November 27, 2015

Portuguese town tries participatory budgeting

Sustainable Cities - The Portuguese town of Ovar recently had an impressive 25 percent of its residents turn out to vote in its first participatory budgeting campaign. A seaside town of 55,398, Ovar is one of the oldest municipalities in Portugal. The city implemented participatory budgeting as a means for the current mayor, Salvador Malheiro, to connect with the citizens and better engage young people.

To get such remarkable civic engagement, the participatory budgeting program, which was allotted 100,000€, used a gamification strategy with a leader board that displayed which proposals were receiving the most votes. It also gave people both online and offline methods of voting, with either paper ballots or through a website.

Everyone over the age of 16, whether residents, workers, or students, was invited to vote, and leading up to the vote, officials organized 36 in-person meetings for information sharing and proposal gathering. These brought together over 1,000 citizens.

Of the 38 proposals that reached voting, five received over 1,500 votes. Most of the the winners were related to social and sports projects, including building a skate park. The total number of votes received was 13,598— almost a quarter of the population.

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