Participatory Regional Seminars
Secretaria de Planejamento e Gestão

The Problem

Given the horizontal geographic extension of the state of Pernambuco, the development process in the capital, at the extreme eastern end of the state, tended to favor development in regions close to the capital. Communities in inland regions – to the west of the capital – suffered from little or no favorable attention from public policies aimed at fomenting socio-economic development in their regions, limited social development services to respond to specific realities and insufficient public services, especially in health, public safety and education. No mechanisms were in place to allow open exchanges between the population and governmental authorities to address such issues. Inhabitants in these municipalities and communities – principally the poorest citizens in the inland region of the state – widely mistrusted and were dissatisfied with a longstanding history of social exclusion in their regions.
Prior to the implementation of the “Everyone for Pernambuco” Regional Seminars Series, citizens – principally from the most disadvantaged regions – did not have access to a broad mechanism for citizen participation to interact directly with governmental authorities to express their needs, demands and suggestions in a deliberative forum, presided over by the Governor. Communities felt the need to express themselves and debate with governmental authorities about difficulties regarding issues such as water supply, safety in rural areas, availability of technical training courses and incentives for local production arrangements, among others.
Up until the creation of this initiative, there were no formal channels for the common citizen to even see the State Governor or other governmental agents, let alone present to them suggestions to be incorporated into public policies. Situational analyses of various regions in the state and their problems were previously based on macro-indicators, which were not always obtained through direct data collection – using the population census carried out every ten years – and whose analysis often led to a gap in the time between data collection and the situation under analysis.
It is clear that the formal representational channel for civil society in a democratic society is established at the time when authorities are chosen through an electoral process. This democratic reality tends to gain force when these authorities subsequently turn to the public to hear them, fomenting the interest of citizens to participate in the process for structuring public policies, while also strengthening their role as citizens and fomenting transparency and accountability.
That said, dialogue between citizens, especially those who reside from the large urban areas, and the representatives they elected as members of the state parliaments is not a common practice in Brazilian politics. The need was evident for the creation of such a channel for direct dialogue between the people and the Executive Branch, capable of gathering information on the people’s needs and demands in a democratic and regionalized manner.
Thus, through this initiative, each one of the 12 development regions in the state of Pernambuco hosted one Regional Seminar in 2007 and in 2011, taking advantage of the opportunity to debate regional issues and imminent problems in their daily lives.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The “Everyone for Pernambuco” Regional Seminars Series – consisting of 12 regionalized forums to hear and debate with citizens – was carried out by the Secretariat for Planning and Management (SEPLAG) for the purpose of addressing the State Government’s need to plan and develop strategic actions with a regional focus, along with public policies targeting the most vulnerable segments of the population, based on knowledge of people’s daily lives and needs, as opposed to only technical and programmatic aspects.
As such, Regional Seminars provide a mechanism for discussion between organized civil society and government, with outcomes directly influencing the Multi-Year Plan – the law that consolidates government action and budgetary implementation over three years.
During the Regional Seminars, citizens and associations had the opportunity to debate and present directly to the State Government Secretaries specific needs and problems in the respective regions. These debates are run by State Government Secretaries and recorded not only by the SEPLAG Planning Analysts, but also recorded in audio and video. Debates on the following themes took place in six different discussion groups: Education and Culture, Public Safety, Health, Economic Development, Social Development and Infrastructure. In addition to participating in this manner, people could submit suggestions in writing, using forms distributed at the entrance to the event, or else through the website, created to facilitate this interaction.
As such, the first series of 12 Regional Seminars carried out in 2007 involved the participation of 5,207 people. In the second series held in 2011, participation increased by 154%, with 13,249 people participating and 3,554 entities represented. This yielded 26,147 proposals registered and gathered by the team of Planning Analysts from the Secretariat for Planning and Management (SEPLAG) and compiled/assessed by a group of 14 SEPLAG in a task force over a two-month period. A database was developed to enable similar proposals to be grouped together and cross referenced with policies from the Government Program. This analysis filtered proposals and allowed for the creation of Summary Proposals from Seminars, directly influencing the creation of 400 “priority goals” – the term utilized within the context of the Pernambuco Management Model to denominate quantifiable products for delivery to society – which is indicative of the Regional Seminars’ impact.
