New paper: ‘An information literacy lens on community representation for participatory budgeting in Brazil’

Back in 2019, Wegene Demeke and I (Bruce Ryan) carried out a research visit to São Paulo City in Brazil, kindly funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund. Our aim was to understand the extent to which participatory budgeting (PB) aids the very poor. The visit culminated in a focus group with members of participatory budgeting councils.

Wegene and I have already published a paper on the challenges presented to researchers by translation (Demeke & Ryan, 2020). A second paper, with Peter Cruickshank, examines the information literacies and bahaviours used by the participative council members during the PB process. It is is due for publication in the Journal of Information Literacy in December 2023.

Using questions established from context-setting interviews with stakeholders earlier in the visit, we held a the focus group in English and Portuguese in January 2019, with eight participative councillors. In situ interpretation by two of the Brazilian hosts resulted in a translated transcription of the focus group discussion. Thematic analysis was used to develop insights into information issues faced by community representatives in relation to past findings in this area.

It was found that the community representatives face informational barriers to their engagement with participatory budgeting, in

  • learning about their role
  • understanding the information needs of the communities served
  • gathering and sharing information about local issues with stakeholders.

These findings allow the refining of CILIP’s definition of Information Literacy for citizenship to account for the role of community representives.

A key outcome of this analysis is the need for future IL research into the interaction of digitally-enabled place and community in shaping the landscape of literacy and the role of hyperlocal representation. In particular:

  • the proxy-like role of representatives in imagining the community being represented
  • the role of place in shaping the IL of geographical communities
  • the IL needs of representatives acting together in a work-like context of semi-official “voluntary” roles
  • the role that measurement of impact should play in models of IL.

We hope to explore these in future projects.

The author’s copy of the paper can be downloaded here.

Bruce has also written about the back-story of this visit in his own blog

We are very grateful to the focus-group participants, other interviewees/stakeholders, the Brazilian hosts and the GCRF for funding the research visit.

The photo above shows the hosts Professor Renato de Oliveira Moraes, Dr Hugo Watanuki, Dr Leandro da Silva, together with Bruce, Wegene, and two members of São Paulo City’s civil service.


Cruickshank, P., & Ryan, B. (in press). An information literacy lens on community representation for participatory budgeting in Brazil. Journal of Information Literacy

Demeke, W., & Ryan, B. (2021). Lost in translation: Qualitative data collecting and translating challenges in multilingual settings in information systems research. University of Dar es Salaam Library Journal, 16(2), 105-118.

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