The Canoas Popular and Citizen Participation System consisted of a set of 13 tools geared to collective, individual, collaborative, cooperative, and strategic development demands, enabling the city to better manage resources until it was discontinued after a change in government.
Problems and Purpose
The Canoas Popular and Citizen Participation System consisted of 13 tools designed to enable partnership between the city government and society, ultimately improving the management of public resources. Since 2009, Canoas has been using the same model of Participatory Budgeting that was developed in Porto Alegre. During its duration, more than 252 works were done for the municipality and more than 140 demands were met. It is estimated that more than 170 thousand people participated—that is, about 50% of the population at the time. Its main objective was the exercise of citizenship and democracy, as well as giving the population the chance to have their voice heard more directly and effectively.
Background History and Context
During the mandate of Mayor Jairo Jorge (2009-2012), the Canoas Popular Participation System was created, inspired by post-dictatorship re-democratization policies that were taking place in Brazil—a landmark of this process was the 1988 Constitution of Brazil, called the Citizen Constitution, which formed a legal and principled basis that allowed the evolution of innovative practices and democratic programs in Brazilian society. The political project for Canoas society developed by the PT political party at the time consisted of adopting three principles: transparency, participation, and social inclusion.
Since 2008, the implementation of Participatory Budgeting had already been discussed and it was one of the candidate's main proposals. Upon winning the election, Jairo Jorge began the process of implementing his proposals and on January 1, 2009, the Canoas Popular Participation System was created. In the beginning, the project was made according to the division of the city, which was divided into 4 regions and 12 micro-regions, but later it was increased to 15 micro-regions to better meet local demands. The regions were divided into Southwest, Southeast, Northeast, and Northwest.
Jairo formed a coalition with 17 political parties and managed to be re-elected as the first mayor to win two consecutive times in Canoas. At the time, democratic laws and processes such as the 2011 Access to Information Law and the 2010 Transparency Portal, allowed democracy in Brazil to gain more tools that would allow citizens to track public data, such as spending and resources used, which gave an extra boost to the success of such a project.
As of 2016, the PT party's reputation suffered when then-President of Brazil, Lula Inacio da Silva (2003-2011), who belonged to the PT party, began to be investigated and was arrested for corruption. His successor was the first woman President of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, also from the PT, and an impeachment process beginning on December 2, 2015 resulted in the termination of her mandate in 2016, negatively affecting the PT's credibility. With all this happening in Brazil and with the PT's several scandals and loss of popularity, the candidate for mayor of Canoas, Luiz Carlos Busato, decided to take a position opposite to the policies of the PT and with his win, the project of Canoas was discontinued.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
This project was financed by the Municipality of Canoas, and the Better Neighborhood program was financed by the residents themselves through their property tax. Regarding the OP Canoas Investment Plan, it was established by the Government Coordination Chamber. It is estimated that the total amount of resources that the Canoas Budget had was 74,500.00 million reais, while the total projects were estimated to have a cost of 114,500,000 million reais.
The project was supported both by the government itself, as well as by the citizens who collaborated, among them professionals from various areas and private companies that participated in this democratic process. They interacted with each other during meetings and appointments, where it was decided which methods would be used and what the purposes of the money would be.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
The project in general, was open to all citizens of Canoas, regardless of age or nationality, but for certain tools, it was necessary for participants to belong to a certain profession or have a certain legal status. Although the opinions of individuals were heard, decisions were generally made collectively, usually through majority voting. The project aimed at improving all citizens' lives and the whole city in general, but people with lower income and poorer areas of the cities received a little more attention due to the great social inequalities that exist in various regions of the city, and in Brazil in general, as well as the lack of infrastructure in areas further away from the center. The age distribution of the participants was as follows: 25 to 59 years (70%), more than 60 years (19.6%), up to 24 years (7.1%), and 3.9% did not report their age.
Methods and Tools Used
During the existence of the project, its methods were focused on social and participatory inclusion of all citizens of Canoas, as well as the creation of new methods that connect public authorities, private entities, and various areas of commerce and different individual sectors so that together with the population, collaborative measures that would benefit everyone could be taken.
In the beginning, there were 4 tools used:
- Mayor on the Street (2009): the objective was to create a connection between public authorities and the population. Every Saturday, the mayor and the deputy mayor, as well as the secretaries and public directors, went to the plazas and streets of different places in the city to listen directly to what the population had to say. It is estimated that more than 300 public visits were carried out on the streets of the city.
- Public Hearings (2009): the mayor met in his office with up to 20 citizens once a week to hear his demands directly. The order of attendance was on a first-come, first-served basis. It is estimated that more than 3,385 meetings were held through this system.
