Cascais started in 2016 the sixth year of the OP, having been highly successful since the first edition. The good results have been interpreted as a product of the design, the participants' ability to mobilize, and the credibility of the process with public opinion.
Problems and Purpose
The Participatory Budget (OP) has been an instrument capable of entrusting citizens with decisions regarding how to spend a part of the municipal budget, in which local authorities “grant” the opening to citizens of a portion of local resources, to give indications, codecide or even plan in detail the investments and / or the structuring of public policies (Allegretti et al, 2016). It is worth mentioning that practically all participatory budgets that have emerged in Europe, in the last decade, have a top-down origin, having been promoted by administrators or, in rarer cases, by employees and technical directors interested in establish new alliances and partnerships between neighborhood institutions and citizens. The interest of local European institutions in experimenting with participatory budgeting began in 2002. In most countries, the reference model was found in Brazilian initiatives in the 1990s, with the city of Porto Alegre being the most referenced case (Allegretti et al , 2016).
In particular, the Cascais OP (the fifth largest city in Portugal with 206,000 inhabitants) took place within the scope of the Participatory Budget Portugal project, with a majority of codecision experiences that propose other ways of defining public policies for the municipality. Cascais started in April 2016 the sixth year of the process, having been highly successful since the first edition (2010). The good results have been interpreted by the Cascais Municipality as a product of the design of the participatory budget, the ability to mobilize the participants and the credibility of the process with public opinion, as well as the strategy adopted for the insertion of the participatory budget within the structure organization of municipal services.
Background History and Context
The municipality of Cascais, in 2008, was governed by a coalition formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Center - Popular Party (CDS-PP), led by António Capucho, who would be reelected, under the same leadership, in the October 2009 elections. In the case of Cascais, the idea of participatory budgeting was fueled by the then deputy mayor Carlos Carreiras. In particular, participatory budgeting was seen as a “completion” of territorial programming policies, through the introduction of a dimension of dialogue on the budgetary component, capable of deepening the ongoing participatory dynamics and reinforcing the legitimacy of these processes. p>
In the case of Cascais, the construction of a participatory budget path was not seen as an opportunity to establish from scratch a work team dedicated to participatory processes. The opening of a participatory budget path was also imagined as an opportunity to revive the relationship between the city hall and its six parishes, organizing, from the start, a cycle of public participation sessions that took into account not only administrative limits, but the existing territorial asymmetries. For these reasons, Cascais went through a long process of elaborating its own participatory budget model, carefully observing the experiences of other municipalities. The Cascalense model opted for the elaboration of a Letter of Principles, when formalizing the process from a normative point of view, with the creation of a municipal regulation of the participatory budget.
It is also worth noting that political reasons for not fully converging among Executive members on the start of the participatory budget influenced the delay with which the Cascais process was approved, having effectively started to work in the spring of 2011. The height more opportune policy for the start of the participatory budget coincided with the early departure of Mayor António Capucho, at the end of 2010, alleging personal reasons, and his replacement by the then Vice Mayor Carlos Carreiras, who had been the biggest supporter of the introduction of the budget participatory in Cascais.
Thus, the organizational proposal of the participatory budget of Cascais is born in a very different way, assuming as a differentiating element the fact that it only allows the presentation of proposals within the scope of face-to-face assemblies (called public participation sessions), although the final vote for the choice of winning projects remains open to all interested citizens who have any type of link with the territory of Cascais. In the case of Cascais, we highlight the slogans that were successful: “I have an idea for Cascais. I participate!" or “I vote. Cascais wins ”, followed by the invitation“ Contribute with your ideas ”(Allegretti et al, 2016).
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The city of Cascais promoted the OP. The initial amount in 2010 was 2.5 million, in 2015 it was more than 4 million.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The process is open to all people.
