Data

General Issues
Planning & Development
Social Welfare
Specific Topics
Budget - Local
Government Spending
Public Amenities
Collections
University of Southampton Students
Location
Braga
Braga
Portugal
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Links
https://participe.cm-braga.pt/
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Deliver goods & services
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Consultation
Citizenship building
Social mobilization
Spectrum of Public Participation
Involve
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Mixed
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Captive Sample
Targeted Demographics
Youth
Students
General Types of Methods
Public budgeting
Public meetings
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Manage and/or allocate money or resources
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Recruit or select participants
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Participatory Budgeting
Online Voting
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Decision Methods
Idea Generation
Voting
If Voting
Preferential Voting
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
Local Government
Type of Funder
Local Government
Staff
No
Volunteers
No
Evidence of Impact
Yes

CASE

Participatory Budgeting in Braga, Portugal

December 9, 2019 m.f.zadra
August 26, 2019 Scott Fletcher Bowlsby
March 7, 2019 Jaskiran Gakhal, Participedia Team
December 6, 2018 josh.huckins
General Issues
Planning & Development
Social Welfare
Specific Topics
Budget - Local
Government Spending
Public Amenities
Collections
University of Southampton Students
Location
Braga
Braga
Portugal
Scope of Influence
City/Town
Links
https://participe.cm-braga.pt/
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
Repeated over time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Deliver goods & services
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Consultation
Citizenship building
Social mobilization
Spectrum of Public Participation
Involve
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Mixed
Recruitment Method for Limited Subset of Population
Captive Sample
Targeted Demographics
Youth
Students
General Types of Methods
Public budgeting
Public meetings
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Manage and/or allocate money or resources
Collect, analyse and/or solicit feedback
Recruit or select participants
Specific Methods, Tools & Techniques
Participatory Budgeting
Online Voting
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Facilitator Training
Trained, Nonprofessional Facilitators
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Decision Methods
Idea Generation
Voting
If Voting
Preferential Voting
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
Local Government
Type of Funder
Local Government
Staff
No
Volunteers
No
Evidence of Impact
Yes

The City of Braga (Portugal), annually uses Participatory Budgeting allowing the citizens to create, and vote upon which projects they would like to see completed across the City. The Budget is completed using traditional face-to-face, and e-democratic methods.

Problems and Purpose

Participatory Budgeting was initiated in Braga to help politically motivate citizens, giving them greater influence in the local government’s actions in community projects. In the process, officials hope to provide civic education to the people of Braga. By creating three participatory budgets in Braga, the Municipality hopes to achieve education by targeting all demographics within the city.

Background History and Context

Portugal is a flagship for Participatory Budgeting (PB) in Europe, with Lisbon becoming the first capital city to adopt a Participatory Budget in 2007 when Antonio Costa of the Social Democrats, was the Mayor. From there onwards, Participatory Budgeting has spread throughout most Portugal’s municipalities.

It was no surprise that when Antonio Costa became the leader of the National Government in 2015, Costa would introduce widescale Participatory Budgeting. This was realised in 2017 as a National Participatory Budget was completed for the first time with a budget of €3,000,000.[1]

Braga had previously used a consultative version of Participatory Budgeting by means of only face to face interactions in the Town Hall. In this process, many demographics were excluded as only members of associations were given the opportunity to deliberate. In 2015, Braga introduced an online portal into its participatory innovation allowing all citizens to submit and vote to the Schools Participatory Budget and €75,000 dedicated to a Braga youth project named “Tu Decides!” which is focused upon youth involvement in the political process, targeting citizens aged 14 to 35.[2] 

Braga has a strong focus on the involvement of young people in its political processes after being nominated as the Youth Capital of Europe in 2012. This is primarily due to the fact that 40% of Braga’s population is under 25 years old. [3] Ultimately, these factors equate to the reasons why the Schools Participatory Budget and “Tu Decides!” have been implemented in the Municipality.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

Several key actors are responsible for the promotion of the Participatory Budget in Braga. One individual is the Mayor of Braga, Ricardo Rio who has been elected since 2013. Rio was heavily involved in the implementation of the online portal in the Participatory Budget, giving a greater opportunity for involvement to a greater proportion of the city. 

In 2014, Eduardo Jorge Madureira was appointed to the role of Coordinator of the Participatory Budget by Ricardo Rio. Madureira, who also works as a professor at the University of Braga (Universidade do Minho), has a strong interest in improving youth involvement in politics. Since then the Coordinators of the Participatory Budget have changed, with Eva Sousa and Sameiro Araujo now accommodating the role.

