emreiser | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by emreiser

Initial findings from Para | Citizen monitoring of school lunches

This month we’re excited to be sharing initial findings from the Phase II Promise Tracker case studies, developed over the past year with partners at the University of São Paulo’s Colaboratory for Development and Participation (Colab-USP).

With support from Humanitas360 Institute, Phase II of the the project was launched in spring 2016 with the goal of better understanding the ongoing use of Promise Tracker in the field. Over the course of 12 months, we worked with Colab-USP, the Social Observatory of Belém, Project SOL, the Federal University of Pará (UFPA) and the Ministry of Transparency, Supervision and the Comptroller General (CGU) to document citizen monitoring initiatives in three cities across the state of Pará, Brazil, where the tool was most actively being used.

In all three cities, monitoring campaigns focused on the quality of lunches served in public schools. Despite being one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world, Brazil’s National School Nutrition Program has been a source of challenges at all levels of implementation, and students in schools across the country have grappled with inadequate or missing lunches for years.

Across the three initiatives, school lunch was monitored in a total of 28 schools with over 26,000 enrolled students. Each case involved a unique set of actors and approach to advocating for improvements in the consistency and quality of what was served.

Included below are some of our initial observations gathered from three visits to Pará, focus groups, and 27 interviews with members of partner organizations, student participants, teachers, school directors, lunch preparation staff, and representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, CGU, the State Secretary of Education, and the School Council.

Citizen audit at the Federal University of Pará

At the start of the summer semester, accounting students in two courses at the Federal University of Pará in northern Brazil teamed up with an unusual set of partners to develop proposals for civic audits using Promise Tracker. As part of their final course project, students studying public budgeting and accounting worked with representatives of the federal Ministry of Transparency, Supervision and the Comptroller General and the Social Observatory of Belém to design citizen monitoring campaigns to audit public spending in programs related to social services, health, school lunch and school transport.

Belem group

A new pilot phase for Promise Tracker in Brazil

We are excited to share that over the summer we teamed up with Humanitas360 and the University of São Paulo’s CoLab for Development and Participation (CoLab) to launch a second pilot phase of Promise Tracker in Brazil. Throughout the remainder of 2016 we'll be working with a range of civil society partners to develop case studies on the use of Promise Tracker in different cities and explore new methodologies for assessing impact.

Over the past year and a half, we had the opportunity to work with Nossa São Paulo and organizations across the country that make up the Brazilian Network of Sustainable cities to develop and test first version of the Promise Tracker tools. In a series of workshops, we collaborated with local groups to gather feedback and pilot monitoring campaigns around the infrastructure and service issues they considered most pressing.

As Promise Tracker is adopted and used beyond these initial workshops, we are interested in better understanding whether the tool is useful to local groups and the extent to which it helps them achieve their goals. We’ll be working closely with CoLab to document ongoing monitoring initiatives and develop a participatory framework for supporting organizing groups in assessing their own objectives, learnings and progress.

Monitoring the School Lunch Mafia

On June 21st, middle and high school students in Brazil’s northern city of Santarém took to the streets in the city center to raise awareness about a crisis with school lunches. The event was organized by the Student Pact for Education in Pará in partnership with the state Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Workers Unions for Public Education in Pará. For years, public school students throughout the state and country have struggled with poor quality or missing school lunches. Some schools in the region report not having received lunches since 2012.

School lunch gallery

Citizens & City Hall Monitor Sanitation in Belem

This past week in the northern Brazilian city of Belém do Pará, we had the pleasure of commemorating the first official collaboration between a civil society group and local government to monitor city issues using Promise Tracker. During a 2-day sprint, we teamed up with the Social Observatory of Belém and City Hall's Department of Solid Waste to review some of the largest contracts for sanitation and waste removal in the city and launch a monitoring campaign to assess the performance of the company hired to provide these services.

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