Why this toolkit?

This research sought to understand and systematise the characteristics of bottom-up models of social development being implemented in the favelas by local organisations AfroReggae and CUFA (Central Unica das Favelas). Acting as both partners and participants, AfroReggae and CUFA played an essential role in enabling fieldwork in the favelas and working with LSE, UNESCO, Itaú Social and Itaú Cultural to ensure access to a rich, complex and hard-to-reach context.

During a three-year research partnership we studied the sociability of the favela, the working methodology of AfroReggae and CUFA and the views and experiences of their partners and observers, including the police, the private sector, the media, government, international organisations and experts. We found that poverty and exclusion produce marginalisation and human suffering, but people living in these conditions hold competencies and skills that can resist exclusion and bring about social development.

Organisations within the favelas demonstrate agency and capability for positive change, combining a focus on individuals and communities, using the arts and the imagination to fuel collective action, and acting on urban frontiers through innovative partnerships. Their wide-ranging actions include community participation, urban regeneration, reintegration of ex-detainees to their communities, and workshops, concerts and plays that broaden the imaginations and the life expectations and dreams of favela youth. This model of bottom-up social development can work everywhere because it is founded on universal dimensions: the human self as protagonist, the power of the imagination and the value of dialogue as a tool for managing difference and conflict.

In addition to key findings and lessons of the research, this toolkit is supported by the results and experiences of ‘Communicating bottom-up social development: A dialogue between multiple stakeholders in the UK and Brazil’, a two-year HEIF-funded project of knowledge exchange. With a global focus, the project disseminated bottom-up experiences of social development and curated the blog Favelas@LSE. It also enabled us to devolve research results to favela communities, to engage with a wider audience of activists and policymakers in Brazil and the UK and to use communicative validation to test the concepts and tools presented in this toolkit. Its ultimate aim is to contribute to a wider dissemination of what works in bottom-up social development. We very much hope that the methodology of work, the strategies and the tools documented here will help to build capacity in other contexts.