Latest from CatComm...2012 Update & Next Up in 2013
- Winner of the John D. Lange International Award: This month, CatComm Executive Director Theresa Williamson was awarded the 2012 John D. Lange International Award from the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, a US and international network of housing professionals. The award recognizes a person in the housing and community development field who has made an outstanding contribution toward international understanding and exchange of international experience in the housing field.
- Favela As A Sustainable Model film: For the Rio+20 UN Conference in June this year, CatComm produced this twenty-six minute documentary exploring the ways in which sustainable principles are in the very fabric of favela life and also the development difficulties favelas face due to state neglect. The film premiered with two showings during Rio+20 at the People’s Summit and the Museu da Republica and has since been shown and debated in the Vila Margarida and Muzema communities, at Brown University, Pratt Institute, Georgia State University, Goucher College, and Roger Williams University. It has received over 3,800 hits on YouTube and won Best Mid-Length Film Award at the Cine Periferia Pai D’égua Film Festival in Belém.
- RioOnWatch: CatComm’s community news site publishing favela perspectives on Rio’s transformations in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics has grown enormously in readership and impact. 176 articles were published throughout the year, now mapped, yielding a quadrupling of total monthly site visits from 2,750 in January to 9,560 last month. This reflects the growing interest in Rio de Janeiro’s development, the increasing diversity and quality of reporting on the site, and the growing use of the site by opinion leaders worldwide. Accompanying this expansion is a dramatic growth in our social media reach, from 14,000 a year ago to 33,470 in November, with 42,000 people in our top month, August. Our monthly Rio News Digest has also become a staple among followers of Rio de Janeiro’s urban policies: December | November | October | September | August | July | June | May | April | March | February | January.
- Community Journalism Initiative: Launched in November, the CJI is an outgrowth of our community journalism trainings. Counting on the dozens of effective journalism, photography and media training programs preparing favela communicators today, the program harnesses their potential through RioOnWatch. Dozens of community journalists have pitched stories from all administrative regions of the city. Eight stories have been selected for payment and publication thus far, with a focus on Providência and Vidigal favelas in these two initial launch months.
- International Favela Perceptions Survey & Media Monitoring: CatComm developed and implemented the first multi-city international favela perceptions survey, with a total 725 responses from Rio and major cities in North America. The findings showed that visiting a favela significantly changes perceptions: 79% of North Americans who hadn’t been to a favela in Rio viewed them negatively, while 72% of those who had visited viewed them favorably. We also conducted research into how favelas are portrayed in the media. This language-tracking of mainstream international coverage of Rio’s favelas and local commentary on media by Rio residents revealed that favelas continue to be negatively typecast as violent slums, thereby reinforcing stigmas and hindering possibilities for integration and self-determined development.
- Two impactful opinion pieces in the NY Times: In April Executive Director Theresa Williamson wrote the debate piece A Missed Opportunity in Rio, following the NYT’s first coverage of forced evictions in Rio, also facilitated by us and featuring a video report in which Theresa appeared. Then in August, the day after the Olympic torch was passed from London to Rio, the NYT published the Op-Ed In the Name of the Future, Rio Is Destroying Its Past by CatComm’s Theresa Williamson and photographer and community leader Maurício Hora. Telling the history of Latin America’s first favela, Morro da Providência, and commenting on the forced evictions that are set to remove almost a third of the community, the piece generated enormous international interest and dialogue around the preparations for the 2016 Olympics and the legacy for Rio’s favelas. Simultaneously published in Portuguese, the piece had a significant local impact, triggering dozens of related and follow-up stories in the Brazilian media and strengthening the community’s resistance and negotiations against forced evictions.
- Providência: 115 Years of Struggle: This short film, launched in conjunction with the NY Times Op-ed, explores the historic significance and current evictions plight of Rio’s first favela, which this year celebrates its 115th anniversary. Produced by filmmaker Haimy Assefa during her internship with us, the film reinforced the impact of the NY Times piece, has been viewed 4,500 times on YouTube and was shown at the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials Annual Conference to 12,000 housing sector professionals. The film has been selected for the Brazil Film Festival in Australia in February 2013.