- Plenary of Public Services (2009): during the plenary session, the mayor and vice president, as well as all secretaries of state are accountable to citizens. They presented their actions and what they planned to do in the future. Citizens had the right to submit criticisms and suggestions to management. Plenaries were held in the four quarters of the city. It is estimated that there were 12 editions, with 9,827 citizens participating and 5,367 demands withdrawn
- Participatory Budget (2009): through an election, citizens defined works and services to be carried out in the municipality. It is estimated that more than 86 thousand citizens participated and more than 117 works were carried out for the city. For each region of the city, the value of one million reais per year was allocated for investments, and up to two works could be chosen, not exceeding 50% of the total value for each one.
Over time, new tools were proposed, and between 2013-2016, 13 tools were installed in the System of Popular and Citizen Participation of Canoas. These 13 tools were then subdivided into 5 main categories, which would be:
- Strategic elaboration, where the mechanisms were found: “Congress of the City”, “Pluriannual Plan” and “Sectorial Plans”;
- the Concertation Area, where the “House of Councils” and the “Council for Economic and Social Development” were located;
- deliberative demands, which included the “Better Neighborhood”, the “Plenary of Public Services”, the “Participatory Budget” and the “Business Polygons”;
- the area of individual demands, materialized by the programs: “Mayor on the Street”, “Mayor in the station” and the “Public Hearing”; and
- Collaborative, in which the “Ágora em Rede” was located.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Percentage of participation:
- 2009/2010: 5.3%
- 2010/2011: 11.67%
- 2011/2012: 10.25%
- 2012/2013: 10.55%
- 2013/2014: 10.24%
- 2014/2015: 7.54%
At the beginning there were few resources and little participation, however, during the course of the project, participation increased, especially if we take into account that for Brazil, such numbers are a great achievement as the people are usually not politically engaged in public activities. However, near the end of the project, the numbers started to decrease. This was especially noticed in the program called Business Polygons, where there was a partnership between representatives of Companies and Workers Present Local Demands and the government. According to public data, there was average participation of 8% of the entire population during the existence of the project.
In addition, the level of participation is also reflected in the amount allocated to the Public Budget:
- 2009/2010: R$ 11 millions
- 2010/2011: R$ 17 millions
- 2011/2012: R$ 16 millions
- 2012/2013: R$ 16 millions
- 2014/2015: R$ 14,5 millions
The following tools used in this project contributed to these numbers, as they allowed a wide range of citizens to participate:
- Council for Economic and Social Development (2009): Approximately 50 professionals from different areas met every 2 months to discuss public improvements. Among them were workers, entrepreneurs, educators, and religious and community leaders.
- House of the Councils (2010): it was a space that provided infrastructure for 33 municipal councillors to work. Computers, telephones, and various equipment were available for them to exercise their functions.
- Congress of the City of Canoas (2011): this congress discussed public and social plans for the next decade in the city. 104 measures were taken and 43 initiatives were planned.
- Agora em Rede (2011): an online tool that allowed contact between citizens and public authorities, as well as provided online content and information on city issues.
- Strategic Sectorial Planning (2013): Tool for formulating participatory plans in the four areas of safety, sanitation, health, and education
- Participatory Multi-Year Plan (2013): 10 Program proposals were presented, among which the participants should choose the four that they considered most important. It discussed four-year plans for the city. It is estimated that there were more than 4000 participants.
- Better Neighborhood (2013): this allowed citizens to donate up to 50% of their property tax to a public social project. More than 200 thousand reais have been transferred to local projects.
- Mayor in the station (2013): The mayor went around metro stations every Tuesday, in order to listen to the local demands of the people. It is estimated that more than 5000 people were served.
- Business Polygons (2014): a meeting between companies and the government, where representatives of companies and workers present local demands. More than 200 companies participated.
The deliberation process involved the help of organizers and supporters, as in addition to public officials going to the place to meet with the people, several supporters also provided space and shared their knowledge to make the project a success.
The program's success was also due to the fact that the participants needed to achieve a consensus; during the meetings and councils, the opinions of all were taken into account, but the majority democratic method was used, so if the majority decided to allocate a certain amount of resources, it would be done.
For some tools, the place of the voting system was decided at the meeting place, but for other tools, the representatives met with civil servants and the decision process was on the spot where they were but was decided in a planned way. In both, the government was involved in the final decision-making regarding outcomes or recommendations from the process, albeit based on the opinion and desire of the participants. The results were published on the government's official website and official local websites of the municipality. However, what stands out concerning the form of communication is that the city created an online system, called Ágora Virtual, where citizens had online access to all the actions of the city and also had a direct dialogue with the managers.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
As the statistics show, it can be said that the democratic innovation used had more than its intended results, encompassing more than what was originally planned. The project was so well received at the time that several new tools were created and implemented, thus complementing the original project and creating a new form of democratic participation.
The initiative influenced and had influence on several spheres, such as public policy, non-governmental institutions, business institutions, and individuals. It can be said that such a project also contributed to the behaviour of society as a whole, as it made the people participate more directly in the public democratic process and improved political awareness. Citizens became more politically active, something that was not common in Brazil.
