In the city of Rosario in Argentina, the government used the method of participatory budgeting to allow citizens the opportunity to engage in the process of decision-making when it came to allocating resources in their communities.
Problems and Purpose
Rosario's Participatory Budgeting initiative combines direct participation, the election of delegates, neighbours’ control of the government’s administration, and the neighbours’ decision over the designation of a part of the municipal budget. The government committed to assuming the set priorities from the participatory budgeting event.
Background History and Context
Since 1995, municipal decentralization and State modernization; citizen participation; the hierarchization of the public space; the development of cultural and artistic promotion; the implementation of social policies in favour of health, work, childhood, youth and education; and the promotion of local development became the central principles of the administration. Through multiple actions, this resulted in the city’s political project.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
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Participant Recruitment and Selection
Every citizen of Rosario over the age of 16 is able to participate in the participatory budget.
Methods and Tools Used
This initiative is an example of participatory budgeting, an increasingly common method of democratic innovation broadly described as "a decision-making process through which citizens deliberate and negotiate over the distribution of public resources." There are many benefits associated with participatory budgeting including increased civic and democratic education; increased government transparency; and an increased opportunity for participation by historically marginalized populations. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The implementation of Rosario Participatory Budgeting is done yearly and it is organised in different stages:
Round 1: Neighbourhood Assemblies
Around 50 meetings are carried out in the city and, in these meeetings, male and female neighbours set forth necessities and proposals for their neighbourhoods. Furthermore, the male and female representatives that will constitute the District Participatory Councils are elected once the first round of neighbourhood assemblies is over.
Work in the District Participatory Councils (DPC): May-October
Each of the DPCs (6 in total) has the objective of turning into projects the proposals formulated by the neighbours of each neighbourhood assembly. Two commissions are formed (social projects and urban projects) where work is carried out together with municipal technical teams.
During the whole process of elaboration of projects, there is a permanent feedback with the technical areas of the government to evaluate the feasibility and costs of the projects proposed by the neighbours.
The corresponding departments of the Local Executive (Health, Culture, Social Promotion, Treasury, Government, Planning, Public Services) give their evaluation of the presented projects and then, the respective meetings are held at the DPCs to inform about these evaluations as well as to look for alternatives when there is a case of negative feasibility.
Finally, the DPCs make the definitive list of the projects with positive feasibility which are later put to the vote by all the citizens at the second round.
Round 2: Project Voting
It is an election day in which, at every city district, male and female neighbours decide which of the projects elaborated by each DPC are to be prioritized.
Round 3: Final Meeting
A meeting is held with the presence of all the city’s representatives. In this meeting, an evaluation is made of the executed projects of the previous year and there is a presentation of the projects and public works that are to be carried out the following year.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
In 8 years, around 50,000 male and female citizens have participated and around 700 social and urban projects have been executed with an investment of US$ 45 million (cultural, sport and recreational workshops; educational projects and projects related to the promotion of women’s rights; health centres, pavement of streets, sport spaces, construction of facilities, traffic lights, equipment, etc.) The PB has concrete objectives and tangible results but one of its most important accomplishments is intangible: the democratisation of the State-Civil Society relation, in which the citizen ceases to be a simple observer and becomes an active protagonist in the public administration.
Co-management: The institutionalization of this channel of participation makes possible citizens' direct intervention in equality of conditions and proposes a breaking with the top-down conception of the state. It allows the giving of new meaning to practices and imagery in relation to the connections between society and the municipal state. In this way, neighbours appropriate the local space and become co-managers of the city.
The space of the District Participatory Council, where projects are formulated, entails a personal transformation of the people and a change in the way they relate, as they go from the discussion of complaints to the proposal of projects. A space for deliberation is promoted and, in there, the knowledge of the people is put together with the technical knowledge of experts.
Prevention and Resolution of Conflicts: Participatory budgeting contributes to the building of consensus between social sectors with opposing interests.
Josh Lerner (2007), on the subjective transformations of the PB representatives, shows a transformation of the 20% in relation to learning and change, going from “modest” before their participation in PB to “high” after one year of participation.
Gender-sensitive Participatory Budgeting: Women have increased their ability to negotiate and to influence the distribution of public resources and women leaders networks have been consolidated in different neighbourhoods of the city.
The Youth Participatory Budgeting has had, in six years of implementation, the participation of over 10,000 young people aged between 13 and 18. There is an attempt to strengthen youth partipation in a formal space of decision-making, being an alternative to the current situation of poor social representation of the youth as a sector that can influence in decision-making. Around 150 projects related to educational workshops and the opening of recreational spaces have been elaborated and executed.
Analysis and Lesson Learned
Every citizen of Rosario over the age of 16 is allowed to participate in the PB. The neighbours’ role is taken into account as an authorized voice to diagnose and evaluate social and urban priorities in the neighbourhoods. There is a personal transformation of the participants and a change in the way they relate, as they go from the “complaint” to the “project proposal.” A place for deliberation is promoted and, in there, the knowledge of the people is put together with technical knowledge.
Specific Effort Made to Include Disadvantaged Groups
Rosario Participatory Budgeting stands out for its inclusion efforts that privilege two social groups: young people and women. This is evident in the progressive incorporation of gender perspective in the whole process and the implementation of the Youth Participatory Budgeting.
Specific Effort Made to Strengthen Democratic Capacities
The city of Rosario, that already had multiple participation spaces in different areas of the administration, decided to move forward to this model of co-management which incorporates some new elements regarding citizen participation:
- It allows sharing of decision-making with regards to such a concrete, tangible and, at the same time, sensitive issue as is the administration of resources
- It improves the local government’s transparency and its ability to render account
- It contributes to the spread among citizens of reliable and updated information about government actions
- It necessarily involves every area of municipal administration
- It is part of the municipal state decentralization process that allows closer proximity between the local government and the citizenship.
 Lerner, J. and Schugurensky, D. (2007). Learning Citizenship and Democracy Through Participatory Budgeting: The Case of Rosario, Argentina.
CIGU Website [dead link]
The Democratic Contribution of Participatory Budgeting - Yves Cabannes and Barbara Lipietz