Social cohesion is vital for societies wanting to prosper and sustain their development. In contrast to rural communities which have their customs and traditions, most urban slums are heterogeneous and chaotic, lacking cohesion. This limits unity and trust among slum dwellers to work together for the common good. Without community organizing and advocacy, those in power will continue to affirm the status quo, categorically neglecting the interests of slum dwellers. Consequently, if the capacity to organize and to create community-based decision-making mechanisms is increased in urban slums, this can help bring about change, for this capacity will allow people to reflect on their experiences, remember where they came from, analyze their situation and find ways to help themselves.
Project Fortaleza exists to promote citizen participation and to encourage, create and consolidate a social movement, capable of designing and implementing high-impact community projects. We also seek to advocate and effect changes on a public policy level, by appropriating spaces for civic engagement, promoting good governance and the democratic exercise of citizen rights, affirming human rights, establishing transparency structures, and holding people in public office accountable. These actions promote the development of healthy and holistically transformed communities.
Project Fortaleza exists to strengthen civil society via community organizing in urban slums. We do this by identifying and gathering local neighbors who have shown a desire to seek change. We then help these neighbors organize themselves in citizen committees and community assemblies. We take them through a training process through which they organize neighbors and design and implement concrete community improvement projects. We also provide these new groups with coaching and technical assistance to strengthen their capacity. Urban poverty in many ways is a breakdown of relationships. This kind of community organizing work helps to build trust among slum residents and strengthen social capital. We also work to develop relationships between the upper and middle class and the urban poor. This creates opportunities for different economic classes to work together to bring about change.
Project Fortaleza also seeks to advocate effectively for good urban governance, social justice, public accountability and larger-scale economic development. Our goal is to develop coalitions in order to build the citizen power necessary to take on systemic issues. We engage in networking in order to connect with likeminded organizations and individuals. Our goal is to pull different civic organizations and leaders together in order to advocate on a municipal level. Through these alliances, we hope to effect changes on a public policy level to sustainably improve social conditions.