Gary Barker

Ashoka Fellow
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fellow Since 2007


This profile was prepared when Gary Barker was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2007.
The New Idea
Gary is changing the culture of violence in marginalized communities—favelas or slums, in Brazil— by “going upstream” to address the root causes of violence, rather than waiting to address the effects of violence after it has occurred. To identify the causes, Gary tries to understand why some people are exceptions to cultural norms—exceptions such as men who don’t engage in traditional male machismo, which often encourages violent behavior. Gary then designs and implements a set of community interventions based on these exceptions. Through group classes, community campaigns with carefully crafted messaging, training, and mentorship, Gary has found that he can significantly reduce serious violence-related problems in the favelas where he works. For example, one year after he first implemented his program to address male machismo with 750 youth from three favelas, behavior such as physical abuse toward girlfriends, and being infected with STDs decreased by 50 percent. 
Gary currently operates two major programs. The first, based on the premise that one cause of violence in marginalized communities is men’s attitudes and lack of gender equity, is more advanced and at the stage of dissemination. Gary has recently turned to a different source for a culture of violence in favelas; how children are parented and the effect of physical violence against children. Gary is currently designing and measuring the impact of pilot interventions in four communities of Rio de Janeiro and intends to prevent children from becoming street children, gang members, and drug traffickers—falling in to a cycle of violence in their communities.
Gary knows he can use research to maximize his impact in two critical ways: 1) To identify where he can target the most effective preventative intervention, as discussed above and 2) To measure his impact as a powerful vehicle to spread his idea. Gary’s organization, Promundo, creates toolkits for other COs and public ministries to replicate his interventions; his programs on men’s attitudes are currently being implemented through an international network of organizations.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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