An association named In Loco is a supporter of PB throughout Portugal’s municipalities.[4] In Loco is dedicated to the local development of Portuguese citizens to give them a greater education. The main reason for this is that statistically, education levels in Portugal are significantly lower than average in comparison to across Europe. For example, the proportion of 20 to 24-year olds who have a secondary level of education is below 50%, while the European Average is 75%.[5] In Loco have consequently played an active role in Portugal, promoting PB as a tool to educate citizens on local issues and projects.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

By using both technology and the traditional method of PB, Braga has attempted to encapsulate all citizens in its participatory process. Rio and Madureira have often spoken to local newspapers and websites in order to promote the process. Madureira attempted to promote the PB by emphasising in interviews how easy it is to participate in the process.[6] All citizens can register up to 24 hours before the end date of each voting phase and, if they have signed up for any of the previous years they will not have to do so again. If a participant is unable to vote online in either of the two voting stages for any reason, voting stations are set up in the Town Hall on selected dates to ensure that groups, such as the elderly, still have a voice in the process.

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. [1] 

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

In Braga’s Participatory Budget, every proposal submitted by citizens either in face-to-face Participative Assemblies or the online portal is analysed by the local government to verify whether the request can be put to vote. Once accepted the proposals then go through two stages of voting, with the first stage acting as a filtering process to narrow the voting options for the citizens. Once all the voting has been completed, the projects with the most votes which will be completed by the government are announced on the official Participatory Budgeting Portal for Braga.[7]

The Schools Participatory Budget adopts a deliberative style method of deciding which projects should be chosen for the €100,000 allocated budget. A jury consisting of: The Education Councillor, the Participatory Budget Coordinator, the Directors of the representative Schools Groups and the President of the Schools association for that year is responsible for deciding which projects will be dedicated to the budget. The results for this are also then posted in the Participatory Budgeting Portal for Braga.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

Various projects have been finished since the initial implementation of Participatory Budgeting in Braga. In 2017, the noble room of the Parish Hall underwent a transformation after receiving the most votes in the participatory budget. The Schools Participatory Budget of 2018/19 has also shown positive results. There were six winners in this process which were rewarded with funding by the state budget. One of these projects titled, “Robotics and Programming Laboratory” was awarded €7,304 to build a new lab, giving more space for innovation whilst also allowing students to use new methodologies.

Even though several projects have been completed or have received funding, there is notable frustration from the citizens in Braga as some projects have yet to begin or be completed. This is most prominent in the government’s idleness in creating more cycle paths in the city of Braga.[8] The creation and extension of cycle paths were the most voted upon issue in the area of traffic, mobility and road safety in 2015. Following inactivity from the government, this issue had an increased vote share of 30% in 2016. Since then, in 2018 five proposals relating to safety conditions for those who travel by bicycle were rejected by the municipal services on the premise that the projects were already in the process of completion. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

Studies completed on the topic of Participatory Budgeting often praise the combination of both face to face and digital interaction with the process. By combining the two processes, this effectively means that groups which would potentially be isolated by PB incorporating only a singular technique can still have a political voice. For example, younger demographics would be isolated from Town Hall meetings, whilst the elderly and the lower classes are more likely to be excluded from digital forms of PB.[9] In comparison to other practices of PB, the turnout of Braga’s Participatory Budgets are relatively high. This can be highlighted most effectively by comparing Braga and Belo Horizonte’s turnout statistics.[10] The population of Braga is recorded to be 136,885. In 2018, Braga’s PB recorded 8595 voters, meaning that 6.28% of the population were involved in the participatory innovation. In contrast to this, Belo Horizonte has a population of 2,501,576 and only recorded 8900 voters in its Participatory Budget of 2013.[11] Ultimately, that equates to 0.36% of the population. As a result of this, the Participatory Budget of Braga should receive great praise for its consistency and its ability to be able to continuously politically motivate its population.

However, a key reason as to why turnout has dramatically decreased in Belo Horizonte is that the local government are often making it increasingly more difficult to register to vote. In Braga in 2018, a similar pattern can be observed. To be able to vote in the PB of Braga, citizens must receive an SMS activation code, or have a code sent to them by mail which is to be collected from a collection point. Although this can be regarded as a simple change, this change can possibly give an explanation as to why the number of voters has dropped in 2018.

