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Budget Work and Democracy Building: the Case of IBASE in Brazil

By: Paolo de Renzio, Jim Shultz

In 2005 the International Budget Project and the Institute for Development Studies initiated a joint effort to study the experience of civil society budget work in six countries around the world where civil society organizations have undertaken that work for a significant period of time. These include: Brazil, Mexico, Uganda, Croatia, India, and South Africa. This report is the study of that experience in Brazil, focusing on the work of one group, the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analysis (IBASE).

To undertake this study two researchers traveled to Brazil for nine days in February and March of 2005 to carry out a series of detailed interviews.  These included the IBASE staff that lead its work on budget issues; IBASE’s executive director; a member of IBASE’s board; a wide variety of leaders from other Brazilian civil society organizations that work with IBASE or form important parts of its constituency; local budget activists; staff in the Brazilian Federal Government; a member of the Rio de Janeiro city council; journalists; academics; a key IBASE funder; and many others familiar with and in a position to comment on IBASE’s work. They also reviewed a full set of written and on-line materials associated with IBASE’s work. These included: budget reports and newsletters, IBASE’s distance learning curricula, IBASE news clips, and other material. A complete list of those interviews and of the materials reviewed is included at the end of this paper.

The purpose of this review was to analyze IBASE’s experience with budget work–and specifically its focus on building citizen budget literacy and engagement–to see what lessons its experience holds for other groups seeking to follow a similar strategic path.