Student agency through civic engagement


Participatory budgeting at Carson Junior High strengthens the civic character assets of students and provides a foundation for civic engagement later in life. It’s an early opportunity for students to recognize that they can contribute to their community, their voice matters and their actions have impact. In Carson’s inclusive model, students who may not normally be heard have opportunities to lead, have their ideas taken seriously and be seen in a new light by their peers. The process builds and models trust between students, teachers and administrators and fosters empathy, compassion, critical thinking and problem solving skills. Participatory budgeting cultivates self-confidence and a sense of agency that students can identify the problems in their schools, propose solutions, dialogue about the proposals and then vote and get their projects funded. 

Reflection questions

  1. Why is participatory budgeting at Carson Elementary an example of Principled Innovation?
  2. What are the examples of empathy in this story? What other character assets do you notice in the story?
  3. What role does trust play in this story? 
  4. How might engaging in participatory budgeting nurture inclusivity and equity in a school community?
  5. Why is it important for students to feel valued and heard? How does that contribute to the flourishing of students and communities?
  6. What are possible unintended consequences of participatory budgeting?