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Delegates and Councillors evaluate PB
Cidade
2009-01-14 11:11:00
Delegates and Councillors evaluate PB and indicate goals to improve the process

In partnership with Cooperative Strategies for Sustainable Community Transformation (ETCS), from Barcelona (Spain), the NGO Cidade organized and carried out a participatory conference titled “Reflections on PB”, August 9 and 23, in the Sindiágua Auditorium in Porto Alegre. The principal objective of the meetings was to build a reflection on the principles, experiences and challenges of Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre, at the same time thinking about alternatives to improve the experience. The sociologist Ernesto Morales, one of the members of ETCS, coordinated the work done in the meetings and developed methodologies to secure the active participation of the 36 people present.
PB councillors, ex-councillors and delegates were the target audience of this activity. Present were:
• councillors of the Northeast, Glória, East, Lomba do Pinheiro and North regions, and of the the thematic assemblies on Education, Sport and Leisure as well as Health and Social Welfare;
• delegates of the Central, Partenon, Glória, North and Lomba do Pinheiro regions, and of the thematic assemblies on Economic Development, Taxation and Tourism, Urban and Environmental Development, Education, Sport and Leisure and Health and Social Welfare.

The reflection exercise was based on the five basic principles of PB. Through these, the difficulties and strengths of the process were identified. With these, the councillors and delegates could construct a set of goals and objectives to be reached and identify those responsible for achieving these goals and objectives.
Below are some of the reflexions of the participants in the encounter. The results in their entirety can be accessed on the website of the NGO Cidade (www.ongcidade.org)

Principle #1:
PB as an open process that implies the greatest possible diversity in participants whom, through deliberation and debate, promote the taking of conscientious decisions by the participants, strengthening an active, co-responsible citizenship.

Difficulties:
• Knowing more about the process (communication);
• Intrusion of partisan politics;
• Ideas introduced related to political parties;
• City departments do not share and do not take responsibility, something that decreases the motivation to participate;
• Low frequency of participation and low presence of delegates in the forums;
• Lack of seriousness on the part of councillors and delegates;
• Mobilization without previous conscientiousness, disappropriation of the process and swelled assemblies;
• Delegates either only complain or only listen;
• Lack of dialogue between councillors and delegates;
• Lack of a culture of mobilization (process closed off);
• Clientalism;
• Sending projects directly to the related city department;
• Delegitimization of the project, winning projects outside of PB;

General Goals:
• Developing of a citizen conscience, with a guarantee of autonomy, without paternalism or clientalism
• Increasing the knowledge of the participants so that they may participate;
• Meetings to propose and construct proposals, and not just to raise complaints

Specific Goals:
• Consciousness-building regarding the importance of participation in PB, with visits to families, regions and neighborhoods;
• Community mobilization:
• Promote the thinking that those who already participate should act at multipliers and encourage others to participate;
• Promote more debates to inform and clarify things to participants and those outside of PB;
• The City Government's assessors should speak in a language that the general population can understand;
• Advance the participatory process by including previously excluded populations, with the aim at improving society;
• Attract and welcome people interested, disseminating this through the radio, TV, internet and newspaper, with targeted distribution to local communities of the region;
• Provide means of transport to and from the PB meetings;
• Offer a comfortable atmosphere for the meetings, with adequate supplies, audio, video, recordings;
• Make available a technical training course for PB delegates and offer scholarships to incentivize and attract those interested.

Principle #2:
PB as a process with a comprehensive vision of the city, structurally incorporating local management, coordinating with other participatory spaces, coherent with representative democracy and organically incorporating the work dynamic of the public administration.

Difficulties:
• Lack of coherence between what is said and what is done;
• Government bodies end up imposing themselves upon PB (local solidarity governance imposing itself on PB);
• Little dialogue between councillors and delegates (control of speech/PB Council);
• Existence of parallel ways to get city departments to attend to requests;
• All city departments should follow the rules;
• Bureaucratic, slow and complicated process that impedes the appropriation of the process by the community;
• The amendments made by City Councilmembers slow the process and divert funding.

General Goals:
• Respect PB, guaranteeing its' continuity and implementation, avoiding the creation of participatory channels that impose themselves on PB
• Strengthening the organization of the Delegates Forum;

Specific Goals:
• Create spaces (forums, meetings, councils) that stimulate debate between the diverse participatory situations;
• Learn from the example of the Forum of Entities;
• Proportion an interface between councils without government interference;
• Promote integrated work between social movements and city managers;
• Demand a greater participation of the city government through its' departments and a greater level of compromise with social entities and movements represented by delegates, strengthening democracy and effectively incorporating the work dynamic of the Executive Branch.

