principles, history, and cases
(Porto Alegre, Chicago)
Dr. Michael Menser, Philosophy;
US/NYC Solidarity Economy Network
Provost’s Task Force on City-based Sustainability
BC Sustainability Council
Board Member, Institute for Sustainable Cities/CUNY
Participatory Democracy (PD)
Participatory democracy (PD) is that view of
politics which calls for the creation and
proliferation of practices and institutions that
enable individuals and groups to better
determine the conditions in which they act and
relate to others.
Individual are agents (not just persons with
interests looking to be represented)
Not limited to formal politics, but includes the
economic and social/cultural dimensions.
Examples of PD
Historical Examples: Medieval Cities, Iroquois
Confederacy (League of 6 nations), New England
Town Hall Meetings, SNCC, SDS, Global Justice
Referenda (direct democracy)
Criminal Trial Juries (chosen by lottery, consensus)
Worker and consumer cooperatives’s
Land trusts, credit unions
Collective households, intentional communities
Indymedia, Linux, Creative Commons
Participatory Budgeting Basics
Participatory budgeting (PB): process in
which community members decide how to
spend part of a public budget.
Types of budgets: municipal, capital,
programs, also budgets of schools, housing
projects and non-profit organizations
“Right to City” approach: need based, social
There are over 1,200 participatory budgets
around the world (Worldwatch Institute).
PB is a Multi-stage Process:
diagnosis, discussion, decision-making,
implementation, and monitoring.
Residents assemble in neighborhood meetings to
identify and prioritize local needs, and elect delegates
for each community to the city-wide PB council.
Delegates discuss the local priorities and develop
concrete projects that address them, together with
technical experts (engineers, etc).
Delegates vote on which ones to fund.
The government implements the chosen projects,
and residents and delegates monitor implementation
(park, school, garden, bus line, cleanup of site).
Participatory Budgeting and Municipal Governance
PB1 MAYOR'S OFFICE
City Council Participatory Budgeting Council
delegates are chosen by districts
priorities are ranked by each district
Political Parties Neighborhood Assembly
Lobbyists District 2
e.g. green jobs
Quantifiable Benefits of PB
more equitable public spending, decreases
higher quality of life, increased satisfaction of
greater government transparency and
accountability, decreases corruption
increased levels of public participation
(especially by marginalized residents)
democratic and citizenship learning
Development of citizen
capacities for self-
Educates citizens in how the budget
Public speaking skills
Distributes leadership, proliferates
Participants determine decision making
process and rules
Inspired the unorganized to
Citizens have decisive, not just
Number of delegates tied to number
that shows up at neighborhood
Privileges underserved and
Cultivated capacities for autonomy
and self-development utilized in non
PB, PD and Sustainability
of Porto Alegre
knowledge that is
useful for residents,
businesses, Ngo’s at
local and citywide
levels (e.g. species
Written for high
Keys to PB’s Launch and Success in POA
Mayor’s office made it happen
Worker’s Party (PT) supported it, had
link to community groups
Fiscal crisis opened up opportunity
Political parties stay out
Participants view it as worth
participating: decisive power, clear
Since when and now where?
PB began at the end of the 80’s, in Brazil, when democracy was
reinstalled in the country.
I: Experimentation. 1989 - 1996
II: Expansion in Brazil. 1997 - 2000
III: Diversification in Latin America. 2001-2005
IV: International Awareness. 2003 – 2005
Most experiences are still in Brazil, but many other Latin
American cities have adopted PB in the last 5 years.
Currently, cities from Europe, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe
are exercising PB.
Experimentation Expansion in Brazil Diversification in
1989 Recife, Brazil V. El Salvador, Peru
Porto Alegre, Brazil Alvorada, Brazil Ilo, Peru
Caxias do Sud, Bra.
Santo André, Brazil Belem, Brazil 2001
Icapui, Brazil D.Cuahutemoc, Mex.
Mundo Novo, Brazil Cuenca, Ecuador
Montevideo, Uruguay 1998 2002
Juiz de Fora,Brazil Cotacachi, Ecuador
2001 Puerto Asis, Colombia
Belo Horizonte, Brazil Camphinas, Brazil Buenos Aires, Arg.
PB in US: Chicago
Alderman Joe Moore, Chicago, 49th
Turning over his discretionary funds
(“menu money”), 1 million for fiscal year
2009/10--to a PB process (in NYC each
City Council member received $350,000
Last spring, Alderman Moore brought together
leaders of over 50 civic, religious and community
organizations, asked each to appoint one or two
representatives from their organizations to serve on a
steering committee to design a participatory
budgeting process for the 49th Ward. (committee
was chaired by Jamiko Rose , Executive Director of
the Organization of the Northeast)
Steering Committee developed three-step process
and timetable that will culminate in a ward-wide
meeting next spring when the entire community will
deliberate and vote on the 49th Ward infrastructure
spending priorities for 2010.
Step 1--Neighborhood Assembly
Meetings (Nov and Dec 2009)
The ward will be organized into eight sections or
areas, with a "neighborhood assembly" held in each
area. (Also, a Spanish language assembly).
Neighborhood assemblies will be open to any 49th
Residents will receive info and brainstorm.
At the conclusion, "community representatives" will
be elected; they will be charged with developing
proposals for infrastructure menu allocation.
Step 2--Community Representative
Meetings (December-February 2010)
The community representatives will
meet to develop proposals for use of the
infrastructure menu money to be
presented at a ward-wide assembly in
the spring. The representatives, at their
discretion, may call additional
neighborhood assembly meetings to
solicit additional suggestions and
bounce off ideas.
Step 3,Ward-Wide Assembly Meeting
Final step of the process, community
residents will gather at a ward-wide
assembly to deliberate and vote on the
2010 infrastructure spending priorities
for the 49th Ward.
(some slides and quotes were taken
from materials available there)