- Workshops and Educational Community Visits during Rio+20: With thousands of people from around the world in Rio for the UN Conference, Rio+20 provided a valuable opportunity to present and discuss the city’s favelas. At the People’s Summit, CatComm organized the debate Composing a Collective Narrative of Rio’s Favelas with community leaders from five very different favelas across the city to discuss major themes, such as real estate, economy and stigma, that can be said to define Rio’s favelas today. Throughout the conference CatComm organized Educational Community Visits to a wide range of favelas across the city for visiting academics, researchers and journalists interested in learning more about Rio’s favelas from community leaders themselves.
- Two Workshops with Architects and Community Leaders at Studio X: Architects from the Swiss University ETH Zurich launched a public exhibition Favela x City Exchange on June 26th and brainstorming session with community leaders on June 25th in partnership with Catalytic Communities. Later in the year, CatComm and ETH Zurich teamed up once again for a Brazilian Popular Architecture workshop on November 1st with architecture students and community leaders to exchange knowledge and experience with a view to creating sustainable solutions to housing problems in informally built communities.
- Monitoring Morar Carioca: Morar Carioca is Rio de Janeiro’s favela upgrading program that, though signed several years ago, is only now kicking in. Throughout the year we’ve dedicated interns and international observers to documenting communities prior to and during project implementation, helping influence said implementation in participatory ways.
- Shaping the International Debate on Favelas through Media: With the increased global focus on Rio de Janeiro, attention from the NYT pieces and growing influence of RioOnWatch, CatComm has been increasingly sought out to provide information and interviews for publications from around the world on Rio’s favelas. In 2012 we were interviewed by media sources of all types on all continents, including: The New York Times; Huffington Post; Christian Science Monitor; The Nation; NPR; NewsTalk Ireland; Edge of Sports; FM4 Austria; Harvard Review of Latin America; Next American City; UN MediaGlobal News; The Rio Times; Urb.im; Chicagoano; and Rio Real Blog. CatComm ED Theresa Williamson was solicited for opinion pieces featured in the US, Brazilian, and German press. And in the Brazilian press: Folha de São Paulo; O Globo; Meia Hora; O Dia; UOL; Yahoo! Notícias; Agência Brasil; Destak; EMBARQ; and Direito a Moradia, among others.
- On-the-ground Observance of London Olympics: In July 2012, CatComm Executive Director Theresa Williamson visited London for the 2012 Olympics, meeting with international Olympics researchers and members of civil society organizations who’ve witnessed a range of impacts of the Games on the ground; speaking at the rally organized by local activists on the Olympics opening day; meeting and speaking with journalists from a variety of publications; visiting the recently confirmed East London Community Land Trust site and learning about the future project; and meeting with the National Community Land Trust Network to learn of the UK experience with land trusts and how these might be adapted to Rio’s favelas.
- Public Talks: CatComm reached an estimated audience of 400 North American researchers and professors through public talks at Berea College, Brown University, Roger Williams University, Pratt Institute, Goucher College, and Georgia State University, along with 300 during presentations for the American Society of Rio de Janeiro, Studio X, and London Olympic opening day rally.
- In 2012, Catalytic Communities also facilitated: (1) The English translation of the Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics’ Dossier on Mega-Events and Human Rights Violations in Brazil; (2) An art project by New York photographer Marc Ohrem-Leclef of portraits of residents and communities threatened with eviction; (3) A graffiti intervention in Morro da Providência by artist intern Diego Camposeco working with community members to create a mural protest against forced evictions in the favela; and (4) Asset mapping the Pica-Pau community in Cordovil by our summer intern Rexy Josh Dorado working in collaboration with community leaders and Ecocity Builders to map the favela’s assets and needs, creating valuable tools for the community to demand and develop solutions.
- Continue expanding the breadth, quality and quantity of community-based reporting for RioOnWatch, as well as expanding readership;
- Expand our perceptions survey, Morar Carioca monitoring, media monitoring and support, Educational Community Visits, and public talks;
- Develop and advocate on behalf of cutting edge land policy recommendations through an Affordable Housing Policy Proposal for the City of Rio that offers titling while preserving community and culture;
- Implement Community Organizing Workshops across Rio aimed at developing participatory models, disseminating resistance strategies, and informing residents of increasing pressures and the widespread processes underway across the city;
- Produce a “Story of the Favela” graffiti-based animated video illustrating the history of the favela, from how/why they were first settled, through decades of development and self-help efforts, to today, showing community concerns and accomplishments and current risks.
