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The municipalization of basic social service delivery in Brazil provides significant incentives for local public officials to have a better understanding of their constituents’ needs and requirements both to govern and for political purposes. The broadening of participatory venues under the 1988 Constitution allowed for the establishment of a broad number of public venues that civil society leaders could use to represent their associations. Government officials and civil society leaders have constant contact with each other as each seek to promote polices that advance their narrow and broader concerns. This article focuses on the establishment of three governing principles of five successive governments in Belo Horizonte: Social justice, popular participation, and interlocking institutions. The government and its allies in civil society redesigned citizen access points into the state as means to clarifying the signals sent from citizens to government officials, to allow civil society organization (CSO) leaders to act as intermediaries between citizens and public officials and to allow government officials’ to tap into CSO leaders and citizens’ attitudes on a wide range of pressing political issues. These interlocking venues are a key moment of interest mediation, which partially accounts for how Belo Horizonte produces robust social policy change in a context of a highly fragmented party system. Participatory governance is now the key mechanism that allows for constant dialogue among citizens and government officials. This article is part of a larger research project seeking to understand how and why the local Brazilian state was restructured in the 1990s, how citizens are incorporated into state-sanctioned governance bodies, and importantly, how the new institutional environment has helped to transform state-society relations.

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This document was originally published by School of Business Administration of São Paulo in Cadernos Gestão Pública e Cidadania. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: