1 From Porto Alegre to Europe: Potentials and Limitations of Participatory


Participatory budgets have been one of the most successful participatory instruments of the past 15 years. Ever since it was invented in Latin America, it spread over the entire globe.2 In Europe, participatory budgets emerged simultaneously in seven, mainly Western European countries. Procedures are currently underway or are at a preliminary stage in four further countries. Altogether, at the end of 2005, there are more than 50 European cities with a participatory budget. Among them are large cities, such as Sevilla in Spain with more than seven hundred thousand residents or districts of the capital cities London, Paris, Rome and Berlin.3 However, there are also medium-sized cities, such as Hilden and Emsdetten in Germany and small communes, such as Grottamare or Altidona in Italy.4 The research about participatory budgeting is situated in a larger field of democratic innovations, both theoretically and practically. One finds there a wide range of participatory devices (consensus conferences, deliberative polls, citizen juries, etc.), of various concepts (governance, empowerment, countervailing power, etc.), and of different democratic theories (participatory and deliberative theories of democracy, etc.).5 The analysis of the various practical experiments has followed three steps. At first, monographic analyses have been conducted on various cities and different procedures, sometimes comparing two or three cases. A second step has allowed comparing more experiments, through conferences and collectives books, but on the basis of field research that has been conducted with different methodologies and theoretical categories (e.g. Bacqué/Rey/Sintomer 2005). Our present article would like to explain part of the results of an integrated study which would like to 1 This article was offered to the review „IJUPR

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