The Participatory Budget and the Promotion of Citizenship

What was the problem?

The Participatory Budgets (PBs) are an important tool of the current governmental action. If, on one hand, this instrument promotes the persons' sense of participation, on the other, it opens important reflections about the concept of democracy itself, the credibility of the political action and the educative and formative processes of citizenship.

The PBs experience initiates in Portugal in 2002, through the interest of Palmela's City Council, having gained greater expression in 2007-2008 when Lisbon's Municipality becomes one of the main promoters of this participation instrument. Today, the PB experiences decurring in the national territory are counted in hundreds. These experiences, and CES' continuous engagement through its researchers, in particular that of Giovanni Allegretti, have enabled the tuning up of the involved techniques and increasing the efficiency of its results.

The growing need of developing processes of citizen participation and of shared responsibility between local – and sectorial – actors in societies such as the Portuguese, but not only, are also marked by a progressive interculturality which compels these processes to take cultural differences – themselves dependant of the territorial development – into consideration. The deepening of the citizen involvement devices in the definition of public policies and public management therefore imply the creation of equitable access conditions to minoritary communities and debate spaces which build socio-territorial solidarity bonds. However, the PBs face important challenges over the way its value for democracy is assigned by the citizens, which may originate difficulties in the participation process and in the forwarding of proposals. Since no universal PB model exists as such, a PBs implementation process in a given context is immersed in as many difficulties as in wide transformation possibilities.

What did we do?

Throughout the years, CES has been establishing several partnerships with public institutions, national and international, in the sense of promoting the civil society's participation in the conception, enforcement, monitoring and evaluation of the Participatory Budget initiatives; in a clear reinforcement of the participatory democracy envisioned in the 2nd article of the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic. In the same sense, the investigation work has been enabling a reflection about this instrument's limits, opening doors to new proposals and more flexible methods which consider the process' contradictions, thus seeking to overcome both its conceptual and practical difficulties.

The work developed in proximity with diverse autarchies and associative structures has been a way of creating and driving a new democratic governance culture, which despite having started with a greater expression at the local level has already exceeded itself, gaining national dimensions and also many forms of building international networks.

In this sense, through its participation in scientific investigation projects or as consultant – and much on account of the researcher Giovanni Allegretti's work – CES has been waging on going beyond the simple production of academic reports and studies, directly participating with reflections and joint constructions of instruments of support to the PB processes' implementation, development, monitoring and evaluation.

In projects such as, for example, “OPtar (To OPt): The Participatory Budget as an innovating instrument to reinvent the autarchies in Portugal and Cape Verde? A critical analysis of the performance and of the transfers”, it was sought to promote the local institutions' social innovation, in a time when the transnational experiences were marked by dynamics of technology transfers monopolized by international actors. In this project, not only a performance study was sought, but also the building of new dynamics of transnational interchange of knowledges and experiences. On the other hand, the collaboration with the World Bank or the European Commission in countries such as Cape Verde, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Asian Russia and (recently) Moldova and Egypt (as well as the joint work with the German and Swedish cooperation agencies in countries such as Colombia, or also the relation with the Council of Europe in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine), has enabled working in the construction of national strategies to multiply and further the Participatory Budget experimentations in different latitudes of the planet and within different institutional frames, especially for what concerns the decentralization's consolidation degree.

What happened?

Since 2007 (when CES begun organizing a series of diffusion events to make PB experiences not solely located in Latin America getting known in Portugal), diverse investigation projects and consultancies promoted in the context of the research on Participatory Budget within CES have been cementing the diverse experiences of this instrument's trajectory.

In Portugal, CES was promoter of the building of a network of experts on the theme, which constitute a solid team and have wide international connections, while actively participating as an observer of RAP (Rede Portuguesa de Autarquias Participativas/Portuguese Network of Participatory Municipalities), of the IOPD (Observatório Internacional da Democracia Participativa/International Observatory on Participatory Democracy, based in Barcelona), of the Advisory Board of the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) in New York, and of the Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human Rigths of the UCLG, the cities' world association.

In the framework of the promoted investigation-action on the PBs, CES has been gathering and collaborating with multiple social and governmental actors, from autarchies to civil society and youth organizations (Orçamento Participativo Jovem/Youth Participatory Budget), which in practice has been translating into changes in the procedure model in the sense of co-decision (e.g. Amadora and Odivelas' City Halls) or development of information technologies which facilitate the participation (e.g. Cascais' City Hall and Lisbon's City Hall; project EMPATIA (EMPATHY). Beyond these, the research about PBs has been promoting the training and capacitation of local professionals (e.g. Albufeira's City Hall, Lagoa's City Hall, Condeixa's City Hall, Trofa's City Hall, Oliveira do Bairro and Figueira da Foz's City Halls, but also the CEFA Foundation) and the setting of specific municipal regulations, turning Portugal into the second European country where a part of the public investments made by town halls and/or parishes is voted by the citizens.

Internationally, the promoted investigation has already also been felt in the participation in processes of stimulating PBs in countries such as Sweden, Spain, Uruguay, Russia and China. The advisory work and the international partnerships have also resulted in collaborations with supranational institutions such as the World Bank, Council of Europe, UN-Habitat, United Cities and Local Government (UCLG).

Related Projects

Participatory Budgeting in Sweden

Giovanni Allegretti

January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2020

The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions

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OP Jovem

Participatory Youth Budgeting in Condeixa-a-Nova

April 1, 2012 to April 30, 2019

Condeixa-a-Nova Municipality

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Enabling Multichannel PArticipation Through ICT Adaptations


Enabling Multichannel PArticipation Through ICT Adaptations

Giovanni Allegretti

January 1, 2016 to March 31, 2018

European Commission
(Horizon 2020-ICT-2015)

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Portugal Participa

Portugal Participa - caminhos para a inovação societal

Giovanni Allegretti

October 1, 2014 to April 30, 2016

EEA Grants - Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
(Cidadania Ativa)

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Participatory Budgeting as innovative tool for reinventing local institutions in Portugal and Cape Verde? A critical analysis of performance and transfers

April 1, 2010 to December 31, 2013

Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology

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O Orçamento Participativo no Município da Trofa

Giovanni Allegretti

May 1, 2011 to August 31, 2013

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Political Sphere and Participatory Budget

Ernesto Ganuza

Giovanni Allegretti

January 1, 2010 to May 31, 2013

Spanish Ministery for Science and Innovation

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Report on Local Government Experiences in using Community-based Monitoring Systems

January 1 to July 31, 2013

United Cities and Local Governments

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Networks for the communication and reinforcement of management in the management of participatory assumptions and other instruments of participatory public policies

Giovanni Allegretti

June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011

Diputación de Málaga
FEDOMU (República Dominicana)
Intendencia de Paysandú (Uruguay)

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Participatory Budget - more participation, better democracy

January 1, 2008 to January 31, 2010


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