The city of Canoas is part of the metropolitan area of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Canoas has become a leading example of citizen participation and transparency in public management. Beginning in 2009, local authorities began to experiment and innovate with participatory approaches to policy design and implementation in order to find solutions to the challenges of a rapidly growing city.
The City has created the System of Popular Citizen Participation, which now includes a wide variety of tools to connect policy makers directly with citizens throughout the policy design process. Examples of these tools include:
Visioning and Strategy Tools:
– Congress of the City of Canoas 2011-2021: This City Congress engaged in a year-long discussion, during which citizens proposed and discussed the future of the city. This process ended with a conference with over 600 delegates, where a strategic vision for the city for the next 10 years was developed.
-Participatory Multi-Year Plan Meetings: In each neighbourhood, open community meetings are organised to hear what residents suggest as priority policies and programs for the next four years.
– Sectorial Plans: In order to develop strategies for particular wellbeing goals such as health, safety, education, or sanitation, a series of community discussions take place to determine priorities and the structure for delivering these services.
– Participatory Budgeting: Citizens determine priority policies and services for the neighbourhoods through an annual vote. The City allocates a third of its budget annually for citizens to direct and determine spending.
– Better Neighbourhood: Citizens can decide where to allocate the 50% of the IPTU (Tax on Predial Property and Urban Territory) for local projects and initiatives. 20% of the project costs for each project are required to be covered by volunteer work and/or donations of materials or services.
– Business Engagement: Semi-annual meetings are organised in which all private companies are invited to participate, and where worker and business representatives discuss challenges and policy proposals.
– Council for Economic and Social Development: This council brings together 50 professionals from different policy areas in a transparent and collaborative dialogue to assess and review the public policies of the municipality. Meetings are organised every two months, to discuss the main projects to be implemented in the city.
Implementation and Coordination Tools:
– A Plenary of Public Services: A Plenary meeting is conducted every quarter for each quadrant of the city, where the local government presents the status of various policies and programmes and are held accountable for achieving their goals with citizens being able to provide feedback and suggestions to the major and other local policy makers.
– Policy makers on the Street: Every Saturday, the Mayor, Vice Mayor, and municipal secretaries set up a street stall where citizens can come and discuss any priorities and grievances.
– Mayor in the Station: Every Thursday, during peak rush hour, the Mayor opens a space for public dialogue in one of the subway stations in the city, where anyone can come and discuss their priorities or issues with current policies or programs.
– Public Hearings: Every Monday, the city holds public hearings with 20 citizens where they can discuss challenges or proposals with the Mayor and his Cabinet.
– Agora in Rede: This is a virtual tool that allows online dialogue between the population, the Mayor, and the Municipal secretaries weekly. The platform allows access to videos, among other multimedia possibilities for interaction on policy issues.
– House of the Councils: A space that brings together 33 municipal councils and provides human resources and necessary materials so that the work of the various local agencies can be coordinated more effectively.
– In seven years of the current municipal administration, more than 170 thousand people participated through the tools of the System of Popular and Citizen Participation.
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