Civil servants and participatory processes: A psychosociological action research with the Municipality of Lisbon

Roberto Falanga, Ph.D.
Rutgers University's Cases and Simulations Portal

Portugal has been one of the European Countries where a very lively diffusion of participatory processes has taken place in the last few years. When focusing on the Municipality of Lisbon, the political team led by the Socialist Party, elected in 2007 and confirmed in 2009 and 2013 political elections, has paid significant attention on participatory democracy mechanisms. The implementation of executive power’s decentralized meetings circulating around the neighborhoods once a month from 2007 onwards has been immediately followed by the execution of a pivotal experience of Participatory Budget. Furthermore a profound debate promoted with some academic institutes has supported the Municipality to put the basis for local administration structural reform implemented in 2011. The Municipal Division for Organizational Innovation and Participation (DIOP) has been created in order to manage the following processes: Participatory Budget (plus a "spin-off" addressed to Schools), Local Agenda 21 and Simplis. Also the BipZip team has been constituted after the administrative reform undertaken in 2011, in order to execute the BIP/ZIP program concerned with priority rehabilitative interventions in specific urban areas of the city. Each one of the four processes owns a specific organizational configuration in terms of: back and front-office functions; interacting agencies (internal committees and external partnerships); and typology of participants.

We have carried out a psychosociological action research with the civil servants engaged in these processes resulting into comprehensive Cultural Patterns emerging from their narratives focused on participation meant as possible change for public administration. We have finally defined four Indicators of Development by looking at the possible changes that political institutions are demanded to undergo when implementing participation.

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