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When local participatory budgeting turns into a participatory system. Challenges of expanding a local democratic experience

Emil A. Sobbotka, Danilo R. Streck

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The experience of participatory budgeting that began in Porto Alegre in 1989 was carried over to the state level in Rio Grande do Sul in 1999. Since then, governments have tried out different modes of popular participation and consultation, culminating with the creation of a system of popular and citizen participation where participatory budgeting is one among various possibilities designed to allow citizen participation. In the article we discuss some more evident challenges of such an expansion, like the tension between participation as a principle and a strategy, bureaucratic mediations, some conditions for democratic participation, the different regional cultures of participation, as well as the relevance of organisational matters. The research methodology is based on participatory principles and procedures. In this sense, the study can be also seen as an experiment of using participatory methodology with policies and projects involving large geographical areas

Keywords: participation, participatory budgeting, local democracy, participatory Action Research