Comunitas is a Brazilian civil society organization whose mission is to contribute to improving corporate social investments and stimulating the role of the private sector in the country’s social and economic development.
Through partnerships with various stakeholders, Comunitas stimulates and fosters joint actions with the common goal to promoting sustainable development. The organization is supported by leaders of large companies who are engaged in the Comunitas programs, such as the BISC (Benchmarking of Social Corporate Investment), the Meeting of Leaders and the Program ‘Together for Sustainable Development’ to improve municipal government administration.
Comunitas believes that Brazilian companies can contribute to overcoming economic and social problems in different regions of the country, by sharing specialized knowledge and management tools that guarantee greater efficiency in the public sector and, thus, contribute to Brazil’s social development. To achieve this, Comunitas relies on a series of networking activities to establish new standards for partnerships that will transform the reality of Brazilian cities.
Juntos for sustainable development
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU COULD TRANSFORM THE CITY YOU LIVE IN?
Juntos was born out of the idea that the municipal government plays an important role in the lives of people who inhabit the cities. Created in 2012, the program is a coalition of business leaders who wish to promote improvements in public administration, and, consequently, improve the lives of the population. This is based on our conviction that the city is the fuel for change and the development of a country.
The initiative was based on the premise that by sharing governance between the public and business sector, and involving and engaging civil society, social investments would be more sustainable and lasting, generating a truly transformative impact on the reality of Brazilian municipalities.
Juntos promotes the participation of civil society in public administration, by including citizens in discussions and in the decision-making process to define the priorities of the municipal agenda.
The involvement of business leaders is one of the foundations for the success of the program. In addition to ensuring the financial sustainability of Juntos, through the direct investment of resources, business leaders are invited to participate in monitoring the initiatives and defining the long-term guidelines, while engaging in an ongoing dialogue with municipalities.
REPLICATING BEST PRACTICES
One of the guidelines of Comunitas is to systematize the best practices developed in the municipalities that participate in Juntos, so these experiences can be replicated in other cities and, thus, extend their scope and guarantee the sustainability of the actions.
All the successful experiences that have been accumulated over the four years of the program – encompassing around 70 initiatives divided into program areas such as Management, Innovation, Strengthening of Leadership, Engagement and the Partnership Hub – are systematized by Comunitas through the best practices platform, brochures on how to replicate the experience and the Meetings of the Working Committees.
This enables the organization to promote an exchange of experiences among the municipalities. All the partners involved in the projects share the methodology and approaches used to address their challenges so that other cities have the autonomy to implement these projects independently, without the involvement of Comunitas, adapting them to their specific regional, geographic and demographic characteristics.
The construction of a long-term local plan will be one of the main goals for Comunitas in 2017, through the Juntos Program. In addition to engaging diverse stakeholders to develop the guidelines for the future of their cities, strategic planning allows the efforts undertaken over the years to become lasting and sustainable, transforming the way public administration is conducted in Brazil, focusing on delivering quality public services, innovation and effective citizen participation. It will also foster shared governance and strengthen social control.
Administration is one of the key focus areas for Juntos. Here the emphasis lies on achieving a fiscal balance, which helps municipalities with one of their biggest administrative challenges: adjusting government spending. In the four years of the program, the participating cities have seen a return on investment (ROI) of R$ 40.87 for each R$ 1.00 invested by Juntos. These values translate into direct benefits for the population, especially in areas with higher needs, such as education, healthcare and urban improvements.
In addition to balancing the public accounts, the city of Campinas adopted the Immediate Responsible Approval (ARI) Law, unprecedented in Brazil. It significantly cuts red tape and reduces the amount of time it takes to approve and license real estate projects.
In health care, the Unified Health System (SUS) in Paraty was able to generate more than R$12 million in revenue by adjusting the way the city manages its resources.
The city of Pelotas implemented an innovative experience with the Rede Bem Cuidar. Focused on providing preventive health care, this network has already resulted in the renovation of three basic healthcare units. The development of the project permeated the concept of Design Thinking, carried out by the Tellus Agency, a technical partner of the project. The healthcare units offer services such as a regional pharmacy, an experimental kitchen, physical activities for the elderly and the Agente Bem Cuidar, which strengthens the role of community health workers and improves the services provided to the population. All the services were developed in partnership with the city’s citizens and public servants. The InovaSUS Award, a Ministry of Health initiative, elected the project as the 2nd best health experience in Brazil, in the category “Implemented Experience”.
To engage citizens, Juntos counts on its partners such as Colab – which developed a tool that allows people to monitor, oversee and evaluate public services, as well as propose solutions to improve the city. Santos, Pelotas and Campinas, which are all part of the Juntos network, have achieved good results with this. In Santos, for example, the participatory budget, which previously only received around 400 votes, was voted on by 9,000 voters in 2016, with the help of the tool.
Another major focus of the program is to value the public servant, who plays a key role in the process of improving public administration. To achieve this, Juntos promotes the strengthening of leadership by offering scholarships in two partner organizations: the Public Leadership Center (CLP), in São Paulo – for a postgraduate course in Leadership and Public Administration, which includes a module at Harvard; and Columbia University, USA, for a Master’s in Public Administration. By 2017, 25 people had taken part in the initiative. The learning is replicated locally so that the results will endure, even after a new administration takes office.
CASE STUDY IN NEW YORK
Columbia University has developed a case study, called Building the 21st Century City Governance, on the performance of the Juntos Program in Brazil.
The material is being used in the Leadership in a Challenging Century program at Columbia University.
The Juntos study now composes the library of studies on best public management practices that the University offers its master’s students at the New York University.