Published: 24th Oct 2010

After overcoming scepticism and beginning to take root, can participatory budgeting survive cutbacks and become a potent symbol of localism? Clare Goff reports In 1989 in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, conditions similar to those found in Britain today provided the backdrop to the birth of participatory budgeting. ‘There was a fiscal crisis. There was no money for anything,’ remembers Sergio Baierle, one of the founders of the world’s first participatory budgeting (PB) movement. Deep mistrust of government and severe inequality among the city’s residents created the conditions for Porto Alegre’s local government to hand citizens a greater role in its decision-making processes. ‘The response of the government was not just to accept the situation but to go to the people and get them on board as partners for the solution to the problem,’ Mr Baierle says. Today the city’s $700m budget for construction and services is spent according … (To read the full article, subscribe below)