Boston’s youth participatory budgeting process recognized as top civic engagement practice
Francesco Tena, left, accepts the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation on behalf of the City of Boston from Parks Tau, right, former Mayor of Johannesburg.

BOSTON – Thursday, December 29, 2016 – Mayor Walsh today announced the City of Boston was awarded the top prize at The Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation’s international convening held in Guangzhou, China. Boston’s youth participatory budgeting process, “Youth Lead the Change,” was selected from 301 innovation projects submitted by 171 cities to receive the Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation. Boston is the first city in the United States to receive this award.
“We know Boston is a forward-thinking, innovative city, and I’m proud that our work has been recognized by this international award,” said Mayor Walsh. “Through Youth Lead the Change, we are involving our young, bright residents in local government, and empowering them to make positive changes in their neighborhoods. Congratulations to everyone involved in this initiative.”
The Mayor’s Youth Council, a key initiative of Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) Division of Youth Engagement & Employment, has facilitated Youth Lead the Change since 2014. Youth Lead the Change has gone through three voting phases and funded 17 projects totalling $2.8 million. Projects funded include providing laptops in schools, park renovations, adding trash cans and recycling bins, and installing wifi in schools and community centers. Since the program began, delegations from countries around the world have visited Boston to learn from its approach to youth engagement.
The Guangzhou Award recognizes innovation in improving social, economic and environmental sustainability in cities and regions that advance the prosperity and quality of life of their citizens. Presented bi-annually, the award encourages and recognizes outstanding innovative projects and practices in the public sector.
“The Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation has made a very positive impact,” said Parks Tau, president of United Cities and Local Governments, a co-organizer of the event. “The whole world is experimenting with innovative projects on sustainable development,” Tau said. “We need to learn from each other, to copy, promote and share new concepts.”
Francesco Tena, Manager of the Mayor’s Youth Council, was sponsored by the Guangzhou Institute to travel to China on behalf of the City of Boston to compete for and accept the award.
“Boston is providing a platform for young people to lead today while also making government more accessible and responsive,” said Tena. “Cities around the world are realizing that there are huge benefits to engaging young people meaningfully in local government.”
Youth Lead the Change has received other honors in the past: in 2015, the U.S. Conference of Mayors awarded the program the City Livability Award and in 2016 it received the Civies Award from MassVote.
The Mayor’s Youth Council is currently collecting ideas on how to spend this year’s allotment of $1 million. The funding is placed in BCYF’s budget each year specifically for this project. To submit an idea, visit

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