Thursday, January 29, 2009

PB: Justification Chart

I thought of this while reading Bräutigam (2004): a justification chart, with all the good reasons for doing ePB. Actually, there are a couple areas of J: one for PB, one for doing PB by DSS:

Justification Source
"consultation with affected groups was thought to influence the sustainability of policies and improve the prospects for their design and implementation" Bräutigam 2004, p. 656
"shadow of the future": Irish National Economic and Social Council has found that the knowledge that the project continues and that involved parties will be getting together again "has generated an environment of patience and trust" (Bräutigam) which "nurtures reciprocity, facilitates communication, improves flow of trsutworthy information and increase cost of defection" (Robert Putnam, World Bank)
Bräutigam 2004, p. 658
It's our money! Discussing Mauritius: "Here we see a strong link between social expenditures and the revenues that must be generated to pay for them. Ordinary citizens pay taxes... and therefore, because of their revenue role and not just their spending role, have a right to hold the government accountable for its spending."
Bräutigam 2004, p. 663
"The poorest may not have the resources to participate, and may eb at a disadvantage" says Bräutigam—o.k., hook up a DSS to lower those participation costs!
Bräutigam 2004, p. 663
Transparency can increase tax collections: folks see how their money is being used, "may be more likely to pay their taxes."
Bräutigam 2004, p. 666
more info and transparency => easier to push gov't for pro-poor policy by hold to light gov't's failings
Bräutigam 2004, p. 667
PB "can serve an important public education function" (all the more if ePB!)
Bräutigam 2004, p. 667

See if that helps!

PB for Pro-Poor Policy?

Deborah Bräutigam, "The People's Budget? Politics, Participation and Pro-poor Policy," Development Policy Review, Vol. 22, No. 6, pp. 653-668, November 2004.

  • Big finding: the common factor among various places with pro-poor policy is a pro-poor political party (akin to Baiocchi et al.'s 2004 finding of political party as best predictor of PB adoption).
  • (654) PB often focuses on spending: should focus on taxing (consider that in design: work on tax assessment model, customize by user income/wealth... although that gets touchy!)
  • (655) History: early 1990's experts favored exclusionary technocracy: problems more complex, regular folks can't grasp, political pressures push away from difficult choices and well-grounded policy making
  • Reaction (and J!) from former Brazilian Finance Minister Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira et al.: "if democracy is not to be undermined as a consequence of economic reforms, the representative organisations and institutions must participate actively in the formulation and implementation of the reform program, even if this participation weakens the logic of the economic program or increases its cost"emphasis mine, because that responds to the discussion of the time and expense required to educate and engage lots of citizens
  • (658) Now remember, the fact that PB doesn't necessarily produce pro-poor policy doesn't mean PB is a bad idea. My skidsteer won't put a man on the Moon, but it's still a darn fine piece of equipment. Be clear on what you're trying to achieve.
  • PB comes in corporatist and activist models:
    1. activist model: that's Brazil, where everybody can jump in
    2. corporatist model: check out Ireland and Mauritius, with government panels still comprised of and dealing directly with institutional actors

PB Effects on Civil Society

Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Patrick Heller, and Marcelo Kunrath Silva.
"Making Space for Civil Society: Institutional Reforms and Local Democracy in Brazil."
Social Forces, Volume 86, Number 3, March 2008, pp. 911-936


  • eight-city matched-pair analysis, grids and everything!
  • still qualitative
  • looks at eight Brazilian cities, paired by region, one using PB, other not
  • best predictor of PB adoption: Worker's Party vote share (917)
  • --fits Bräutigam's (2004) finding that political party is a bigger factor than existence of PB itself in promoting pro-poor policy
  • found PB fostered some movement toward more engagement
  • found PB did not move any communities toward greater self-organization among citizens
  • note these PB efforts came from above, the elected Worker's Party govts.
  • in one city, Mauá, "civil society experienced a contraction of sorts": less clientelism (good), but autonomy (bad), but they also did PB wrong: consultative rather than fully participatory; lacked transparency, responsiveness to community needs, and decision-making mandate
  • Happy line for my local research: "...far too little research has focused on local civil societies" (931). Even if I don't cover that element for Baiocchi et al., I provide a case study in that direction, data that can be built on to fill that gap.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

ePB and DSS: Reason to Pursue

In INFS 838, we read Arnott and Pervan (2005), who find DSS research declining and often lacking relevance. One symptom: lack of clear mention of client or user. Check my article: pretty clear who the users are. Focus on that area, make it even clearer, talk about impacts on different specific groups of users within the community.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Video: Us Now -- Collaboration, Government, Internet

Go watch Ivo Gormley's Us Now. Heck, it's online!

