Jet-lag grabbed me this morning. In the afternoon, while rain flooded some areas of São Paulo, I read and made notes on Brian Wampler‘s Participatory budgeting in Brazil: contestation, cooperation and accountability. This book examines PB in 8 Brazilian cities, including São Paulo, but was published in 2007. A few things have happened since then…
In the evening, Wegene and I walked a couple of miles south along Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima. We went into the only bike shop we saw so I could find out prices for helmets. I didn’t buy anything – this shop sold carbon road-bikes costing R$40,000 – that’s £10,000! The helmets they sold cost at least £400 but were beautifully light – maybe 200 grams. My most expensive helmet cost £50 and weighs over 1 kg.
For me, today started very early, especially as I got to sleep after 2 am. However, partly thanks to Iris Buunk‘s lessons, I am able to have a conversation in French with another hotel guest.
Renato picked us up at 8:30 to take us to São Paulo Prefeitura (city hall) to meet the co-ordinator of São Paulo’s 32 participative councils. Before this meeting, we have time to visit a local museum and walk through the centre of downtown São Paulo. (Here’s the route of our meanderings.) This is a heart-breaker – there are many homeless families sleeping on cardboard or thin blankets in shop doorways. Some lucky (?) ones have a bed. I wonder how they have survived the daily heavy rains. The only advantage they have over Scottish homeless people is the air-temperature.
Thanks to Hugo and Renato translating, this meeting went well. The co-ordinator indicated that the prefeitura would be happy to be involved with the big project we want to do, so long as there is a formal agreement between the University of São Paulo and Edinburgh Napier University. He also said he was happy to welcome people from a country which has such a long tradition of democracy. (Brazil was under a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 [Wikipedia].)
He asked how PB is done in Edinburgh: this is where the presentation I wrote this week helps, because I can show him maps and figures. We are all amused by the differences in scale between Edinburgh (about 500,000 people) and São Paulo (12 million people in the city alone), and the amounts disbursed by PB in Scotland and Brazil.
Towards the end of this meeting, we are joined by co-ordinator’s boss. He tells us more about the history of PB in São Paulo, and the relationships between them. Because he has a germanic surname, I ask if he speaks German. he replies (via Hugo) that although his ancestors were from a German-speaking area, speaking German was discouraged in Brazil during World War 2. (To be honest, my German is almost certainly not good enough to have an in-depth conversation.)
After this meeting, our Brazilian partners take us to a restaurant. I don’t remember what the others eat but I had side orders of arroz com brócolis (rice with broccoli), feijões (beans) and mandioca (manioc, cassava). I wasn’t sure what the latter was but when it arrived, I recognised it as singkong from a visit to Sumatra 12 years ago. In Brazil, it is pressure-cooked, then chopped and fried until the outside is golden-brown, then sprinkled with salt. It’s all delicious but the portions are huge – unfortunately I have to leave over half of my food.
In the afternoon, Renato took us to a meeting with a professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas who has also researched PB. Again thanks to Renato, a fascinating conversation occurs. We left around 5pm because Renato had to get back to his university by 6pm.
Back at the hotel, I caught up with some marking administrivia and LeithChooses work, then phoned my much better half, while Wegene went for a walk. This gave him inspiration for the rest of this project – very welcome. I’ll write more about it when this is appropriate.
Plans for tomorrow
- Write up notes from today
- Devise themes for focus groups and questions for interviews
- a further visit to the Prefeitura
Watch this space!