Among the goals yielded through Regional Seminars and established in the Multi-Year Plan are: construction of Technical Schools; building of a water supply system; construction of roads providing access to small municipalities; expansion and reform of regional hospitals; expansion of dental health services; creation of a support program for production and commercialization of family agriculture products; creation of the Police Department for the Protection of Women; creation of an energy matrix and a study on renewable sources of energy; establishment of open-air City Gyms; establishment of shelter-homes for at-risk children and adolescents; organization of outdoor markets for family agriculture products; production, acquisition and distribution of seeds for family farmers; and installation of simplified water supply systems for rural communities.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The carrying out of Regional Seminars was conceived by the State Governor and structured by the Secretariat for Planning and Management (SEPLAG). It was SEPLAG’s responsibility to plan all 12 seminars for each series through the following activities: i) definition of the venue for each seminar; ii) visits by state government representatives to the headquarters of municipal entities and to representatives from organized civil society; iii) bidding process for contracting a firm to take responsibility for technical equipment, materials distribution, participant registration and providing lunch for all participants; iv) formation of the teams responsible for recording participant contributions in discussion groups in each Regional Seminar; and v) compilation/organization of Summary Proposals from the Seminars for submission to the Governor and State Government Secretaries as inputs to the process for defining government-wide commitments targeted for transforming into public policies.
Generally speaking, the stakeholders involved in this initiative are the Pernambuco State Government and organized civil society. Conducting these Regional Seminars would not have been significant without key participation of these stakeholders. Organized civil society was represented by common citizens: rural farmers, local merchants, housewives, students, independent professionals and minority groups such as indigenous tribes and Afro-descendant Quilombola communities. NGOs also represented civil society, along with community residents associations, unions and local cooperatives. A total of 3,554 entities were represented in 2011. The State Government was always represented by the Governor, Vice-Governor, various State Government Secretaries and other civil servants involved in creating and defining public policies. Mayors and vice-mayors from participating municipalities in each of the regions also took part, engaging in discussions that took place in both the thematic discussion groups and plenary sessions, seeking to identify possibilities for partnership with the state government to carry out projects in their regions.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
During the planning process for the “Everyone for Pernambuco” Seminars, SEPLAG worked together with the State Governor to establish four specific objectives and their respective strategies:
The first objective sought to transmit the notion of Government’s availability, interest and readiness to listen to the people – who should be well represented. The strategies used to reach this objective were: i) ensure the participation of the Governor and Vice-Governor in all Regional Seminars, together with a team of State Government Secretaries, actively participating in the plenary sessions and group discussions as debate mediators; and ii) directly mobilize the general public to participate through the use of loudspeakers in cars, announcements on local radios, placement of banners in the cities and personal contact with representatives from local entities.
The second objective sought to restore the feeling of belonging and citizenship, principally among residents in rural communities. As such, the strategy used by SEPLAG was to provide participants with a welcoming and comfortable setting, by offering a coffee-break and lunch, air-conditioned facilities, didactic material, lunch, easy access, support staff, orientation for thematic discussion groups and cultural presentations – dance and music – while on break from activities.
The third objective sought to provide conditions and means for the people to freely express their demands and suggestions, as well as learn about governmental actions underway in the region. To reach this objective, these strategies used were: i) conducting six thematic discussion groups – each one with the participation of one State Government Secretary – to discuss issues related to Education and Culture, Public Safety, Health, Economic Development, Social Development and Infrastructure. On this occasion the microphone was made available to all participants who wanted to freely express their opinions; ii) conducting a plenary session with the Governor and Vice-Governor to share feedback from group discussions – presented by three representatives elected by each work group; and iii) distribution of forms for submitting proposals and creation of a website page ( to register opinions when a citizen did not take the initiative to do so during the debates.
The fourth objective was to ensure a technical process for compilation and analysis of the proposals, characterized by transparency. To do so, the following five strategies were defined: designation of teams of approximately 15 staff from SEPLAG in each one of the seminars to make an on-site written record of the proposals generated in group discussions; ii) audio and video recording of the plenary sessions and thematic group discussions; iii) creation of a database by SEPLAG staff to consolidate the proposals debated and suggested in all Regional Seminars; iv) analysis and management of the database for ranking priorities, establishing joint commitments with the Governor and incorporation into the Multi-Year Plan; and v) formal feedback to society on the establishment of joint commitments and their incorporation into the Multi-Year Plan, using Regional Committees structured as mechanisms for systematic and formal dialogue with civil society.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Upon beginning the mandate in early 2007 and conducting a needs assessment for the state, the State Government decided that its mode of governing would be based on democratic and regionalized planning, valuing each region in the state. At this stage, the first definitive step in developing and implementing the “Everyone for Pernambuco” Regional Seminars involved restructuring the Secretariat for Planning and Management (SEPLAG), which took over the strategic management of State Government actions.
