The Project

What is LATINNO?

LATINNO is the first comprehensive and systematic source of data on new forms of citizen participation evolving in Latin America – the so-called democratic innovations. LATINNO assumes that citizen participation has become an important means to improve the quality of democracy in Latin America. Thousands of new institutional designs have been created in the previous years that aim not only to include more citizens in the political process, but also – through citizen participation – to make governments more responsive and institutions more accountable, in addition to strengthening the rule of law, and promoting social equality.

LATINNO has collected data on democratic innovations evolving in 18 Latin America countries from the years of 1990 to 2016. The data is coded for 43 variables related to the context, institutional design, and impact of each innovation. Along with the quantitative data, qualitative information on each case has also been gathered and assessed. This prolifically rich content is now being analyzed in policy briefs and academic papers.

LATINNO is not just a dataset. It is also a research project with two major aims. The first is to collect original data to substantiate our own academic work and policy analysis. The second is to make new data available to other people so that they can use it for their own purposes. We are producing information and knowledge on democratic innovations, and also on democracy and citizen participation in Latin America.

The countries covered by LATINNO are Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The LATINNO Project is coordinated by Thamy Pogrebinschi, at the Department Democracy and Democratization of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. It is currently funded by the Open Society Foundations.

The Background

LATINNO seeks to emphasize that democracy in Latin America encompasses more than elections: that new forms of participation go well beyond protests and demonstrations. It assumes that democratic innovations are new mediations between state and civil society, along with more traditional mediations like parliaments and political parties. LATINNO considers that the growing volume and scope of innovations are changing the political landscape in Latin America and transforming representative democracy from within

It has been claimed that Latin America exists as a laboratory of political innovations and participatory governance: as governments, civil society organizations, and international organizations engage with projects aimed at involving citizens in the democratic process. However, knowledge on participatory innovations is still mostly limited to case studies, which frequently focus on a limited number of experiments at the local level (e.g. participatory budgeting). Before LATINNO, there was no systematic and comparative knowledge on democratic innovations across countries and institutional designs, since most information was widespread and difficult to gather. LATINNO's aim is to fill this gap. Our data allows cross comparisons over more than two thousand different institutional designs in 18 countries, assessing their effectiveness, and evaluating whether or not they contribute to and enhance the quality of democracy in Latin America.

The Database

More than simply providing information on individual cases, LATINNO seeks to underscore the diversity of new democratic institutional designs and experimentations with citizen participation in Latin America. In addition to identifying and mapping out new means of participation, LATINNO’s database makes data comparable across institutional designs and countries.

LATINNO adopts a broad definition of democratic innovation and comprises various forms of political experimentation, provided that they involve citizen participation, and may have a potential impact on the public policy cycle. Cases are coded for three sets of variables concerning their context, institutional design, and impact.

Context Institutional Design Impact
Country Type of Organization in Charge Mode of Selection of Participants Number of Occurrences
Innovation Branch of State in Charge Means Volume of Participation
Municipality/Region Formalization Ends Implementation
Begin Level Policy Issue Fulfillment of Aim
End Scope Type of Social policy Impact on Ends
Political Party on Power Frequency Type of Institutional Design Output
Party's Political Orientation Decisiveness Type of Participants Outcome
  Co-Governance Policy Cycle Stage  

For LATINNO, each case stands for a particular experimentation with citizen participation with a specific institutional design, and not every single occurrence of the same innovation. For instance, LATINNO does not count every single implementation of participatory budgeting (PB) as a case. In our database, there will be no more than three cases of PB per country: face-to-face PB, online PB, and multi-channel PB. However, based on the available information, we do however try to register how many of each of these three institutional designs have existed or are active in each country, and in which cities they have been implemented. We apply this same coding logic for innovations with several implementations/occurrences within a single country: yet, whenever there is variation in the institutional design, we code it as a separate case.

LATINNO’s database covers as many cases as our team has been able to find in each country until reaching a stage of data exhaustion. After a long experimental phase and a pilot project, we have developed and tested a procedure to search, code and assess information on democratic innovations. We have devised a protocol to search information, which includes sources as diverse as scholars, civil society organizations, governments, international organizations, existing databanks, and the media. The primary and secondary data we rely on is comprised of academic work, research reports, impact assessments, constitutions, laws, administrative norms, policies, governmental programs, and different media outlets. Cases are coded according to our codebook, which has been drafted and adjusted several times over during our experimental stage and based on the material and evidence we have found. Our coders receive continuous training and are regularly checked upon to ensure reliability. Hard cases, coding issues, and conceptual questions are discussed collectively in regular team meetings.

The Process