CatComm Launches Community Journalism Initiative
November 8, 2012–RioOnWatch.org, a project of Catalytic Communities (CatComm), is seeking proposals for articles, videos and photo-essays from community journalists in Rio de Janeiro. Selected submissions will be published in Portuguese and English on RioOnWatch.org. Four authors and their submissions will be selected for publication and paid for their work each month during the program’s pilot phase (November 2012-February 2013), followed by an expansion of the program in March 2013. The inaugural theme is: favelas and their stigmas.
CatComm’s Community Journalism Initiative is an outgrowth of our community journalism trainings which took place in 2011. Counting on the dozens of effective journalism, photography and media training programs preparing favela communicators today, the program aims to harness their potential through www.RioOnWatch.org, CatComm’s community news site publishing favela perspectives in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Games.
RioOnWatch (Rio Olympics Neighborhood Watch) was created to facilitate and promote the inclusion of favela perspectives within the growing media coverage of Rio in light of the city’s fast-paced transformation in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Games. This Initiative aims to support the professionalization of the field of community journalism while magnifying Rio’s favela voices in Brazil and worldwide. Publishing in both English and Portuguese, RioOnWatch provides perspectives from favela leaders and residents, as well as international observers regarding the rapid urban transformations currently characterizing Rio and their impacts on communities.
In 2011, CatComm offered courses in journalism and video editing for youth from diverse communities. Since then, our readership has expanded to include international media figures and Brazil specialists. This has triggered international visibility for issues important to favelas in Rio. RioOnWatch’s impact was recognized 9 months after beginning its activities in early 2011 when the Associated Press, the largest news organization in the world, contacted us for what would be the first mainstream media article on favela evictions. This prompted other stories in The Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, Al Jazeera, cyberpresse.ca, Edge of Sports, The Independent, CBC Radio Canada, National Public Radio, New York Times, among others. Consequently CatComm and our network of community collaborators are sought out today to provide opinions and deepen the understanding of issues of increasing importance in Rio and around the world.
Our goal is to achieve a new standard of flexible, adaptive, and creative public policies in Rio, rooted in civic participation, appreciation of the achievements and history of favelas, and guarantees to improve the quality of life of residents. This includes ensuring resident rights to remain in their homes, despite the bullish housing market and arrival of mega events.
RioOnWatch makes use of the media to achieve this goal, opening a global conversation about the qualities of favelas and the importance of ensuring the stability and quality of life of residents, while recognizing the necessary steps for proper public policy implementation. In our search for community journalists, we value the work of favela residents who have developed critical thinking skills and communication techniques.
RioOnWatch and The Power of We [Blog Action Day 2012]
We can build a more balanced media picture of Rio’s favelas by including the voices of people who actually live in them. And this will have global consequences…
One in five people in Rio de Janeiro lives in a favela. Their lives include a vast range of experiences—hopes, problems, solutions, families, achievements, and the general comedy of life—yet stories about favelas in the mainstream media tend to focus on crime, which directly involves a tiny portion, at most 2% of favela residents. Few writers from the mainstream media are from a favela, and stories they tell often employ one-size-fits-all descriptions of urban informality. Including a diversity of voices from favelas and searching for a diversity of storylines there, RioOnWatch, our community news site, can bring citizens and international observers a deeper understanding of news in the city and the ability to form opinion based more on reality and less on stereotype.
Expanding this conciousness starts with publishing, in Portuguese and English, relevant favela news for a wide audience. Yesterday morning Jacarezinho and Manguinhos were occupied by the police in a militaristic operation, widely documented in the local and international press. Perhaps the only time Jacarezinho will ever appear in the BBC was when it had several army tanks in it. It’s true that Jacarezinho is a favela with a violent recent history, but is also a solid community that cares deeply for each other. As a photographer from Jacarezinho who posted online throughout the day yesterday writes, “We will all make the difference. Together we will demand the state be present.” His observations from yesterday’s events appear in full on RioOnWatch today, along with a translation of a community journalist’s account from within Manguinhos.
It is also crucial to study the many positive lessons favelas can teach us. Architects and planners, for example, have come to agree on certain building practices that constitute smart urbanism: high-density, low-rise housing, walkable neighborhoods, and integration with the natural environment.
