consider therefore necessary to give a clear methodological definition of it so that cases can be coherently compared and ideal-models20 constructed to explain the variety of concrete experiments.
Any comparative research has to face a definition problem, which is even more difficult with participatory budgeting in Europe where, in contrast to Latin America, very different forms of citizen participation in the budget allocation procedure exist. In some cases, the term “participatory budget” refers merely to an informative event connected with the budget without including even consultation with the citizens. In order to give a more precise definition of the process, Sintomer et al. (2008) therefore included additional criteria in their research into participatory budgeting in more than 20 cities in Europe. (Sintomer et al., forthcoming – p. 168)21.
In the setting-up and functioning of participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre, three principles were found to be critically important. The first principle is grassroots democracy, via citizens’ assemblies in the 16 districts of the city. Second, social justice is enhanced via a redistribution of allocated funds according to need., taking into account the quality of the infrastructure, the number of residents and also local priorities. Third, citizen control, by means of e.g. the Council of Participatory Budgeting ensure the needed citizen control (Abers, 2000; Souza, 2001; Avritzer, 2006; Sintomer, 2009). These principles contributed to a real empowerment of civil society (Souza, 2001). It is important to note that this achievement was due to a combination of a strong political commitment on the part of the local government on the one hand, and of bottom-up mobilization on the other (Santos, 2005).
In Brazilian cities where participatory budgeting was a top-down procedure, the results have been different (Souza, 2001; Avritzer, 2006).
20 Based upon a set of criteria, (origin of the process, organization of the meetings, type of deliberation, position of civil society in the procedure), six models are suggested: 1. Porto Alegre adapted Europe; 2. Participation of organized interests; 3. Community funds at local and city level; 4. The public/private negotiating table; 5. Proximity participation; 6. Consultation on public finances (Sintomer et al, 2008, p. 169).
21 The five additional criteria are: “1.the financial and/or budgetary dimension must be discussed; participatory budgeting involves dealing with the problem of limited resources; 2.the city level has to be involved, or a (decentralized) district with an elected body and some power over the administration (the neighbourhood level is not enough); 3. it has to be a repeated process (one meeting or one referendum on financial issues does not constitute participatory budgeting); 4. the process must include some form of public deliberation within the framework of specific meetings/ forums (the opening of administrative meetings or classical representative instances to normal citizens is not participatory budgeting); 5. Some accountability on the output is required” (Sintomer et al, 2008: p. 168).