Social Intervention Project for the Cumbica Urbanisation Programme

Guarulhos, Brazil

The aim of the programme is to provide access to social housing and public services to the local population to improve social inclusion

The Social Intervention Project for the Cumbica Urbanisation Programme was developed for an impoverished area in the outskirts of Guarulhos, São Paulo. The programme’s main goals are to contribute to the social inclusion of the local population through the access to social housing and public services, and to promote capacity building for local community members and direct participation in all phases of the programme. An important feature of this programme is the coordination of the social and the engineering projects, which guarantees its development and sustainability.


City information

Size and population development
2010: 1.221.979 (source: city of Guarulhos)

Administrative structure
Municipality of the São Paulo Metropolitan Region

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Background and objectives
This project’s main goals are:
  1. to promote social and economic development through environmental and infrastructure improvement;
  2. to create new job opportunities, and increase financial investments in the areas of intervention;
  3. to prevent new occupations in public areas through urban regeneration;
  4. to support local communities with technical advice and regulation of land ownership. 

The concept applied in this project is to integrate public policies that contribute to the citizens’ social inclusion, through the access to adequate social housing and public services. A multidisciplinary team including sociologists, social workers, architects, and engineers work together to achieve the project goals. Another important feature of the projects is that its development also depends on the involvement of governmental and non-governmental organisations, as well as local communities’ representatives. Although the project planning is coordinated by the Housing Department, it emphasises actions in the fields of education, public health, literacy, capacity building and access to micro-credit schemes and local economy development. 

The target group are the 3,200 families currently living in the area of the Industrial City of Cumbica, an impoverished neighbourhood in the city of Guarulhos, São Paulo. This area represents 15% of the Guarulhos’s population and 20% of all the industrial activity in the city. The process of settlement of this area was initiated in the 1980´s when workers and their families were attracted by the offers of employment, so they started occupying the road system, parks, and riverside areas. Housing is precarious, with wooden buildings, high density, and risk of undermining the banks of streams and floods. Before the beginning of this project, local residents were not organised and there was no direct participation in the city´s social and political organisations.  

The development of this project relies on the process of continuous negotiations among the public sector, non-governmental organisations, and local community. It is important that all project planning is equally socialised, the difficulties are shared, and solutions are achieved through dialogue among the parties involved. This process strengthens the principles of citizenship by encouraging direct participation of residents, members of social movements, and local charities. The first actions of the programme consisted in activities of organisation and mobilisation of local people through meetings to present the project to all involved groups. 
By identifying local needs and population dynamics through a quantitative and qualitative survey carried out at an early stage of the program, it was possible to adapt the actions and intervention strategies of the project in order to meet expectations. In this sense, the constant search for new partnerships is essential to ensure continuity and sustainability of the project. This project is also characterised by a continuous process of development, including actions of post-occupation in the resettlement of neighbourhoods and revitalisation of the remaining areas. Thus, partnerships are designed to ensure the project sustainability through the continuity of integrated actions that are independent of specific political and economic situations, so they allow the community to take active roles in this practice and help break the assumption that it should expect passively for governmental intervention.

Actions and strategic planning are integrated and centrally coordinated by the Division of Community Action, which is part of the Department of Housing of Guarulhos. A team of senior professionals such as social workers, sociologists, engineers, and architects are responsible for developing and implementing the urbanisation projects in the city. Local communities’ leaders and other governmental and non-governmental organisations play an important role in this programme through direct participation in all its phases. 

An important instrument used in this project is the quantitative and qualitative survey, which was carried out in all areas where the project is implemented. Planned to be one of the first actions with the community, the research outcomes allowed all key actors involved to measure and assess the population's real living conditions as well as to produce essential social indicators for social policy planning in the area. Other instruments such as joint community and government planning, interdisciplinary approach on social issues, and direct participation were successfully applied in this project.

Financing and resources

Funding comes from the local government of Guarulhos and the national government, through the PAC - Programa de Aceleração do Crescimento (Growth Acceleration Programme). The first stages were financed exclusively by local resources and technical partnerships (2003-2008). Other technical and human resources have been constantly mobilised through partnerships with governmental agencies, non-governmental organisations, residents, and local business of the areas of intervention. Examples of resources involved in partnerships include:

  1. socio-educational material on women’s health provided by a women´s charity;
  2. technical support from a youth agency enabled professional training programmes to youth and adult residents in the area;
  3. a partnership with the Ministry of Culture provided material and technical support to implement popular cinema sessions for local residents, particularly to the children during school holidays;
  4. logistical support from the commercial establishments owners and enterprises in the region of Cumbica provided venues for holding meetings and gatherings with the local community.

Moreover, the project receives ongoing support from members of the communities involved The total cost of the Urbanisation Programme, which includes The Social Intervention Project for the Cumbica is about 13.000.000 Brazilian Reals (about 5,870,000 US$), considering the period beginning in 2003 and ending in 2012. 

Results and impacts
  • All local residents were identified, registered, and mobilised from 2001 on;
  • Population mobilised through meetings and presentation of the social housing project;
  • Resettlement to social units in partnership with the Society of Housing and Urban Development of the State of São Paulo: 229 families in September 2003, 20 families in October 2005 and 264 families from January to July 2007;
  • Strengthening of citizenship through the issuing of documents and encouraging direct participation in the project;
  • Adhesion of 97% of the residents to the project;
  • Sealing of 100% of households and registering 95% of beneficiary families in the Unified Register of the Federal Government to carry out socioeconomic diagnosis and inclusion in social programmes ;
  • Organisation of weekly and monthly workshops and socio-educational activities addressing issues of gender, youth and environmental education;
  • Organisation of a monthly meeting with 40 members of the committee of residents for planning, monitoring, and evaluating programme actions;
  • Organisation of a training workshop focusing on education for citizenship (rights and duties of citizens), social and political organisation, and introduction of the rules of living in social housing units and local laws;
  • Establishing partnerships with national government and non-governmental organisations to mobilise resources, workshops and referral of specific cases;
  • Implementation of infrastructure works in the area.
Lessons learned and transferability
The Social Intervention Project for the Cumbica Urbanisation Programme allowed all the involved people to learn some important lessons, namely:
  1. The importance of community organisation to legitimate the project and formulate actions that are compatible with the needs of local people. The work also aimed to promote change in the attitude and role of population. Nowadays the population participates actively in all stages and has access to all information with transparency;
  2. The need of working closely to the population, in order to establish mutual trust. In this sense, the installation of the Office of Community strengthened the ties between the community and the Department of Housing, by a differentiated space for sharing information and ensuring that the population recognised the work developed by the technical staff in the region;
  3. The importance of developing housing policies integrated to broader policies and coordinating physical and social interventions, as well as seeking new partnerships in all phases of work.

The established partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organisations were brought to other housing programmes. Technical teams from the Department of Housing exchange experiences and replicate positive practices in other areas. An example of transferability is the implementation of the Community Office in other areas that has allowed local residents to access public services. Moreover, this programme has benefited the formulation and implementation of some actions, and the knowledge for other experiences acquired throughout the deployment steps. Other cities that are willing to develop similar experiences should observe the peculiarities of each area and keep the constant dialogue with the people involved.  It is understood that the participatory process creates greater public confidence in relation to the doers and legitimises the actions to be developed, providing less distress to the population and more credibility to the agents. 


- Integrated Urban Governance Manual

- Integrated Urban Governance Manual Annex

(see the links below)


External links / documents