Proposals formulated only in public face-to-face sessions. There are approximately 45 proposals that go for technical appraisal by the municipal services. The meetings consisted of participatory sessions with a territorial basis, in which citizens present, discuss, merge and exclude proposals, reducing them to a maximum number of five for each public participation session. As of 2012, proposing citizens are always contacted to participate in the technical analysis when the proposals in question offer doubts or are in danger of being eliminated by municipal services.
Participants can only vote by SMS, and each single voter can cast only one vote. In the Cascais OP, there was a municipal regulation, prepared by the city hall and approved by the city hall. Proponents were more involved in carrying out the projects, as well as in monitoring and working with groups of citizens on the details of the process. The Cascalense model was centered on the “concertation” of the proposals, with greater consensus and the central role of the citizen was diagnosed at each stage of the cycle.
Methods and Tools Used
Pariticipativo Budget prevailing face to face with the vote via sms.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
In Cascais, the 2012 participatory budget cycle functioned in four phases: the first led by public events; the second held mainly in back-office (carried out primarily by local government officials); the third is open to citizens' participation to vote on priorities; and the fourth, mainly by officials and political actors who harmonize the results of the process with the administrative agenda of financial forecasts, and evaluate the functioning of the participatory budget for the introduction of possible changes in the next edition. The four phases in Cascais worked in four moments, namely:
1) There was a period of approximately one month (10 April to 5 May), in which the city hall organized nine territorial assemblies, with the aim of ensuring proximity debates with citizens, regardless of the formal divisions of the six parishes . Per meeting, each participant could submit a proposal, which must be discussed and negotiated together with other people's proposals. At the end of each meeting, only the five proposals considered a priority by all participants could move on to the next stage.
2) Then, there was a period of about two months (June and July) dedicated to the “technical analysis” of the winning proposals in the nine assemblies. The objective of this phase is to assess the viability of each idea in the light of the criteria stipulated and publicly disclosed before the start of the process. In this context, there is a possibility of merging similar or geographically similar proposals, but only if this results from a consensus between the participants, and therefore they should be directly involved in the analysis of the projects' feasibility. This work was followed, in September, by a period of public consultation, of ten days, for the citizens to present complaints regarding the result in the analysis made by the technical staff of the City Hall, and for the municipal services to reassess the projects that were the subject of complaints, with the introduction of possible reformulations of them.
3) A period of one month (September 20 to October 20) was dedicated to voting, through free SMS, of the projects that have passed to the technical analysis phase. Negotiations were carried out with the three largest mobile phone companies and a code was assigned to each project. Each telephone number could only vote once, being automatically blocked by the system of the three companies after sending a proof of “receipt of the vote”, which contained a link for an online questionnaire. line of participants' satisfaction.
4) The last phase (which took shape from the beginning of November until the opening of the participatory budget cycle in 2013) consisted of a public presentation ceremony of the results, followed by the official inclusion of the winning projects in the list of options to be financed in the activity plan and in the municipal budget, and through an evaluation process of the annual cycle of the participatory budget.
The Cascalense participatory cycle inserted in participatory budget models with a “codecision” scope in 2012, had a share of EUR 2.5 million, and was developed in “urban focal centers” with specific historical, landscape and social characteristics of the social fabric of Cascais. On this occasion, they decided to open the participatory budget to the participation of non-resident people, as they contemplated the phenomenon of commuting migrations. The fact that Cascais only allows the presentation of proposals in face-to-face meetings was a key factor in reducing the risk of submitting those that do not correspond to the needs of the territory.
The methodologies used in the Cascais participatory budget design a new participatory process typology for Portugal, centered on “consultation and negotiation” between the participants, throughout the public phases of the process, and in which citizens always remain at the center of the selection, bottleneck and fusion of proposals, without the risk of imagining that the direction of the projects to be voted on in the final phase is somehow “guided” by politicians or by municipal service officials.
