A collage of six photos from CDP events in 2020, including the People's Budget painted on the ground at a #BlackLivesMatter rally, pre-pandemic group photo, zoom screenshot, and people wearing #HellaPeoplePower clothing.

Hella People Power Organizing

Over a period of six months in 2019, we collected nearly 45,000 signatures across the city from Oaklanders who understand the transformative potential of putting the budget in the hands of the people. The campaign was an amazing example of the power of grassroots organizing. Together, we demonstrated the impact that people can have working together to bring about meaningful change, and the ability each of us has to inspire the collective.

Lessons from the Trenches of a People’s Campaign

We started the year off with an interactive reportback and fishbowl-style conversation about our experience organizing a grassroots-funded and volunteer-led signature gathering campaign.

Moms 4 Housing #ReclaimMLK

A bunch of us joined Moms 4 Housing at the #ReclaimMLK march. We were stoked to see so many of you all out there with signs and drums and smiles and babies. Check out our blog post about the connection between housing justice and a People’s Budget.

CDP members and supports smiling together at a protest in downtown Oakland. Baby wearing a baby bjorn holds a sign saying “I Hecka Love People Power”

From BLM to Defund The Police to a People’s Budget

We’ve known for years that participatory budgeting is part of the Movement 4 Black Lives’ Policy Platform. So when the murder of George Floyd sparked a BLM uprising, we knew exactly where to plug in.

With years of organizing and community building under our belt, we pulled together 9 orgs in less than 48 hours to co-host a virtual Community Control Planning Hour in conjunction with M4BL’s week of action. More than 100 people attended to learn about community control of the city budget, the workplace, food & farm, mental health services, and more! Check out our slides and resources, as well as this list of community farms.

Image Description: Photos of Fishbowl Guest Speakers

From that initial planning hour, we formed working groups to take direct action against the Oakland City Council’s failure to listen to the demands of thousands of people to invest in Black Lives. We hosted a F*ck Your Budget Assembly where nine badass guest speakers led a fishbowl conversation with 100+ attendees, and we introduced our fellow residents to our new build your own city budget app.

Bar chart of results from the Oakland People's Budget survey. The Housing has the largest allocation with 14.5%, followed by 14.1% for the fire department, 9.6% for human services, 9.4% for parks and rec, and 8.6% for race and equity. Other departments receive 3 to 6 percent of the budget.

Bar graph of the mock budget survey results

When we reached 100+ responses to the People’s Budget survey, we designed a mural and painted it in front of the Lakeview Library and at Oscar Grant Plaza.

A group of protestors in Oscar Grant Plaza stand around a painting on the ground. The painting contains bar graphs of the Oakland People’s Budget compared with the 2021 City Budget.

Pandemic Programming

When the pandemic hit, we spent hours figuring out how to organize for a People’s Budget when we can’t gather signatures safely! One idea was to continue creating a leaderful base of supporters so that once our initiative passes, we’ll have folks ready and willing to facilitate neighborhood assemblies!

Launched our School 4 Organizing (S4O) series

Our 2020 S4O cohort hosted 3 facilitation workshops and trained 25 attendees reppin neighborhoods in Oakland, and Oregon, and Florida!

One tool in our facilitator’s toolbox that we want to highlight is our virtual fishbowl structure! Check out the recording of our most recent fishbowl (Do We Need the State?) to see how this format can help you facilitate complicated conversations with many participants.

Formed a Ballot Dreams Working Group

We also needed to figure out ways to overcome barriers for all-volunteer campaigns like ours to get on the ballot especially in the time of corona. Some ideas we’re working with include lowering the threshold of signatures needed, allowing for electronic signatures on petitions, and prioritizing campaigns that hire worker-owned signature gathering firms.

Relaunched our Feminist Apocalypse Survival Team (FAST)

And finally, we hosted events like our Haunt the House Voter Guide and partnered with the People’s Community Medics to raise awareness about COVID health, fire season evacuation, self-care, and COVID myths. We also started a WhatsApp thread to organize emergency carpools and establish safety protocols.

Rising Up and Reaching In

  • Rolled together to Black Lives Matter protests
  • Learned to trust and build with each other to design a People’s Budget mural and paint it at Oscar Grant Plaza and at Lake Merritt
  • Launched a user-friendly People’s Budget App and got 300+ responses
  • Took care of each other:
    • Started up mutual aid network for members who lost jobs and/or homes during the pandemic
    • Hosted weekly virtual game nights (Saturdays) and happy hours (Thursdays) to keep our members feeling connected in this year of dumpster fires and loneliness
    • Went on bike rides together, karaoked virtually together, and continued meeting at least once a week to plan the revolution together
    • Adopted a rotating leadership structure to take turns with burdens and privileges, allowing everyone – including our newest members – to move up, move up
    • Formed an internal resilience committee and organized anti-oppression trainings to examine how we as a group and as a society might perpetuate racism, ableism, and burnout

Members of the Community Democracy Project pose on bicycles while waiting for the light to turn green near 40th Street.

Building Awareness, Partnerships, and a Base

  • We voted in two new members: Patricia and Alisen!
  • Partnered with some badasses in the movement:
    • Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC)
    • East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC)
    • Repaired Nations
    • Minnow
    • People’s Community Medics
    • Melanated Social Work
    • Centro Legal de la Raza
    • Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP)
    • Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective
    • National Lawyer’s Guild
    • Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
    • Alchemy Collective Cafe
    • Oakland Gay Men’s Chorus
  • Got an official endorsement from the Oakland Climate Action Coalition
  • Presented to groups like the East Bay DSA and the Law Center’s Policy Cafe
  • Got a Hoi Polloi beer named after us!
  • Partnered with Alchemy Collective Cafe as recipients of their donation box
  • Leveled up our social media game:
    • We made a bunch of friends live-tweeting city council meetings
    • A reporter tweeted us for the #HellaPeoplePaint mural and boosted visibility
    • Slogans we’ve been using for years have been spreading!

We did SO much this year! And we’re all volunteers!

If you’re inspired by all of our work this year, donate here to help us get ready for our next signature gathering campaign! Or join us!

Categories: Blog


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