The second step was to establish two institutional mechanisms for interlocution with civil society: the State Economic and Social Development Council (CEDES) and Municipal and Regional Committees, in order to initiate an effective and permanent dialogue with the State Government.
Given that these two mechanisms yielded very positive results, demonstrating a great unmet need among the population to be heard – principally in the inland regions of the state – in May of 2007 the Governor defined a third step to incorporate demands based on a much broader public consultation into the Multi-Year Plan for 2008-2011, whose outcomes would provide the basis for confirmation or expansion of choices for the State Government’s regionally-focused actions, as described in its Program.
Thus, in June of 2007, the State Government delegated to the Secretariat for Planning and Management (SEPLAG) the responsibility for planning, conducting, monitoring and evaluating the 1st “Everyone for Pernambuco” Regional Seminar Series, also launching the design and structuring of a Management Model that sought to ensure broad citizen participation as a key force in influencing the development of public policies. Having been re-elected to the State Government, the Governor once again delegated to SEPLAG in January 2011 the responsibility for managing every stage of the 2nd “Everyone for Pernambuco” Regional Seminar Series, thus establishing this process every four years for taking stock of the interests of people throughout the state.
The fourth fundamental step in developing this initiative was driven by the evaluation of the 1st “Everyone for Pernambuco” Regional Seminar Series – whose debates were held in full plenary sessions. The second 2nd Series experienced an increase of 154% in the number of participants and a significant change in its approach: six discussion groups were created and distributed in specific rooms, allowing participants to choose a theme about which they wanted to discuss more specifically.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
One of the obstacles encountered in conducting the Regional Seminars was the lack of a precise count for the number of people participating in the event. Since there was no need for pre-registration – in that this occurred upon arrival at the event – in some locations the estimated number of people was lower then the actual number of participants. This required actions to be taken quickly, which had been pre-defined, making adjustments to the event’s entire infrastructure so as to avoid a negative impact on the process for conducting the event and to ensure its objective was reached.
Another issue that needed to be addressed was the incidence of local politicians used their speaking opportunity to address political and partisan issues. As such, SEPLAG analysts worked with participants to make them more aware and to take care in selecting the three representatives that would speak in the plenary session with the Governor, so as to select citizens that represent the demands of the entire group – and not just political and partisan issues.
The logistics for carrying out the events was also a great challenge that was overcome through careful planning, which included meetings to discuss activities, training, establishing timelines and systematic evaluations. This made it easier to structure activities such as mobilizing teams, adapting the venue to the specific needs of the event and the dynamics employed, as well as coordinating participation schedules in light of the fact that 11 of the 12 Regional Seminars took place over a 30¬day period.
Another aspect considered to be an obstacle was linked to the lack of awareness on the part of the population in relation to the scope of responsibility for each sphere of government. Several requests were made for actions whose execution falls under the responsibility of municipal or federal governments. Such proposals were heard and taken into consideration, however, they were always addressed by mediators’ pondering the fact that these were not actions under the state government’s responsibility and, as such, partnerships at the municipal and federal levels would be pursued towards potentially influencing the realization of these proposals.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
SEPLAG coordinated the carrying out of all Regional Seminars and leveraged the resources required for them to be held. Financial resources were invested by the State Government, which sought to reduce its costs through: i) establishing partnerships for local communities to provide meeting space; ii) utilization of its own work force for management and technical implementation of the event – i.e. planning analysts and management professionals from SEPLAG, professionals with technical expertise in the evaluation of public policies, media advisors, military police, firemen, paramedics and support staff. The involvement of civil servants yielded very positive results, given that it provided a technical character to the process and reinforced the State Government’s presence in the event. The State Government covered all expenses, in accordance with the laws, for transportation, meals and accommodations for public servants working off-site from their workplace.
