Câmara Municipal de Porto Alegre | Brazil
Written on September, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Porto Alegre City Council to adapt to remote deliberations to continue discussing important proposals related to the prevention of the virus’s spread. This essay explores the Council’s transition to remote work, the challenges faced, and the lasting impact on the institution’s culture.
Simplified Legislative Procedure
Faced with the urgency of the pandemic, the Porto Alegre City Council adopted a temporary, simplified legislative procedure. This involved using an electronic documentation platform to make proposals immediately available on the Council’s website. This procedure ensured transparency and accessibility while streamlining the decision-making process by transferring merit discussions to the plenary.
Adoption of Remote Meeting Platforms
The Council chose the Zoom platform for remote sessions, which proved to be user-friendly and adaptable. Between March and September 2020, the Council conducted 63 sessions and approved 58 proposals. Initially, only executive-originated propositions related to the pandemic were considered, but later parliamentary-originated proposals were allowed.
Technological Infrastructure Improvements
The Council purchased additional Zoom licenses to enable committees to hold virtual meetings. This allowed the Council to maintain legislative activity at a level similar to that before the pandemic. Despite the success of remote deliberations, the electronic process platform was limited for managing the legislative process due to its original design for administrative purposes.
Increasing Transparency and Access
The Porto Alegre City Council has a history of making its legislative process accessible through its website. The transition to remote deliberations led to increased viewership on the Council’s YouTube channel, which shares content with the Legislative Assembly.
Changing Internal Culture
The pandemic prompted a notable shift in the institution’s internal culture. Despite being a 247-year-old organisation with a slow rate of change, the Council quickly adapted to remote work out of necessity. This experience demonstrated that it is possible to adopt a paradigm more in line with modern technology.
The Council recognizes the need for a legislative process management system better suited to its needs, such as the SAPL developed by the Brazilian Senate House. However, the Council has not yet identified an appropriate tool for its legislative process.
The Porto Alegre City Council’s experience with remote deliberations has demonstrated that it is possible for the institution to embrace technological change, streamline processes, and maintain transparency. The lessons learned during this period have resulted in lasting cultural shifts, and the Council is unlikely to return to its previous way of operating. The pandemic has highlighted the potential for improvement and the importance of adaptability in a rapidly changing world.
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