Jaílson de Souza e Silva
Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Jaílson de Souza e Silva was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Jaílson believes that misconceptions about the dynamics and culture of favelas in Brazil have undermined attempts at political and social reform. To solve this problem he created the Observatório de Favelas (Slum Observatory). The Observatório was founded on the idea that an approach to dealing with problems in the vast favelas of Rio de Janeiro should be underpinned by an accurate understanding of the context informed by the experience and knowledge of their inhabitants. Through the Observatório, Jaílson connects universities and research institutions more closely to favelas and engages favela residents more directly in the production, dissemination and application of knowledge. A network of students who grew up and continue to live in favelas leads the Observatório’s research efforts, building more accurate statistical databases, shaping more appropriate public policies, and working with media to disseminate this information to the public. By supporting students from these backgrounds, Jaílson also helps them succeed in university and promotes a successful long term link to their communities that otherwise might not be there. The Observatório model has been replicated in more than 40 universities throughout Brazil.