Grassroots Leaders Empowerment for Sustainability

Sergio Cabral, Rio's Governor, Inspiring Leadership for Sustainability in Rio's Deprived Areas


  • Sustainability strategy
  • Project co-creation, implementation and Q&A
  • Coalition building / collective impact facilitation
  • Promotion

"Léo Dias is an architect of complex improbable bridges. He designs projects that connect people who would never meet: Organic and natural leaders from Rio's favelas, multinationals with a social agenda, and the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro. Leonardo's innovative bridges sustain the dialogue in the diveded city of Rio de Janeiro.
- Renato Pereira, City Government of Rio de Janeiro, Head of Policy and Public Affairs 


  • Government of Rio de Janeiro
  • Prefecture of Rio de Janeiro
  • LEAD International
  • Lead Fellows, Matías Linder (Argentina/Portugal), Yulia Polonskaya (Russia), Carolina Matos da Fonseca (Brazil/Lithuania), Pedro Faria (Portugal/UK), Ralph Böhlke (Germany/France/Belgium) and Lead Head of Leadership and Learning, Edward Kellow (Scotland/UK) participated actively and supported the project.


  • Co-creation of the Inspiring Leadership for sustainability program in Rio's deprived areas
  • The program is ongoing with more than 100 participants, with an international media presence a result of co-created projects with the media.



In Rio de Janeiro State, according to IBGE (Brazilian statistics institute, 2012) more than 2 million people (around one in eight) live in deprived areas, locally known as favelas. In reality more are living in these precarious conditions, because many do not have a birth certificate or other basic documentation and are not included in statistics data. They are the invisible and one aim of the Social Technology methodology I have developed and implement, is to bring visibility to these people. I am achieving greater impact working with local grassroots leaders, improving efficiency and maximizing results. 

From my experience advising people & communities across all sectors, the activity of structuring and drafting projects and interacting with stakeholders were common difficulties identified by grassroots leaders. It was not uncommon to witness funders seeking projects in  communities with obvious needs, but failing to find a well structured project in which to invest.


Engage local grassroots leaders to participate in training programs in order to empower them, enhancing local community autonomy and resilience, making favelas more sustainable. In addition backers like private companies and government had to be engaged, as well as LEAD International.

The development of networking skills, to increase social impact, influence public policy and scale up projects.

The Inspiring Leadership for Sustainability in Rio's Deprived Areas program empowered local leaders equipping them with vital leadership, business, social entrepreneurship and project management skills, working with investors to co-create and implement projects that meet the needs of the community. The learning journey is based on education for diversity, equality, experience, with interactive participative methods and collective impact. U-process, Systems Thinking and Co-creation are key elements.

Leaders leave the program with a project ready to be implemented, which has been co-created with the community, sustainability specialists, funders and other partners. All stakeholders are fully engaged having been involved and had their needs addressed from the outset through the co-creation process. The project has multiple benefits, generating income, providing learning through experience, embedding knowledge in the community developing community autonomy and enhancing project scalability. Participants finish the program with a real network to support future projects.

In addition we bring national and international visibility to these leaders to add to their resources and scale up social impacts.   This Social Technology methodology I have created has been presented in many countries in Europe, Latin America and North America and is highly regarded as a concept to be implemented in deprived communities all over the world.

It's about  a real commitment to sustainability and new business models oriented to people, culture and environment, as well as economic issues. As local people are protagonists of their change, this process enhances self esteem and raises aspirations. Private corporations get closer to their customers, and with the insight this brings can better position new products and services, building identity and branding through an emotional bond with people. Governmental organizations support the building of a more inclusive and stable society. This initiative influenced public policy.


"I have the dream to integrate local projects and people from my community, so today, during Rio+20 and inside our community, is a historic day because of the presence of LEAD International and Leonardo bringing these rich content and knowledge to our community. I am moved."

Otávio Júnior, a Vila Cruzeiro's Leader known as Livreiro do Alemao - Ler á 10 / Leia Favela Project's Founder

"I am very pleased. You all have come here to my house to share knowledge with me. I am truly thankful"

Ivan Santos, a Vila Cruzeiro's Leader