Here's Sophia Parker on participatory budgeting. She works for a UK outfit called (appropriately) Demos, "The Think Tank for Everyday Democracy":

PB and ICT: Belo Horizonte and Ipatinga

Tiago Peixoto agrees that information and communication technology (ICT) could do a lot to support participatory budgeting. But he finds that ICT in PB is mostly "restricted to the provision of information about the process to the citizens." He sees a trend to do more ICT-enabled PB.

Big example: Belo Horizonte in Brazil. A city of 2.4 million residents (1.7 million voters), Belo Horizonte has been doing PB since 1993. In 2006, they added Digital Participatory Budgeting—e-PB! Participants got to vote for one of four public works projects in each of the city's nine districts. These were no small projects, either: in one district, the choices were a new sports complex, a new library, a big street renovation, and downtown rejuvenation, each tagged at 1.2 million US dollars. (The sports complex won... dang it!) Traditional PB projects in the city were around $(US)340K.

The e-PB included a discussion forum thread for each district. Peixoto considers the total 1210 posts relatively low but notes many more people read than posted (as usual online). Over a 42-day voting period (longer than any one physical PB meeting), the system drew 503,266 votes from 172,938 voters. That's about 10% participation, compared to 1.46% participation in the comparable second round of previous PB efforts. The e-PB budget was one seventh the size of previous efforts.

Thesis thought: We see ICT brought into a situation where PB is already established. Can we use ICT to initiate PB?
Peixoto finds that people kept their votes local—a majority voted only on projects in their home districts. He finds no evidence that richer people participated more often(!). He also says remote voting worked: as many as one third of the votes cast may not have come in if the project had not been online. How's that for boosting participation?

If you're worried about Internet access, Peixoto points out in the comments that "this year's" (I'm unclear 2008 or 2009) e-PB will incorporate phone voting. That doesn't support deliberation, but it brings in the vote. And everybody has a phone.

Down the road in Ipatinga, Teixoto finds Brazilians who've been using ICT in PB since 2001:
Since 2001, the city of Ipatinga has pioneered in using the Internet as a supplementary means for citizens to indicate public works that they wish to see submitted to vote at PB (offline) meetings, where the use of the Internet is correlated with an increase in the level of attendance of women and younger citizens at these face-to-face meetings.
In 2005, Ipatinga added some phone/SMS voting and outreach. The telemarketing worked: "96.8% of citizens who picked up the phone waited until the end of the mayor’s message before hanging up." Areas that got phone calls saw participation at PB meetings go up; areas with no telemarketing saw participation go down.

Teixoto emphasizes that he doesn't want to see online PB replace offline PB. He does suggest it would be interesting to see if online PB can encourage people to participate in the more costly offline PB. Really good stuff to build on!

London Parks PB "Bad Start"?

Tiago Peixoto gives a thumbs mostly down to London's "Vote for Your Park," a participatory budgeting project to allocate ten grants of up to £400K. (The Wandle Valley with St. Helier open spaces, looks like a worthy project.) On the bad side, says Peixoto (a fellow doctoral student in Italy!), the site has no security and no means for discussion. On security, I note the site asks for first and last name, a description of where participants are voting from (home, friend's home, school, Internet café, etc.) and post code, although there the instructions say that visitors to London may enter the post code of the place where they are staying. It thus appears that the system not only does not block votes from non-residents but invites them. Interesting. The Greater London Authority does say it will allow one vote per person and disregard apparently inappropriate votes.

To the good, Peixoto says the local authorities have committed to base funding decisions on the results of the publci input. Peixoto also says that "a bad start" to participatory budgeting "is better than no start at all." London's fault is in design and execution, not in philosophy. Peixoto says working to change design is much easier than working to change philosophy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

E-Gov: Innovation Comes from Local Level

from Ellen Perlman, "Wish Lists for Washington," Governing: Technology, 2009.01.06:

Governing talks to tech managers about what Obama's promised CIO might be able to do for states and locals:

Alan Shark, executive director and chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C.-based Public Technology Institute, which assists local governments:

"The simple answer is 'not much,' according to an informal PTI survey of many influential CIOs and CTOs in city and county government across the nation. Most believe, like me, that true innovation is more likely found at the local level, not the federal or state levels. And since we can't print money, our greatest obstacle is in finding funding and other resources [emphasis mine].


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