Despite Braga’s PB being more popular by ratio to Belo Horizonte’s, studies have also found that when asked formally in 2011, many of the population of Braga were unaware of the Participatory Budget.[12] Although this data may be now outdated, this should still create a greater incentive to key actors within Braga’s Municipality to increase widespread coverage on the process. Leading on from this, there is also some criticism amongst scholars regarding Participatory Budgeting which can be linked to Braga. It is often argued that PB is simply a more democratic way for some to appropriate state power and enhance private interests with the democratic legitimacy which is associated to the process.[13] This idea can be linked to the fact that some projects, such as the extension and creation of cycle paths in Braga, have yet to be completed. This potentially suggests that, by analysing all proposals before they are voted upon, the Municipality of Braga can set a government agenda which it would best like to follow. To avoid this type of speculation Braga must ensure that the projects which are most voted upon, are completed within a set time frame.

Although the effects of PB has not been studied directly in Braga. PB is often found to increase levels of political satisfaction amongst those who participate in it. In a study of Belo Horizonte, it was discovered that by using the PB, citizens were able to reduce the extent of clientelism in the city. Furthermore, 60% of respondents stated that they had access to the resources which they needed by participating in PB.[14] Therefore, it can be argued that by giving the citizens of Braga a budget of €750,000 which they are able to allocate themselves, this will lead to a much higher level of political satisfaction amongst the citizens of Braga. 

See Also

Participatory Budgeting

References

[1] Alex Starritt, ‘Portugal Announces the World’s First Nationwide Participatory Budget’, Huffington Post, 28 October 2016 <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/apolitical/portugal-announces-the-wo_b_12685616.html>.

[2] Braga City Municipality, ‘Portal Braga Participates’, 2018 <https://participe.cm-braga.pt/>.

[3] Ricardo Rio, ‘“Bringing down Barriers to Youth Participation: Adopting a Lingua Franca for Local and Regional Authorities and Young People”’, 2015 <https://rm.coe.int/168071b376>.

[5] SN Riberio, ‘Experiences of a Social Residence in the Algrave’, NAU Social Magazine, 2.2 (2011), 45 <www.periodicos.adm.ufba.br/index.php/rs/article/download/.../81>.

[6] Patrícia Sousa, ‘Eduardo Jorge Madureira Calls on the Population to Vote in the 2017 Participatory Budget’, Correio Do Minho, 1 September 2016 <https://correiodominho.pt/noticias/eduardo-jorge-madureira-apela-a-populacao-para-votar-no-orcamento-participativo-2017/96828>.

[7] https:/participe.cm-braga.pt/op2017/9/impresna/item/item-1-72841

[8] Victor Domingos, ‘What Credibility does the Participatory Budget in Braga Have?’, Diario do Minho, 12 January 2018 <https://www.diariodominho.pt/2018/12/01/que-credibildade-tem-o-orcamento-participativo-de-braga>.

[9] Rafeal Cardoso Sampaio and Tiago Peixoto, ‘Electronic Participatory Budgeting: False Dilemmas and True Complexities’, In Hope for Democracy - 25 Years of Participatory Budgeting Worldwide, 2014, 413–27.

[10] Steven Coleman and Rafeal Cardoso Sampaio, ‘Sustaining a Democratic Innovation: A Study of Three e-Participatory Budgets in Belo Horizonte’, Information, Communication & Society, 20.5 (2017), 754–69 <https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1203971>.

[12] Marciele B. Bernardes, Francisco Pacheco de Andrade, and Paulo Novais, ‘Popular Participation and Digital Democracy: The Experience of Participative Budget of the Town Hall of Braga’, 2016 <https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3014087.3014101>.

[13] Marta Nunes de Costa, ‘How Participatory Budgeting Changes the Meaning and Practices of Citizenship’, [email protected]: An International Journal for Moral Philosophy, 12.2 (2013), 301–20.

[14] Steven Coleman and Rafeal Cardoso Sampaio, ‘Sustaining a Democratic Innovation: A Study of Three e-Participatory Budgets in Belo Horizonte’, Information, Communication & Society, 20.5 (2017), 754–69 <https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1203971>.

External Links

[4] http://www.in-loco.pt/

[11] https://www.citypopulation.de/php/portugal-braga.php?cityid=003647 & https://www.citypopulation.de/php/brazil-regiaosudeste-admin.php?adm2id=3106200 

Notes