One of the aspects that I enjoy the most about this job is that I get to work on all the stages of the process, and thus I am able to see how the reintegration of this territories works from the two sides of the equation: from the point of view of the government and from that of the community. As the link between the two actors, we get to physically work in Central – the building where the government departments are placed, in the centre of the urban city - and in the community of Vidigal, implementing them and evaluating the projects.
On Tuesday I spent the day at the office in Central designing, together with my boss Vanessa, a scratch of a Local Development Plan for the Community of Vidigal. For this, we link initiatives that exist in the community and that we have already mapped and are looking for financial and general support with the different State Departments that will be able to support them. At the same time, we give priority to what the members of the community, during a democratic open meeting, have demanded and identified as their elementary needs. In the process of constructing this plan, I realised how far the government has been from the reach of the communities in recent times. I was surprised by how tremendously active the people from the community has been despite that fact, and thus the great amount of opportunities of growth that this new partnership allows. There are a lot of programs that the government has in place and is financing regarding work opportunities, women issues, LGTB issues, housing, education, health... At the same time, because of being away from governmental intervention for years, the communities have in place their own independent initiatives and arrangements with NGOs that deal with those similar issues. For this reason, the whole operation of linking the two already existing actors seems to have a great chance of success as long as both entities just look for support, and not rivalry, in one another.
I have noticed that, as many government programs, this government’s administration also has several lagoons, for which not everything that is promised by or expected from it is accomplished. Simultaneously, the organizations in place in the community lack resources and investment. In addition, there are a lot of arising projects in the community and in the meetings the residents have shown that they are very willing to start initiatives and put ideas to work. While I was rather sceptical about all this entrepreneurship in the beginning, the success of the Rio +20 event and other initiatives that have come into being lately with the government’s support are increasingly making me more optimistic about the pacification. Also, there is a great need for coordination and task management and task completion. I realised thus that the link that we constitute, between those who demand and those who can provide, is a very necessary one, which makes my work even more rewarding.
On Wednesday we attended a “Community café.” This reunion added some points on my optimistic approach. This was an event open for all the community where coffee was served and a discussion went on. The lieutenant of UPP forces leaded the discussion, but was not a meeting just about security and policing. In this reunion, the lieutenant informed about the progress that they are making in several aspects in the community regarding trash collection and policing. Then, a woman took the floor to talk about a government initiative that finances language classes, sport and cultural activities. She informed about the project, which is of free access, but she also explained that they are not working in the community yet because they don’t have a physical space. For this, she asked for cooperation and wrote down some suggestions from the audience and possible solutions. Then, the floor opened again and people from the audience raised their hands and their demands to the lieutenant and the representatives of UPP Social and Territórios da paz. There were explanations about what each organization’s task was, specific requests to the lieutenant as to remove cars from a street or to put more security in others for instance, presentations about other organizations that are open to cooperation to grow and even an announcement about an entrepreneurial contest from the firm Natura which has a program that it is implementing in the communities. The presentation by Natura was very surprising, because as opposed to what big firms (Natura is a big makeup firm) do when presenting their “charity” projects the representative was very sincere about why they were doing their project in the community. He explained that they were gaining a lot of profit from opening their market to the communities, and how they were doing it, and then he just proceed to say that instead of just making profit they rather make it a “win-win” situation and that is why this project, that will employ locals and provide formative courses, is in place.
In general, the meeting was very democratic, with the floor constantly open to discussion and everyone seemed very engaged. The event went on for more than three hours, so some people left to work and some people came and joined at different times, making it all more participative and everyone was able to voice out their concerns to the officer or the representatives.
Despite the optimism recalled in all these lines, I must admit that this definitely sounds better than it really is. While the whole planning and discussion part is working very good, when it comes to implementing the projects or closing deals it is much slower and much more tedious. There is inefficiency on the part of the government, and thus still some understandable reluctance to cooperate on the side of the community. But for what I have seen working in similar projects until today, it is often the case when elaborating big projects, particularly if they are public and they involve financial means, that many crossed interests come into play and it becomes harder to achieve the final goal. Nevertheless, the fact that the community is already having their questions answered and that they are given the right to voice their opinions and them be heard, respected and taken into consideration is already a great step towards improvement. Some still fearful of this program being a temporary flash of development that will soon decline after the 2016 Olympic Games, but the more I learn about the progress being made the harder I see it withdrawing. This is because this work is not being done just in terms of financial support for projects, or the UPP forces, or the government plans in general, but it is teaching the community what democracy is and how to enjoy their right to participate in it. Then again, I am not going to yet sing victory since the situation is still very fragile and, as of now, it would need not more than just a slight comeback of the previous tyranny for all this progress to vanish away.