It is sometimes challenging to achieve all of these in today’s urban development landscape, but in Rio upgrading the favelas offers a viable strategy. There are cooking classes in Babilônia that focus on using parts of vegetables that you would have thrown away otherwise, widespread bike use in Santa Margarida, and gardens built into the architecture of Vale Encantado. You can see all of these, and more, in our film Favela as a Sustainable Model. There are a thousand favelas in Rio; imagine how many more creative solutions are out there for those who choose to look.
Unfortunately since 2009 forced eviction has become a growing pattern across Rio’s favelas. By documenting this—simply reporting on the Housing Secretary’s procedures of marking homes and expelling residents, on the one hand, and resident’s rights and effective forms of collective action, on the other—we have grown as a resource for community members under threat.
Just Monday, we got a call about a Babilônia resident approached by City authorities who told her that her house would be removed for the widening of a walkway and she needed immediately to sign papers agreeing to be relocated to a public housing unit two hours away: if she didn’t sign, she would get nothing. Because she hesitated and an acquaintance of hers contacted CatComm on her behalf, she is right now documenting the case with the State’s Public Defenders and there is now a team set up to meet with her neighbors and document the situation. Overcoming forced evictions like these requires unity that we cannot create, but is strengthened by visibility that only expansive, local and international solidarity networks and strategic communications can provide.
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said: “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Please sign up and read stories on RioOnWatch and follow community perspectives on Rio de Janeiro’s transformation. The more people from around the world follow and get engaged in what happens in Rio over these transformative years, the more likely we can build an outcome that will serve as a model for hundreds of other cities in the decades to come.
– Written by Catherine Osborn, CatComm’s Land & Upgrading Intern, for Blog Action Day: October 15, 2012
Rio Raffle: Useful Links!
What Your Raffle Ticket Makes Possible
Rio Raffle 2012 is ON! Deadline October 15th!
CatComm’s Rio Raffle: Back in 2012 with more chances and prizes!
Rio Raffle 2012 is ON!
Back by popular demand, and thanks to mileage and accommodations donations, we are thrilled to invite you to participate in our 2012 Rio Raffle:
Main Prize: Trip for 2 to visit us in Rio (Valued at $4700)*
Additional prizes* to be won if purchase more than 5 tickets
Price per raffle ticket: $10
Deadline: Midnights October 15, 2012
Buy your $10 ticket using our donate page or PayPal and join in getting the word out! For every 2 tickets your friends buy, we’ll throw an extra ‘thank you!’ ticket in for you! And if you donate by September 21st, we’ll also throw in an extra ‘thank you!’ ticket for being an early bird!
“Favela as a Sustainable Model” Film Now Available
With sustainable development at the center of global discussion at last week’s Rio+20 UN conference, Catalytic Communities presents “Favela as a Sustainable Model,” a short film contributing to a growing global dialogue around the qualities inherent in informal settlements, particularly consolidated ones like those in Rio, and the potential lessons they offer towards a sustainable urbanization worldwide.
Premiered at the Rio+20 People’s Summit last Friday, and featured in the Summit’s Film Series, “Favela as a Sustainable Model” explores the ways in which sustainable principles are in the very fabric of favela life and also the development difficulties favelas face due to state neglect.
CatComm Founder and Executive Director Theresa Williamson explains: “Over the years our work in Rio’s favelas has exposed us to a wide range of qualities in these communities that are typically associated with sustainable, or resilient, neighborhoods. We decided to film a documentary with footage recommended by Rio’s community leaders, to shed light on the aspects of favela life that the broader society could and should model in terms of sustainability.”
From the largest informal settlement in Latin America to a small community deep in the Tijuca forest, the people and projects featured in the film show the creative solutions and common values that contribute to these communities’ sustainable development. In producing the film, Catalytic Communities aims to dispel some of the widely held negative preconceptions about favelas. “In the past year we’ve realized the formidable obstacle posed to Rio’s favelas’ development simply by the stigmas associated with these communities. And not one of these stigmas is well-founded,” says Williamson. “With our film for Rio+20, we’re looking to break these stigmas while contributing to the dialogue around sustainability.”
From June 13-29 CatComm also offered Educational Community Visits to the favelas featured in the film, visits led by the protagonists themselves (click for photo archive of visits). For more information and articles on the projects and communities featured in the film visit RioOnWatch and search for the community of interest. To join in the debate around sustainability in Rio’s favelas, fan us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or join our mailing list for monthly updates.
