Brazil's transition from an authoritarian regime to a democracy has been supported by the institutionalisation of efforts to integrate citizen participation into policy-making. This paper traces the roots of citizen participation in the development of diverse community movements from the 1950s onwards, and the democratic movement that emerged from these. As a result, the 1988 federal constitution established a range of institutions to support the integration of civil society organisations into formal policy making. Twenty years on, the author describes the range and diversity of opportunities for citizen participation that exist in Brazil, and lists numerous positive social outcomes. Current challenges are analysed, such as the reluctance of some public managers to share power - particularly in economic policy-making - and recent managerial reforms of the state which fail to integrate the constitutional vision. Ongoing investments in civil society capacity will be essential for meaningful engagement to be sustained.