In Brazil, most public services are delivered by local governments. More than ever, they are directly responsible for addressing the pressing needs of the public – from employment to education, transportation to healthcare.
While there is great potential for a close, collaborative relationship between local governments and the public, it is not always realised. This is evidenced by low turnouts in municipal elections around the world. In Brazil, the issue is further aggravated by a high concentration of power, weak institutions, high levels of inequality, and ingrained distrust of the government.
Nossas, formerly known as Meu Rio, is providing a platform for change. Combining online and offline engagement tools, it aggregates people’s ideas about how to improve life in Brazilian cities and mobilises support to make them a reality. Since its launch in 2011, Nossas has helped empower communities historically neglected by their local public sector, in turn making civic institutions more transparent, responsive, and accountable.
Nossas members in Rio alone
Nossas aims to create a new culture of sustained political participation, particularly among Brazil’s younger population, and now has over 300,000 members in Rio alone. Together, they have created dozens of ‘calls to action’ – campaigns to improve their city.
Of these Rio-based calls to action, 43 percent are city-wide demands and 36 percent focus on what Nossas classifies as priorities of ‘poor, disenfranchised regions’. For context, Rio’s affluent South Zone only accounts for 13 percent of the calls to action.
The work of Nossas has led to the passing of a bill preventing individuals convicted of corruption being appointed to public positions, the elimination of a tax on solar panels, and the creation of a 24/7 police station exclusively dedicated to women. It also helped establish better regulations regarding the use of guns and ammunition by the State.
Since its launch in 2011, Nossas has helped empower communities historically neglected by their local public sector, in turn making civic institutions more transparent, responsive, and accountable.
In 2016, Luminate supported Nossas with $480,000 towards expanding the platform beyond Rio. It now operates in nine Brazilian cities, including São Paulo, Recife and João Pessoa, and also develops multi-city initiatives.
Luminate’s support is helping Nossas develop experimental projects. These include Defezap, a Whatsapp-based system for the collaborative reporting of police violence in favelas, and Map do Acolhimento, a platform for connecting victims of gender-based violence with mental health and legal professionals willing to provide volunteer services. Nossas is now using insights from projects like these to build a new platform called Bonde. This will allow organisations and activists to create their own mobilisation platforms to engage people with their causes.
The issues facing those in Brazilian cities are reflected across the world. It is our hope that the success of Nossas will inspire others to launch similar platforms of engagement in their own countries. After all, communities work better when everyone has a voice.