The State Government was also responsible for contracting the company that handled production of printed material for indoor and outdoor signs, such as posters, banners and directional signs. This material was essential for publicizing the event externally and to assist participants once inside the event locale. A packet of didactic material was produced, including a pen, a notepad, a letter from the Governor, an explanatory booklet describing actions carried out by the government, a suggestion sheet and an explanatory brochure about the event’s agenda and content of the thematic discussion groups. This material was very useful for participants to understand the seminar’s intent and purpose, the seminar schedule and the importance of their participation.
Other financial resources were directed to the company that won the bid to contribute other human resources, materials and technical staff to carry out the event’s administrative activities. The company was directly supervised by SEPLAG and provided the following services: i) human resources – a group of people to handle registration and provide nametags for participants, support staff to provide information, reception area support, setting up the venue, along with placing chairs and tables in designated meeting areas, keeping the area clean, serving lunch and water in meeting rooms and the plenary session room and operating equipment; ii) technical resources and materials – portable computers, projectors, cameras, printers, ventilation or refrigeration equipment, tables and chairs. The company also took care of providing lunch, dessert, beverages, coffee breaks and water. The outsourcing of services was essential for SEPLAG to be able to coordinate the essence of the Regional Seminars, distributing its staff in locations for strategic coordination, ensuring that the event ran smoothly, but principally handling the recording and collection of proposals put forth in the discussion groups and those submitted in writing. Subsequent to the events, SEPLAG handled creating the data system for processing these suggestions and inputting information into the database.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The dynamics chosen for the Regional Seminars can be easily adapted at the municipal level. Contact with governing authorities favors building a relationship of credibility with these actors and civil society, based on the moment in which citizens observe that their requests are being met in their day-to-day lives. The effective realization of seminar outcomes is measured by the pertinence of proposals in relation to the State Government’s macro strategy. All proposals are compiled, evaluated, ranked by priority and incorporated into the 2012-2015 Multi-Year Plan based on their pertinence to the State Government Program, thereby being budgeted under the law.
Representatives from various States of Brazil have visited SEPLAG to learn about the methodology for conducting Regional Seminars in Pernambuco and to exchange experiences. The initiative has been disseminated in universities as an integral part of the Management Model currently adopted by the State Government.
After the seminars and finalization of the Multi-Year Plan, a team of SEPLAG planning analysts have made 12 trips to the development regions to provide feedback and conduct follow-on – through the Regional and Municipal Committees – for citizens to be aware of the actions requested, the State Government’s strategy defined in the Multi-Year Plan and the requests that had been met. This action favors transparency and accountability, while reinforcing the sense of citizenship among the people of Pernambuco.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The major impact of the initiative was the influence that suggestions gathered from citizens had on the Multi-Year Plan Law for the period of 2012-2015 in the state of Pernambuco. In accordance with Brazilian legislation, on-going actions within the State Multi-Year Plan should be executed within a four-year period, subject to oversight of the Executive Branch by the main financial oversight entity – the Tribunal de Contas do Estado (TCE).
Another impact was the establishment of closer linkages between the public sector and society, through direct and transparent interaction, facilitating democratic manifestations, carried out principally with low-income citizens residing in regions in the state that are disadvantaged while at the same time possess great potential for development. Many people are thankful for the State Government’s presence, many want to hug the Governor and State Government Secretaries, while others used written messages to express their sense of being accepted and receiving attention.
One lesson learned was in relation to the critical importance of effective planning and follow-on, such as: i) the involvement of a technical team that is committed to society and government, having the capacity to deal with the common citizen; ii) analysis of difficulties encountered and taking corrective actions when possible during the Regional Seminar and in subsequent events; iii) the presence of a responsible and committed leader as reflected in the case of the Governor and State Government Secretaries; and iv) the high level of determination and technical competence put into the process for collecting, compiling and analyzing proposals gathered and their subsequent identification for priority actions.
Another major lesson learned was that a well managed process for listening closely to the people is extremely enriching. The common citizen’s vision of problems related to his/her reality adds so much to the process of formulating public policies. It is interesting to perceive that, depending on the region, certain issues are so common to the debates that they must definitely be made a priority. Oftentimes these issues are so much a part of daily life that, without this process, the public sector would not identify them as such. Information generated through auscultation of the population is quite rich.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Secretaria de Planejamento e Gestão
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Vivianne Câmara
Title:   Planning, Budget and Management Analyst  
Telephone/ Fax:   558131823852
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   1377, Aurora Street
Postal Code:   50040-090
City:   Recife
State/Province:   Pernambuco
Country:   Brazil

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