From the Global South to the Globe: Pathways to Participatory Budgeting

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:06 PM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Madeleine PAPE , Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
In 1989, the city of Porto Alegre in southern Brazil implemented the world’s first experiment in participatory budgeting (PB).  Twenty years later, an Alderman in Chicago established the United States’ (US) first experiment in PB in the city’s 49th ward in 2009.  Over that time, PB has spread to over 1500 municipalities in countries across Latin America, Asia, Europe and North America (Baiocchi and Ganuza, forthcoming).  This is a remarkable statistic for a practice that has been associated with grassroots mobilisation and which holds the potential to reconfigure existing power structures within capitalist democracies.

For proponents of PB and other transformative movements, there are valuable insights to be gained from studying the mechanisms by which the diffusion of PB has taken place.  For example, events such as the World Social Forum, where Chicago Alderman Joe Moore first learned of PB, may have played a considerable role in spreading PB beyond Latin America.  But once PB lands on American shores, what kind of support is needed, who are the organisations that provide such support, and which actors from civil society and the state commit to building its success?

In this paper I consider the diffusion pathways for PB, in terms of both the information networks that spread the idea, and the support environment that makes its implementation possible in a given location. Drawing on social movement diffusion literature, I conceptualise the factors that influence the differential spread and success of PB, particularly in relation to current experiments in the US. I argue that the study of the diffusion mechanisms for PB provide important insights for activists and civil society actors seeking to promote transformative change.

Baiocchi, G. and Ganuza, E. (forthcoming) ‘Participatory Budgeting as if Emancipation Mattered’, Politics and Society.