Providence City Council President Rachel Miller speaks about equity, autonomy, and power, and how they relate to social determinants of health and civic participation.
Photo by Stephen Ide/ONE Neighborhood Builders

PROVIDENCE—Participatory Budgeting, a democratic process for spending community funds, took it’s next step on Thursday (January 26, 2023).

About 40 people — including “project delegates” for the Nine Neighborhoods Fund — gathered at Sprout CoWorking for an overview of the timeline and process needed before they start reviewing more than 300 ideas submitted from their neighbors and start to turn them into proposals. The plan to is select a variety of projects that will improve the health and quality of life in the nine neighborhoods participating. In late spring, the community will be able to vote on which projects to advance.

The state Executive Office of Health & Human Services and Department of Health invested $450,000 through the Central Providence Opportunities: A Health Equity Zone. ONE|NB secured an additional $550,000 in private grant funding to bring the total Nine Neighborhood Fund budget to $1 million. Community members can steer Nine Neighborhood Fund investments toward community development needs in the Elmhurst, Federal Hill, Hartford, Olneyville, Manton, Mount Pleasant, Valley, Silver Lake, and Smith Hill neighborhoods. The Pawtucket Central Falls HEZ also received $450,000 from EOHHS for their own participatory budgeting project.

Providence City Council President Rachel Miller spoke about equity, autonomy, and power, and how they relate to social determinants of health and civic participation. By understanding that “social disparities are not individual problems with individual solutions, but rather social problems with collective social solutions,” she said, we can work toward equity.

She stressed the importance of addressing quality of education racial inequality, environmental health, and economic opportunities, and that the autonomy of residents in a community is key to improving overall health and wellness.

“Providence has the ninth highest asthma rate in the country,” she said. “78% of the schools in our district have below average performance; 20% of our population lives in poverty. According to the Economic Poverty Institute, 60% of adults in Rhode Island do not earn enough to make ends meet … I’m saying these things not to beat the drum about what’s wrong, but to advocate with all of you for what can be fixed.”

Participatory budgeting is an effective way to build collective power and increase voter participation, she said, adding that by allowing individuals to vote on specific projects that impact their lives, we can empower communities and increase civic engagement.

For more information about the Nine Neighborhoods Fund and the participatory budgeting process, visit

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