Watch full film here:
Educational Community Visit to Rocinha: A Testimonial
Since 2004 Catalytic Communities has been offering Educational Community Visits to international researchers, activists, journalists, government officials, city planners and architects wanting a deeper and more engaging experience of Rio de Janeiro and its favelas. We will be offering a slew of carefully selected and organized visits during the Rio+20 UN Conference on the Environment, daily from June 13-29. If you’re in Rio, don’t miss this opportunity to get a detailed and nuanced understanding of Rio’s changing dynamics, the unique nature of the favelas, and why this is relevant globally. CatComm will also be launching a video during Rio+20: Favelas as a Sustainable Model.
Hear about our ECVs from Justin Smith, who recently led a group from the Dayton, OH Chamber of Commerce to Rio:
Educational Community Visit to Rocinha
by Justin JoJo Smith
Dayton Chamber of Commerce
“In a word: accommodating! The professionalism and patience of the CatComm team in arranging our visit to Rocinha was truly remarkable. I was exchanging emails back and forth to finalize the logistics literally hours before the visit actually happened. I felt as if our group’s visit was the organization’s top priority despite the ad hoc (read: unplanned) nature of the request… Our tour group, members of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, from Dayton, Ohio, was visiting Rio de Janeiro with tours and excursions set up by a global tour company. Amidst the visits to the amazing “touristy” sites of the Marvelous City, the tours did not include an in-depth visit to any favelas. Instead, we looked at them from a distance as we passed by in our comfy coach with the general sentiment as expressed by our guides being that of disdain, that they are “slums” of the poor. Prior to my visit I had heard them described similarly but could not let such a description stand without seeing with my own eyes the residents and their everyday lives. In fairness, one of the tour guides did advise that if I/we really wanted to visit that it’s good to have a trustworthy accomplice/guide. That seemed common-sensical…
And that is where the amazing CatComm Team and local community leader from Rocinha came in, enabling those in our group who came along on the ECV to draw their own conclusions; in summary: debunking the prevailing myth of favelas as slums.”
THE VISIT ITSELF
“As stated above: demystifying. Yes, to be sure, there were UPP police officers standing on guard to preserve the peace as part of the police pacification program. But the operative word is peace(ful). That is how we found the favela and its residents, not to mention the overwhelming politeness of the precious children as we passed through the steep corridors of their residences. And I have good reason and ample evidence to believe that even in spite of the UPP’s presence the residents of Rocinha would carry on their daily lives as the living, loving, and laughing human beings that they are. To be sure, crime and violence may manifest from time to time, but what neighborhood in the world is absolutely free of the dark moments of humanity? To project a denigrating image on any community as a point of departure is walking out of step, not to mention unfair.
During our visit we witnessed shop keepers, business-owners, selling quality goods which confirmed a legitimate sense of commerce. (I later returned to Rocinha to purchase 5 pairs of Havaiana sandals from a shoe store that provided great service, not to mention a very competitive price!) We saw residents repairing/making improvements on their brick and mortar homes from which we discerned a sense of pride in their living quarters. While construction on a hilly mountain may not have been optimal it was what was available to their ancestors. Such pride and care for their homes shows that current residents of Rocinha are carrying on that same spirit of ingenuity and industry that is characteristic of its roots. We saw brothers and sisters picking up little siblings from school and heard the cheerful banter of “school’s out” (for the day) glee amongst elementary-age students: education is valued and family does matter! Samba from “radio cars”–a car with a speaker on top–filled the air providing the very pulse of people as they carried on.
A health clinic at the top of the favela and a sports complex at the bottom reveal the public sector’s newfound commitment to wellness. But the spirit of compassionate care as well as the spectacular sport (read: soccer) give me reason to believe that the residents would nurture their way to healing and wellness on their own terms.”
OUR CATCOMM GUIDES
“Knowledgeable, patient, compassionate. The kind of people I like to hang around.”
OUR COMMUNITY LEADER HOST (Leandro Lima)
“A born-and-bred university-educated and current resident of Rocinha; a journalist committed to his cause of telling the truth about Rocinha and providing access to opportunities for it’s residents; a high-quality, high-achieving, yet humble man.”