The municipality of San Juan de Lurigancho began reforming its internal operations to respond to concerns of civil associations that the city’s government was not including its citizens in its decision-making processes. Also, the city’s innovators found that service delivery and development capacity could also be improved by devolving some municipal programs to civil society.
This System of Citizen Participation has three parts: first, innovators established the Council of Local Coordination to monitor new public-private partnerships. Second, the reformers put into place Networks of Public Policies, associations of civil society groups interested in contributing to the design of new local policies. Third, civil associations began holding Communal Local Meetings, in which citizens plan the application and execution of new city policies in their territories. In addition to these three civil society networks and councils, reformers founded the Permanent Mixed Commission, in which members of civil society and the municipal government adapt pending legislation to include citizen input in an organic model. The main benefits of this system have been the development of local community leadership and the involvement of civil society in the design and execution of new budget and legislative policies.
The System of Citizen Participation has made authorities and civil employees of the municipality aware of the importance of citizen participation in San Juan de Lurigancho. It has also involved local residents in the execution of development projects by outsourcing responsibility for new work projects to relevant civil society organizations. By involving locals in the distribution of local resources, San Juan de Lurigancho has been able to create a participative budget model, in which development projects are planned in a cooperative partnership between residents and regulators, and are then executed by citizens. By devolving responsibility for development initiatives, reformers simultaneously empowered the citizens of San Juan de Lurigancho to take responsibility for their own construction projects and expanded the capacity of the municipality to undertake new initiatives and policies using the manpower available in the community.
An important aspect of this initiative for citizen participation has been the introduction of democratic elections to introduce new levels of transparency in municipal governments. By introducing citizen oversight in the selection of municipal leaders, reformers were able to disrupt traditional clientelist networks between established, corrupt city officials and their patrons in the community.
In implementing the System of Citizen Participation, reformers in San Juan de Lurigancho were able to generate a very high level of collaboration between the municipality and its civil society organizations. By including three modes of citizen participation in addition to the Permanent Mixed Commission, innovators created and solidified the institutions necessary to preserve this level of participation in local governance regardless of regime changes in the city’s leadership. By introducing networks for policy planning and execution amongst community organizations, reformers also encouraged coordination between previously disconnected and disparate groups.
One weakness of the system is that it does not necessarily plan for large-scale citizen participation, but only of the mobilized sector of civil society. While it has encouraged leadership development among those who are active in San Juan de Lurigancho’s civic associations, this is nonetheless a self-selecting group. In order to include new social actors in future planning and policy discussions, the municipality is intensifying its publicity campaigns for the System, and is formulating and implementing education plans to alert the public to their opportunity to oversee their own local government’s budget allocations and development plans.
By creating civil networks and planning commissions, reformers have been able to increase the city’s capacity for development, incorporate the proposals of the local population into the Municipal Budget, and create channels of dialogue among neighborhoods and associations to plan for the strategic distribution of resources.