Principle #3:
PB as a process that informs citizens, promotes transparency and acts as a control mechanism of public management.

Difficulties:
• The population does not have access to reports written in clear language and there is not complete transparency in the use of government funds;
• New members of PB do not understand budgeting methods in order to propose things;
• PB assemblies are not divulged to the public;
• There is a lack of knowledge with regards to how PB works;
• There is no transparency in the definition of certain (institutional) requests;
• Delayed projects are not finished.

Strengths:
• Presentation of social projects;
• Some small organizations have begun to negotiate with larger ones to secure proposals.

General Goals:
• Better explain the technical criteria of PB
• Divulge and inform the people in agreement with local characteristics and the target audience in a decentralized manner or conforming to specific necessities, without using unnecessarily technical language;
• Direct communication through telephone or e-mail;
• Up-to-date telephone and address information of delegates and councillors;
• Greater information about PB, with dissemination and transparency;
• More communication among councillors, passing around of information, better functioning Regional PB Councils, internal journals, better minutes, up-to-date information that can be used;
• Distribute information (bulletins) with meeting times and dates so that participants may organize themselves;
• Participation of delegates in the process of budget allocation to implement proposals: proposing, intervening and monitoring;
• Proposals should have their technical aspects evaluated before their publication, so that forums may deliberate the proposals in case there is insufficient funding;
• Each phase of PB should be publicized, with the divulging of minutes and deliberations;
• Time-table information for the participants (ex. in the regions information about the thematic assemblies);
• General Website of PB with the progress of proposals, minutes and up-to-date information; secretary of the Delegates Forum with responsibility for the regional administrative centers; authorization and dissemination of meetings, minutes, and messages to the community with the publication of an informative sheet about PB, the agenda, councillors, and contacts of interest;
• Training courses for PB participants and incentives for new people to join the process.

Principle #4:
PB as a process with self-evaluates in order to improve.

Difficulties:
• Resistance of the PB Council and the City Government, politicization;
• Difficulty to manage knowledge about the process (for both new and old representatives);
• People do not know how PB works;
• More experienced participants do not want to pass down information to newer ones;
• Difficulty in accepting that those new to PB also are capable;
• Veterans do not help, do not want new ideas and want to keep power to themselves;
• PB often evaluated by people outside of the process;
• No possibility for self-evaluation

Strengths:
• Identification of people with a profile of social involvement;
• Annual meetings carried out to train councillors and delegates;
• Possibility of learning from other PB experiences in the City Conference;
• NGOs that promote training and reflective spaces about the PB process;
• Politics an intrinsic part of the process, have to insure that this does not mean that things become a political-ideological dispute (do not mix);
• The process has matured.

General Goals:
• Evaluation of the process (qualitative and quantitative participation);
• Shared public management;
• Exchange of information and different ideas.

Specific Goals:
• Carry out a general analysis of councillors and delegates;
• Permanently re-evaluate the dynamic of the PB Council;
• The community should evaluate its' delegates;
• Re-evaluate and change the Internal Regulations, to facilitate the participation of those interested;
• Democratize debate regarding the Internal Regulations in the PB Regional Forums and, after, move to the PB Council with clear changes;
• All the changes in the Internal Regulations should be approved by a quorum of the Forum of Delegates;
• The Internal Regulations are little read or not read at all because people have difficulties understanding its' language;
• The Internal Regulations should be completely revised and have its articles clarified since it is the “alphabet” of PB.

Principle #5:
PB as a process that incorporates social justice criteria, levels of deprivation and that promotes solidarity amongst communities and different parts of the city.

Difficulties:
• There is no exchange/dialogue in the plenary assemblies;
• The plenary assemblies do not facilitate reflection on the necessities of communities;
• Lack of dialogue and integration between the regions;
• Lack of spaces for learning and exchange between the public and the delegates of various regions;
• Among the minorities, the majority control;
• The tendency of PB is to implode;
• People are incredulous in relation to PB;
• Plenary assemblies do not reflect;
• Difficulty in defining priorities.

General Goals:
• Move the cultural vision of “benefits just for me” to seek improvements for all;
• Organized collectives that have already had their proposals accepted should continue participating and assist new communities and populations;
• Re-evaluate the PB dynamic (looking at the structure, giving more weight to criteria of deprivation)
• Moving the culture of PB to one of greater solidarity.

Specific Goals:
• Consciousness-raising among delegates and councillors so that they act not just in the interest of their region but that they seek the development of improvement for the city as a whole;
• Integration and dialogue among participants in all of the thematic assemblies so that they communicate their realities and arrive at a vision of integral development;
• Promote a union of participants in different regions that have needs and characteristics in common so that they may build a dialogue and seek synergy;
• Carry out planning sessions in the regions.

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