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The Lisbon Participatory Budget: results and perspectives on an experience in slow but continuous transformation

Field Actions Science Report Special issue 11/2014. Stories of innovative Democracy at local level

Giovanni Allegretti, 2014

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Résumé :

Since 2008, Lisbon has been the first European capital to adopt a Participatory Budget (PB) process at a municipal scale to involve its inhabitants in the elaboration and ranking of the proposals to be included in a predetermined slice of the city council’s budget. Lisbon’s process has become a benchmark for various similar experiences, both in Portugal and abroad. It brought innovative elements into the international debate, such as the use of new technologies to present and rank proposals, and therefore it sought to focus on the construction of a more « European » model of PB.

One of the innovative features of the Lisbon PB (Lx-PB) process - among the first to be more than merely advisory, unlike most previous experiences in Portugal - is its evolutional nature. It allowed to capitalize and increase, over its various editions, a more inclusive matrix through enhanced dialogue with citizens and a gradual improvement of the deliberative quality, derived from various learning experiences related to errors and limits observed throughout the participatory path. This article - paying special attention to the incremental and evolutional nature of the experiment - aims to highlight some peculiarities of the first five years of life of the Lx-PB, stressing the limits and changes over time.