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Linking Action-Research and Geographic Information Systems to Uncover Data from Participatory Budgeting Disposals

Governance
Political Methodology
Public Policy
Giovanni Allegretti
Centro de Estudos Sociais, University of Coimbra
Giovanni Allegretti
Centro de Estudos Sociais, University of Coimbra
Francisco Freitas
Centro de Estudos Sociais, University of Coimbra

Abstract

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been often used in quantitative and qualitative research to spatialize problems and outputs of extensive studies in order to facilitate comparisons and make their results more easily understandable also for a general audience. Furthermore, GIS demonstrated a large potential to raise new research-questions based on data-crossing that links data with their sources of origin and with phenomena related to transfers of innovations in different contexts. The research project “OPtar” (promoted since 2010 by the Center of Social Studies at Coimbra University, with funding of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) tried to apply GIS representations to a series of analysis related to the quality of several experiences of Participatory Budgeting (PB) implemented in Portugal. Two were the main goals of such a choice: (1) taking advantage of a large database of analyses created along three years of the project through surveys among participants of 9 experiences of PB, aimed to discuss their perceptions on the level of legitimation of such participatory arenas; (2) generating a typology of deliverable that could be used for a pro-active dialogue with the 9 municipal governments, aiming to give them elements to progressively transform their experiments and to increase the level of satisfaction of participants in relation to their organizational models and results. The paper tries to summarize the main reasons, the methodology and some partial results of such a process of interaction between a university research and the implementers of the 9 experiences. It highlights how this specific action-research experiment benefited from the use of GIS, raising awareness on the mutual changes that marked the different PB processes analyzed, which contribute to modify the national panorama of such participatory innovations, imposing them as sort of new “institutions” with a growing degree of legitimacy recognized to them by citizens.