Home Political science Evaluating Democratic Innovations: Curing the Democratic Malaise?
As already pointed out, new forms of co-governance with shared decisionmaking powers between political representatives and non-state actors are still rare. However, there are innovations in this field and one of the most important examples of co-governance is participatory budgeting.15 The Porto Alegre example provoked tremendous attention and several municipalities all over the world adopted similar procedures. Figure 8.1 shows the development and the spread of participatory budgeting processes in Europe.
Participatory budgeting procedures took place in a variety of contexts, for example in municipalities with high unemployment (such as Cordoba, with over 20 per cent) as well as in cities with low unemployment (such as Salford, with below 5 per cent). Also, the municipal budget per citizen varies vastly from below 50 euros to almost 4000 euros. In Spain, Italy and France, mostly left-wing local authorities introduced participatory budgeting. Germany was an exception, with both conservative and liberal local governments taking up the idea (Sintomer et al. 2005).
What is known about participatory budgeting in Europe? The main empirical source for answering this question is a comparative study by Sintomer et al. (2005), who found that participation in European procedures is seldom inclusive. Participants of European participatory budgeting meetings come mainly from the middle and the upper working class - with country-specific differences (see also Talpin in this volume). In Germany, for example, the middle class prevailed in all procedures and members of the working class barely participated, whereas in other countries, members of other strata of society also took part (Sintomer et al. 2005).16 What about deliberative quality? The quality of deliberation has varied
Impacts of democratic innovations in Europe 175
Table 8.3 Evaluation of co-govemance procedures
vastly in the different participatory budgeting procedures. Sintomer and his team found that the deliberative quality of most German cases was insufficient - in contrast with Spanish municipalities with high deliberative quality.
Participatory budgeting was per se set up to identify collective goals. However, the question remains: whose goals are identified? Owing to the limited number of participants, procedures of co-governance can never represent the whole citizenry. Which goals are identified is dependent on the recruitment of the participants. Thus, the recruitment of participants has fundamental implications: objectives, which are identified as collective objectives, differ according to the recruitment. If participants are recruited from all social groups, the identified goals reflect collective goals to a higher degree.
And what is known about the impact to achieve shared goals? Municipalities that applied participatory budgeting often improved their services (Sintomer et al. 2005). However, the impacts vary: Sintomer et al. (2005) concluded that participatory budgeting procedures had the least effect in the German municipalities. In Great Britain and France the effects were moderate, especially at the neighborhood level, while in Spain and Italy the effects were strongest.
Political knowledge of the participants was improved in all processes, and comprehension of local budgets was enhanced substantially. ‘Political culture’ within the municipalities applying participatory budgeting was also advanced - greatest in Spain and Italy and the least in Germany (Sintomer et al. 2005).
Table 8.3 summarizes the evaluation of co-governance procedures.
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