In relation to individual actions, other than official government policy, citizens didn't decide to take action on their own, first because the Brazilian people are not used to being politically active and second because the project allowed the people to have their voice heard without having to take measures on their own, thus facilitating popular participation.
Also, thanks to its System of Popular and Citizen Participation, Canoas influenced several cities in Brazil and other countries. It can thus be said that this project was an example for future projects not only in Brazil but in the world. An example was when the deputy mayor of Porto Alegre himself went to Canoas to become familiar with the project to try to implement it in other regions. In addition to the local level, international representatives are also interested in the project.  A representative of the City Council of Minneapolis, Minnesota City State, Elizabeth Glidden, met with Mayor Jairo Jorge, who presented an overview of the Canoas Citizen Participation System, thus bringing the democratic system to North America.  The Secretary-General of the Office of Public Consultation in Montreal, Canada, Luc Doray, also visited Canoas in order to get to know the project. 
The city was awarded approximately 50 awards, both national and international, including: 
- The International Observatory for Participatory Democracy (OIDP) awarded the Brazilian city of Canoas the “Good Practices in Citizen Participation” award, in recognition of an unprecedented system in the world that offers 13 citizen participation tools. Canoas competed with 36 cities in 15 countries.
- 2011 International Active Cities Contest, in Mexico, where the City Hall project won in the Public Space category
- It was awarded twice by the State Court of Auditors, in the category of Best Practices on Transparency on the Internet, because of the Transparency Portal.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Overall, as shown by the official data, the project itself was a success during its existence and it can be said that the tools used were important for the democratic system of Canoas. The discontinuity of the project had more to do with political issues rather than issues related to the functioning of the project.
The key innovation introduced by Canoas, having possessed such a complex system of public proceedings, were creating several mechanisms that allowed citizens to resolve issues through different forms. 
Despite the effectiveness of such measures, it is difficult to predict whether such a project will be reopened in the near future, because it is a project of the PT party, and there is a hypothesis that the PT's victory is positively correlated with the PB creation , so opposing politicians will not want to use such a project in order to avoid giving credit to the competitor. Thus, it is difficult to predict how the project would be today if it had not ended; it is possible new tools would be implemented and old tools rebuilt and digitalized.
This project influenced and was influenced at the same time by other projects that were taking place at that time in the country. For example, Participatory Budgeting in Cruz Alta, another project made by the PT, had very similar methods. Because both projects were made by the PT, the party gained experience and insights to make improvements to both.
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 Gugliano, A. A. (2019). Um modelo sistêmico de participação cidadã: o sistema participativo de Canoas. Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. p.13
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 Carvalho, I. A. (2013). Escândalo do mensalão do PT: qual o limite da corrupção? Universidade de Brasília. https://core.ac.uk/download/196876532.pdf
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 OIDP. System of Popular and Citizen Participation of Canoas – Brazil. (2016). Available at: https://oidp.net/en/practice.php?id=1149 (Accessed: 25 May 2021)
 Domingos, H.C. (2017). O orçamento participativo do município de Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul: um estudo de caso. pp.45-60. https://repositorio.ufsc.br/handle/123456789/178635
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 Santos, J.U.L. (2017). “Ágora em rede”: análise da experiência de democracia digital e participação cidadã no município de Canoas – RS. https://lume.ufrgs.br/handle/10183/177655
 Prefeitura de Canoas. (2016). Instrumentos de Participação Popular e Cidadã. Available at: https://www.enfpt.org.br/bancodepoliticas/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/2009-2016-RS-Canoas-Sistema-de-Participacao-Popular-Cidada.pdf (Accessed: 25 May 2021)
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 Prefeitura de Canoas. (2015). Canadense conhece Sistema de Participação Cidadã de Canoas. Available at: http://oldsite.canoas.rs.gov.br/site/noticia/visualizar/idDep/71/id/121348 (Accessed: 27 May 2021)
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 Spada, P. (2014). “The Diffusion of Participatory Governance Innovations: A Panel Data Analysis of the Adoption and Survival of Participatory Budgeting in Brazil.” Working Paper. Available at http://www.spadap.com/app/download/8877410668/The%2020Diffusion%2020of20Democratic%2020Innovations_sito%2020web.pdf?t=1417288702. (Accessed: 25 May 2021)
 Muniz, F. O. (2017). Sistemas de participação: uma análise do sistema estadual de participação popular e cidadã e do sistema nacional de participação social.
Official communication channel* [Portuguese]: https://web.archive.org/web/20160312053706/http://agoraemrede.com.br/
For those interested in writing in more detail or obtaining more information about this case, more details can be found in the links and references mentioned above; however, due to the lack of literature in English, knowledge of the Portuguese language is required. Another important limitation is that unfortunately much of the information that was published on official websites is no longer online, and it is not possible to see even through the web cache system.
*It is no longer available, just the view via web cache.