and am excited to share more. I’m planning to blog everyday that I am in Nigeria, so definitely stay tuned!
What is the Mandela Washington Fellowship?
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking…The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries. In 2016, Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. More here
Edem Ossai was one of the leaders chosen to come the the U.S. and was part of Arizona State University’s 2016 Civic Leadership Cohort. I was asked to be a host organization for the cohort and Edem was matched with me. We spent six weeks together learning from one another. On one of her last days in U.S., Participatory Budgeting Project released their “PB in Schools” guide and I shared a copy with her. Since then, I have been implementing PB in five Phoenix high schools and Edem has been laying the groundwork with three schools in Nigeria.
What is Participatory Budgeting?
“It’s is a democratic process in which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. It enables taxpayers to work with government to make the budget decisions that affect their lives.” Participatorybudgetingproject.org
PB is democracy in action; its citizens solving their communities problems with their tax dollars, all while learning about their local government and organizations. In short, it’s the best model for increasing citizen engagement that I have found through research and it’s AMAZING.
For the past eight months or so, I have been co-facilitating the Phoenix Union High School District’s PB in Schools process. Ashley, the other co-facilitator, wrote an excellent blog recapping the process and its outcomes that you can read here and the highlights are below:
During Vote Week, 3,854 students in five public high schools – an average of over 80% turnout rate – directly decided how to spend $26,000 in school district funds. Students voted to fund music programs, filtered water stations, shade structures, and a study lounge.
During Vote Week, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office generously partnered with PUHSD; they provided voting booths, official vote machines and ballots, and staff support for each voting day. In doing so, County Recorder Adrian Fontes and his office created a voting experience that embodied real democracy just as an election does—and in some ways did so even better. “[PB] is part of education that’s not testable” Fontes said, “isn’t this one of the most important aspects of our American democracy?”
I was in awe of the passion and commitment the students in Phoenix had for PB. Not only did the the entire school learn how to vote, but they got to cast a meaningful vote years before they could otherwise. I can’t wait to see how the PB program grows in Phoenix in the next couple of years.
What will you be doing in Nigeria?
Edem and I will be meeting with three schools individually and collectively throughout my two week stay to introduce the students to the participatory budgeting process. The students will begin to design their process and plan how to collect ideas for spending the money, as well as create their timelines.
On May 15th, all three schools will come together to participate in a mock PB process designed to teach the main steps of the process and promote comradery between schools. You can read more about my visit on MAYEIN’s blog here.
The other thing I will be doing is delivering the books the ASU Peace Corps Club and I collected back in December, 2016. On May 13th, I’ll get to see MAYEIN’s mobile library in action and meet the kids benefiting from the books we collected.
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