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
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

Nighty-night!

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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