Catalina Gomez, Rio de Janeiro Community Manager
Rio Cómo Vamos ("How are we doing, Rio?"), aka RCV, is a citizen-led organization that aims to improve living conditions in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It was established in 2007 by a group of residents who took as their inspiration a successful initiative in Bogota — where, for the past 15 years, Bogotá Cómo Vamos has given residents a window on the management of the city and a way to communicate concerns and monitor improvements. Since the launch of Bogotá's pioneering initiative, the same model has been introduced in many other Latin American cities, with those organizations joining together to form the Red Latinoamericana por Ciudades Justas y Sustentables (Latin American Network for Just and Sustainable Cities). Brazil also has its own network, the Rede Brasileira por Cidades Justas e Sustentáveis (Brazilian Network for Just and Sustainable Cities), with more than 20 participating municipalities.
RCV and the rest of the Cómo Vamos initiatives focus on three main activities — monitoring key quality of life indicators, following up on the local government's adherence to its work plan, and conducting periodic perception surveys among citizens. In the case of Rio de Janeiro, the first of these tasks involves monitoring 70 indicators grouped in nine key thematic areas: health, education, social assistance, violence and public safety, culture, environment and sewage, transportation, population dynamics, and labor and employment. One extremely useful feature of the system is its ability to disaggregate data for small areas within the city. For example, Rio has 33 administrative regions and five planning areas, which diverge widely in the income profile of their residents; the ability to disaggregate these indicators can help to pinpoint differences and inequalities among them. It also makes information on public infrastructure and services available for each of the 33 administrative regions, which can be found among the Indicadores Intraurbanos (intraurban indicators) in the mapa sintese section.
The opportunities for identifying gaps in service provision and orienting policy making are enormous. For example, RCV has made evident the lack of public child care for children within the city. Just in Rocinha there are more than 4,500 children from 0 to 3 years old, yet there are only two public facilities in the area, which serve a total of about 150 children. In addition, RCV has made certain inconsistencies in planning obvious, even among poorer areas of the city. For example, Vigario Geral and Complexo da Maré — both of which are underserved communities located close to one another in the city's Zona Norte, or northern zone — have great disparities in social infrastructure among them. The two communities have roughly the same population: Vigario Geral has 136,000 inhabitants, while Complexo da Maré has 130,000. Yet whereas Vigario Geral has 29 basic schools, Complexo da Maré has only seven; and while Vigario Geral has only two basic health posts, Maré has five. Such data can be enormously useful in preparing future interventions aimed at balancing supply and improving the quality of service provision within the city's neighborhoods.
The second task of RCV is monitoring the local government's performance — an activity made possible by recent legislation requiring that mayors make their government's specific goals public. Since 2010, the Mayor's Office publishes a Strategic Plan specifying goals for the year; RCV monitors compliance, issuing periodic reports.
In addition to the Strategic Plan, RCV follows up on compliance with other public planning tools, such as the city's Master Plan and the Multiyear Plan. This has led to greater accountability in the municipal government as citizens are actively participating in monitoring their government's actions.
The third key task performed by RCV is conducting public opinion surveys, which offer an opportunity for citizens to express their concerns and their thoughts about the quality of life in Rio de Janeiro. These surveys also represent an important tool for inclusion and give a voice to excluded populations in poor neighborhoods, who are rarely considered in such research. The latest publication of survey results, published in late 2011, notes that 76 percent of the local residents are very proud of their city, and that 57 percent of those surveyed perceive an improvement in the city's quality of life compared to 2009 (when the score was 48 percent). With respect to security, 56 percent of the interviewees perceived an improvement in public safety compared to 2009 — a change that actually coincides with the implementation of UPPs in several of Rio's most dangerous favelas. The two aspects of city life that received the most negative responses were transportation and health services.
Finally, an interesting finding in this report shows that only eight percent of those interviewed knew about Rio Cómo Vamos, leaving 92 percent who haven't yet heard about the initiative. The main challenge ahead is to encourage the population to learn about this initiative and become more proactive in monitoring the city's conditions and the local government's performance. While RCV is supported by more than 30 well respected institutions and enterprises — including the O Globo media group, research and academic institutions like PUC Rio, Fundação Fio Cruz, Fundação Roberto Marinho, and Fundação Getulio Vargas, banks and training institutions like Sebrae, Senac, and local service providers such as METRO RIO and LIGHT — a greater effort by these supporters is needed to publicize this work and promote greater engagement among the citizens of Rio de Janeiro.