In Cascais, citizens are also not expected to play an active role in the annual reorganization of the process and its rules, but they participate in the funneling and filtering of proposals, monitor the technical evaluation, decide on the possible merger of proposals, and maintain an active posture in the execution of approved projects, as well as in their monitoring and management. (Allegretti et al, 2016)
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The Cascais OP between 2011 and 2012 revealed strong roots in local communities and their connection with the increase in the quality of life in the municipality. It contributed decisively to the selection of projects focused on promoting quality of life. It was carried out in an architecture that reduces the dispersion of votes for citizen proposals and reinforces the degree of satisfaction and legitimacy of the participatory device. In this way, it disclosed the number of participants in the sessions, as well as reported, in detail, both on the works already completed and on those that are overdue, giving greater transparency and credibility to the OP process.
Cascais has faced the first three years of participatory budgeting in a different way, trying to involve the inhabitants either in the reformulation of proposals that are not entirely feasible, or in the details of the projects for the approved works. The Cascais experience has put more effort into a “proximity dialogue” that does not put administrative services in a “defensive” position in the face of protests by residents about delays or details of projects not according to their expectations.
In October 2013, of the twelve projects approved in the 2011 vote, eight were completed and inaugurated and four were in an advanced stage of execution. The degree of confidence and degree of satisfaction appear to be satisfactory in Cascais, which helps to consolidate a greater legitimacy of the management instrument itself represented by the participatory budget in Cascais. In the model employed, there are public spaces in which the number of proposals is filtered by the exclusive decision of the participants, namely: the citizen is increasingly one of the protagonists in this process (Allegretti et al, 2016).
Analysis and Lessons Learned
When investigating the specific context of OP in Cascais, we try to: “better understand the phenomena of politics in contemporary societies, recognizing that not all movements and associations are willing to participate in institutional spaces for sharing power” (Pereira, 2012, p. 84). The advent of ICTs simultaneously with the diffusion of the internet allowed both direct communication between individuals and the distribution of information in a multidirectional and horizontal way. It is therefore relevant to rethink the process of functioning of political power in the face of the constant changes exposed by globalization in the 21st century, recognizing that individuals, because they do not trust traditional ways of doing politics, do not feel represented politically by the current institutional framework ( Barbosa, 2016). Result: participation rates in the elections of countries with the longest democratic tradition have been declining in the last decades, as well as affiliations with the main representative institutions (Castro; Reis, 2012). And perhaps the Cascal experience has the potential to motivate new actors to participate in public life.
Mouffe (2015) observes that one of the great challenges of democracy in the 21st century is “not being able to limit oneself to establishing a conciliatory solution between interests or values or to deliberate about the common good; it needs to be concretely supported by the people's desires and fantasies ”(Mouffe, 2015, p. 6). Even more: if, in contemporary liberal democracies, we perceive the accumulation of an unrestricted amount of demands that cannot be channeled through institutional mechanisms, political decisions are increasingly carried out in spaces that are beyond the control of citizens. Therefore, instead of confronting ideas and projects, we are witnessing the collapse of the regime that represents liberal democracies, coupled with a continuous growth of discontent among the population in relation to the political world.
From this questioning, a gap in the communicative capacity between the State and the citizens is perceived. On the one hand, political power remains at a local level; on the other hand, citizens accumulate not only a generalized dissatisfaction justified by the separation between government and government, but also show little desire to engage in a political system lacking in “communication tools” common to his daily life.
We perceive, then, a “mismatch” between a civil society that pleads for quick and efficient responses, at the same time that the channels of political participation signal not to follow these required demands. There are, therefore, a series of gaps regarding the understanding of the values that guide and support the actions of the actors in the political field and also about the forms of their socialization in the experiences of POs. In this specific case, we call for future studies that consider perceptions of objective social situations and may undergo subjective impressions and assessments about the participation of the actors in the case of Cascais.
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Lead image: "Cascais Participatory Budget Debate Assembly" Ideias à Moda do Porto https://goo.gl/3D5Na4
Secondary image: "Cascais 2013 Participatory Budget" Porto-style Ideas https://goo.gl/BXtEW7