Annibal Coelho de Amorim
This profile was prepared when Annibal Coelho de Amorim was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Annibal do Amorim has seized upon a unique provision in the reformed Brazilian constitution of 1988 that promotes local "social control" of public human services institutionshealth, welfare and education. Annibal believes that this constitutional provision opens the way to "provide a new basis for citizenship through a process of democratizing public services." Since 1992, he has been demonstrating the practicality of his vision at the Pedro II Psychiatric Center of greater Rio de Janeiro. As a senior doctor at the hospital, Annibal instituted a series of reforms that attracted community organizations and citizen volunteers into the hospital premise in ways that produced a free, healthy coexistence with mental patients. As the program has evolved, it has become clear that it is succeeding on three fronts. First, it steadily breaks down the prevailing health and human services model in which "the expert/doctor treats the passive patient/beneficiary" by organically building a new community-based model inside the existing system. Second, it enables local citizens to launch new volunteer-based solutions to the particular human services problem. In the case of Annibal's pilot demonstration project this involved literally scores of new initiatives taken by a range of community organizations, to meet the needs of those suffering from mental illness. In a climate where declining public budgets mean reduced public services, these very low-cost community-based alternatives become strategic imperatives. Third, the Community Center that Annibal set up within the hospital premise has proven to be a powerful incubator of further citizen action beyond the mental health field, becoming an important nodal point in the revitalization of civil society in the surrounding area of some two million persons.Having developed and demonstrated his "model" at the Pedro II Psychiatric Center, Annibal is now focusing on "spreading the news" throughout Brazil. This involves developing a strategy to communicate the model and building the capacity to service those who would apply it.