José Mário

Ashoka Fellow
Brazil,
Fellow Since 2006
Oficina Municipal

Citation

This profile was prepared when José Mario Brasiliense was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
In direct response to the wave of government decentralization and increasing civic participation currently taking shape throughout Brazil, Jose Mario is working to fill the enormous gaps between civil society and local government. Rather than create new governance structures altogether, he works with existing leaders from a variety of sectors and activity areas, and helps them to realize their collective potential. His Oficina Municipal offers a number of courses, fellowships, and programming designed to help local leaders identify common objectives and build upon one another's strengths in matters of governing and policy-making. The ultimate goal is to improve local autonomy and reduce municipalities' long-held dependence on state and federal institutions.
His courses and seminars target a number of different audiences, providing continuing education to public servants and locally elected officials, intensive exchange programs for municipal mayors, and coursework for university students. His goals are two-fold: To improve existing structures and enhance local democracy, and to encourage a new generation of leaders to enter local politics and actively engage in the citizen sector. 
Recognizing the intricate links between local policy-making, human rights, and environmental sustainability, he is also developing a number communication tools to better coordinate activity between towns and cities at the regional level. His goal is to strengthen sub-national structures in order to influence federal policy-making, and ensure that it better responds to the local needs of ordinary Brazilians. To this end, he helps mayors and city councilors realize their collective power when they choose to work together rather than compete with one another. For example, the Brazilian Constitution provides for what are known as “Municipal Councils,” that are responsible for influencing both the design and implementation of public policy. However, few of the councils’ members fully understand their duties and rights, seeing themselves only as extensions of the mayor's office. Jose Mario thus offers them a number of tailored courses designed to improve participants’ effectiveness. He has further created a system to connect members to their counterparts working on similar issues elsewhere, in order to better tackle common regional issues.
José Mario’s model is thus transforming local governance and contributing to changes in federal law, increasing opportunities for local sustainable development, and improving local management.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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