Generally speaking, civil society institutions, like Redes da Maré, are organizations that possess three basic characteristics which distinguish them from other companies and government agencies: guidelines for their activities to guarantee and extend rights to different social groups; independence from the State, although they do seek to influence public policy; and the development of non-profit social projects.

These characteristics create many challenges for the work of civil society institutions, above all, in the realm of their visibility and effectiveness, regarding what they wish to achieve. In our case, we have chosen to act in the most populous complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro, the Maré, where approximately 140 thousand people live, divided into 16 communities, in an area occupying little more than 4 km².

One of the specific characteristics of Redes da Maré is that it was founded by people originally from the Maré itself, who were able to think about their lives critically in such a way as to transform them. In addition to this, it possesses a social agenda focused on the Maré region, involving the mobilization and participation of the local population, generating knowledge and proposing actions that allow the systematic monitoring of the changes that can bring concrete improvements to the lives of residents. As a civil society institution, Redes da Maré has had to develop specific forms of management, governability and sustainability based on elements from the field of civil society itself.

In this regard, and with the aim of achieving the institution’s objectives, one of our strategic objectives is to think about our work in terms of five axes/pillars, namely: Art and Culture; Territorial Development; the Right to Public Safety and Access to Justice; Education; Identity, Memory and Communication. These themes were chosen because they represent basic rights that still need to be achieved by the population of the Maré. We believe that, by acting in these areas, we will achieve the medium and long term structural aims of the Maré in the field of guaranteeing basic rights. This means better quality of life, a reduction in inequalities, the combating of different forms of violence in the region and better integration with the city.

All the axes of work of the Redes da Maré have as strategic objectives the following lines of action: the mobilization of the residents of the Maré; the strengthening of local institutions, basically the 16 residents’ associations and the different leaders involved in Maré’s historic battles; partnerships with different public and private organizations that operate in the region; the production of knowledge about the region; the development of projects and programs that can improve the quality of life of the population; the systematization and diffusion of the knowledge produced, and the influencing of public policy to secure rights, in the medium and long term, in all the favelas of the Maré.

From the methodological point of view, the work of Redes da Maré is based on a process designed to produce knowledge about the region; through the formulation of proposals that are transformed into projects and programs in accordance with the chosen themes; by raising funds and the awareness of different partners in order to facilitate exemplary actions that can impact public policy, in order to achieve scale and benefit all the residents of the Maré.

The work, thus, occurs by directly serving the local population, in the following spaces within the Maré: at the main head offices of Redes, in the Maré Arts Centre, in the Lima Barreto Library and Maria Clara Machado Reading Room in Nova Holanda, at the head offices of the Residents’ Association in Vila do João, at the Herbert Vianna Cultural Tent in Nova Maré, and at the House of Women in the Maré, in Parque União.

This series of spaces allows for the development of initiatives that can transform our projects and programs into reality and help fulfill the dreams that inspire the people who created and work at the Redes da Maré. These are spaces of interaction with the local population, for sharing experiences, producing knowledge and where the everyday work is done that sustains the project of a fairer, more supportive and more equal society for everyone.