Slumping in São Paulo (update)

It appears that it’s been raining spiders in Brazil!

Sunday lunch: [batatas] fritas e feijão (fried [potatoes] and beans. Yum!

After I wrote my last piece, I realised it was quite late. I searched Google Maps for somewhere to eat, and hit on Hareburger. All together now:

Hare Burger Hare Burger
Burger Hare Hare

I phoned my much better half. She had some ideas about my draft ‘lessons for Scottish PB‘. Her main point was about the first item: If we don’t get PB right first time, people will lose confidence in it. She pointed out that nothing goes right first time, so what does right mean in this context? My current answer is good enough. For me, that means

  1. PB systems must leave people feeling that they have chosen what happens.
    • This should happen in any context, no matter how much (or how little) money is involved.
  2. The chosen projects must be delivered near enough on time and near enough on budget.
    • We can argue what near enough means at appropriate points.
  3. There should also be the possibility of discontinuing projects if it turns out that they are unlikely to be delivered, or if the benefits can be delivered in better ways, or if an urgent need arises for the money allocated to the project.
    • But this must be done transparently, and must not even appear to be party-political.

I then walked to Hareburger. It was rather ironic that the first song jPhone played was 4st 7lb. Hareburger was supposedly 19 minutes walk from my hotel but it took me about 30 minutes to get there, mainly because I’m a little nervous about crossing roads. On the way I passed the inevitable Subway, another vegan eatery, and somewhere definitely not vegan.

This was my dinner at Hareburger: hare rock shutney mango’s fly, batata quanta rustica and suco de terra (hibiscus tea, beet, carrot, lemon and strawberry). The only problem with it was it was not enough for this gutbucket! (It was relatively cheap: about R$38 = £8.)

On the way to Hareburger, I’d passed a metro station which isn’t on the map I’d found online. (Blame the seeker, not the internet! Here’s the official map.) I realised that this station (Fradique Coutinho) was on the same line as Faria Lima, so I decided to save my feet. The city council had a stand offering free condoms.

At Faria Lima station, I walked on to Largo da Batata (Potato Square) to see if there were any interesting smells. There weren’t so I’ve come back to the hotel for a last coffee and to write this.

graffiti near my hotel

Largo da Batatas


Slumping in São Paulo

I didn’t get to sleep until 5am, so I slept until after mid-day.

This afternoon I

  • refined my interview and focus-group questions.
  • emailed the coordinator of São Paulo’s participative councils to answer some questions he asked.
  • emailed my Leith Chooses colleagues and the Scottish Government official to ask them other questions posed by the coordinator.
  • refined the lessons I think Scotland can learn from Brazilian PB.
  • finished some marking.

The marking led to some puzzlement. About 20% of the students didn’t include in their courseworks some things they were clearly told to include. Another 50% tried but didn’t do these things very well. The latter is understandable, but the former isn’t. Can any experienced academics out there tell me why on earth so many students just throw away marks?

Of course, I was far from perfect when I was a student, and I’m not a perfect academic.

Initial lessons for Scottish PB

Clearly this is not final – I’ve only been in Brazil for a week. Also this stems from talking with with some academics and two São Paulo city public servants, rather than original research. However, this is my current take-home:

  • If we don’t get PB right first time, people will lose confidence in it. 
    • This means we need effective processes so that people know they have made the choices.
    • It also means that what is promised must be delivered.
  • Projects must be monitored as they proceed.
    • Also, due diligence/monitoring must happen at the end of project periods.
    • And that data must be analysed to see what is effective.
  • Don’t rely on revenue forecasts, because what is forecast may not materialise!
  • Annual cycles, i.e. projects that must be started and completed in a year, may be sub-optimal.
  • The current Scottish model of PB should have a deliberation stage before projects are formulated.
    • At the moment, PB process-runners (e.g.LeithChooses steering group) set themes, then invite projects.
    • The Brazilian model involves participatory deliberation on what the themes should be.
  • There should be some data gathered on who participates.
    • This is to show whether PB schemes are truly participatory, and whether they attract votes from people who need the services PB would offer.

Sauntering in São Paulo

Tuesday 2019_01_08

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…

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Sweltering in São Paulo

Sunday 2019_01_06

I spent most of today working on a presentation. One of our partners, Leandro Ramos, has contacted the relevant department of São Paulo’s city administration. It turns out they are very keen to hear how participatory budgeting (PB) works in Scotland. This is great, because

  1. I’m involved in setting up and running this year’s LeithChooses PB process, and so can speak from some experience of how a small group of dedicated, unpaid volunteers are working together to run and improved version of a civic process.
  2. We can hear from some people who know how PB in São Paulo really works.

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What has Bruce been up to in the second half of 2018?


# When What outcome and notes
1 July RIVAL: community event on the theme of LIS research impact:

Also enabled further funding application (line 5)
2 July applying for GCRF funding for PB in Brazil success!
See line 7
3 July marking work-based learning 2017-18 final reports ——-
4 September Drafting an idea for some public engagement/democracy work to revisit in 2019
5 September RSE funding application to follow up RIVaL: RIVaL network success!
Work to start in Feb 2019
6 October marking work-based learning 2018-19 initial reports ——-
7 October to present PB in Brazil: whether and how PB benefits the very poor in Sao Paulo Bruce going to Sao Paulo 4 to 27 Jan, Wegene 4 to 13 Jan LitRev in progress
builds on CSI’s relationship with University of Sao Paulo
8 November marking BSAD coursework 1 ——-
9 November application for RIO funding to run WriteNow! writing sessions in 2019 success!
working with Frances
10 December marking work-based learning 2018-19 mid-year reports ——-
11 December marking BSAD coursework 2 ——-


Could I offer a short course or other help to students’ improve their report-writing skills?


12 July contribution to 2018 Digital Governance in Municipalities Worldwide: A Longitudinal Assessment of Municipal Websites Throughout the World fancy certificate of thanks
13 July to present minuting meetings between Community Councils Together on Trams and Edinburgh Council’s Trams Team better citizen-involvement?
14 September Taking part in a follow-up to research by the Scottish Community Development Centre on community councils. led to involvement in draft PB charter
15 September to present member of £eith Chooses steering group voting Saturday 23 February 2019
16 October, November further participation in Scottish Government (SG) Online Identity Assurance stakeholder group

17 November participation in debate/research on governance of and possible new powers for community councils TBC
18 December commenting on Scottish Government draft Open Government Action Plan appreciated by SG
19 December participation in Scottish Government/CoSLA event on mainstreaming participatory budgeting. Write-up of event is in a set of posts starting here TBC
20 all year minutes and websites for three Edinburgh community councils:

better recording and publicising of hyperlocal government activities

‘Mainstreaming Participatory Budgeting’ event, #PBmainstream

The content of these posts has now been moved here:

Individual pages can be accessed via these links:

  1. Tweets of anticipation and excitement
  2. Welcome and overview of the day: Oliver Escobar
  3. The Scottish context – local governance review and public service reform: Professor James Mitchell
  4. Evidence to date: Dr Angela O’Hagan
  5. Q&A with James Mitchell and Angela O’Hagan
  6. Examples of PB mainstreaming
  7. Group discussions: Mainstreaming PB is a transformation, not a process. What do we need to do to ensure it is a success? Anthony Zacharzewski (Democratic Society)
    • What is needed for councils [and other public bodies] to transform internally?
    • What is needed for communities to be ready to participate?
    • What us needed to create strong and trusted processes and spaces?
  8. Plenary session: Way forward: what will we commit to get from here to our ambition?
    (Tweets from this item are in the previous section.)
  9. Closing remarks: Claire McPherson (Scottish Government)