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[BackChannel] Unequal Participation: Open Government's Unresolved Dilemma?

BY Tiago Peixoto | Friday, February 15 2013

In this post for Backchannel, our ongoing conversation between practitioners and close observers at the intersection of technology and politics, participatory budgeting researcher Tiago Peixoto writes that research in New York has revealed a way to involve people in governance that is far more inclusive than the way city decision-making currently operates. Read More

How Participatory Budgeting Is Transforming the Way New York Funds Neighborhood Projects

BY Joe Maniscalco | Tuesday, August 28 2012

Exclusively for Personal Democracy Plus subscribers: Usually, when it comes time to fund capital improvement projects in large municipalities like New York City, it’s local elected officials who ultimately decide how taxpayer money is spent in their districts.

Last year, however, following prior success in Chicago, democracy-minded groups like the Participatory Budgeting Project and Community Voices Heard convinced four New York City Council members to hand over the purse strings to their constituents through a process called participatory budgeting.

Here's what the city has learned so far, and how some City Council districts will continue an expanded experiment with the system this year.

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WeGov

Brazil's Open-Government Shock Treatment

BY Greg Michener | Wednesday, June 27 2012

Officials in Brazil's government have had a transparency shock treatment in the past year. Photo: Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz

Countries arrive at more transparency and greater freedom of information either through long training or sudden shock treatment.

The U.S. experience, with decades of incremental law and legal precedent, is synonymous with the archetypical training regime. Brazil, on the other hand, is undergoing the epitome of shock treatment. In one month, May 2012, Brazil formally launched an ambitious freedom of information law that outlines a "right to information" – replete with provisions for the release of information in open, computer-readable formats – and, at around the same time, a new open-data portal. For added shock, the Brazilian government inaugurated a second new fundamental right, the "right to historical truth." This right is embodied by the newly established Truth Commission, whose aim it is to reconcile abuses from the military dictatorship that controlled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Brazil also currently occupies the co-chair of the Open Government Partnership. In short, Brazil is in the midst of a massive transparency offensive and there are positive signs that it is moving in the right direction.

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