Lead International

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

"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 

"Knowing that a new generation of leaders from the developing world and emerging markets are promoting sustainable development, helped by LEAD, gives me real hope for the future."

- Bjorn Stigson, President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development


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


  • Municipality of Rio de Janeiro
  • LEAD International, the world's largest international non-profit organisation focused on inspiring leadership and change for a sustainable world. LEAD was founded during the lead up to the United Nations Earth Summit, ECO-92, in Rio de Janeiro funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and with consultative status in the United Nations
  • ABDL - Brazilian Association for Leadership Development


  • Co-creation of the program 'Inspiring Leadership for Sustainability' in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro
  • Coalition building with the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro



Deprived areas are an important leverage point for sustainability. That is where migrants’ urban social integration begins: networking, surviving, adapting, finding support. Such areas act as a platform for social development for urban renovation, village sustainability and social inclusion, amplifying sustainability issues. Deprived areas play an essential role in fostering sustainability and are a strategic place to equip leaders with sustainability skills and values. Engagement in these areas can contribute to more sustainable societies, enhancing community autonomy and resilience and risk management.

In a Global context, according to the UN, one in three of us is migrating. That's the highest rate in history and climate change is accelerating this migratory process even more. Almost 90% of migrants end up living in deprived areas. In 2012, one billion people were living in deprived areas but by 2030 this population will have risen to two billion (100%). In this same period of time world population is anticipated to grow from 7 to 8.3 billion people (18,5%). We are concentrating in deprived areas, creating an important leverage point for sustainability.


In Brazil, the importance of focussing on areas of deprivation is especially acute:

more than 11.4 million Brazilans live in deprived areas (IBGE - Brazilian statistics institute, 2012)

• practically all the 5,554 municipalities in Brazil have favela settlements (IBGE*, 2012)

• 42% of all the favelas in Rio de Janeiro have no high schools, 72% have no vocational schools and 44% have no adult literacy programmes (CUFA, PPIs and Rede Globo, 2008)

• Brazil adopted a programme to end extreme poverty by 2014 (Plano ‘Brasil sem miseria’- ‘Brazil without extreme poverty’), to remove 16 million people from ‘misery’ (around 40% of Brazilians live below the poverty line and 8.5% in extreme poverty) according to the Federal Government.

• In 2012 IBGE* announced that Rio has 763 favelas. In reality there are more than 1,000 favelas in Rio

LEAD’s mission is to develop and support a new generation of leaders, mid-career professionals from all sectors and professions, with a clear commitment to sustainability.

From working in favelas I have noticed a huge gap in leadership and project management skills. People who live in favelas are very creative, tenacious and innovative.  Since 2000 a big movement has developed lead by few local leaders seeking improved conditions. But local leaders lack skills and knowledge and more than 95% of social initiatives do not get off the ground. Thus, LEAD's mission, developing and supporting a new generation of leaders with a clear commitment to sustainability, is also needed at community and grassroots levels. Moreover, empowering grassroots leaders is a way to achieve greater collective impact.

Leadership for sustainability is essential to combine Brazilian economic growth with social inclusion. According to Data Popular (a Brazilian statistics institute), put together, all Rio's favelas are equivalent to the 9th Brazilian biggest city with a GDP greater than 13 Brazilian state capitals such as Florianópolis, Natal or Cuiabá. Rio favela consumer spending accounts for  R$13 billion while Brazil’s favela’s total an annual R$38.6 billion. In Rio, 66% or Brazil 56% of Class C , new middle class, live in favelas. According to FGV (Fundaçao Getúlio Vargas, 2011) Brazilian Class C is responsible for 46.6% of national consumption, more than A and B together. From 2001 to 2009 AB incomes rose between 10% to 12.8% while C rose 69%. Between 1993 and 2011, 60 million people were brought out of poverty and the current Brazilian middle class now numbers more than 105 million people or 55% of the total population. 

Brazil has experienced rapid change towards a new social order with new opportunities to develop social equality and reduce poverty through new inclusive business models, centred on people and the environment, as well as economic issues.

 Population Pyramid evolution by economic classes
Population Pyramid evolution by economic classes

Co-creating projects enhancing community autonomy and resilience through leadership development, with a risk management approach generates better living conditions, a more equal society and stakeholders can create an identity, establishing emotional bonds with favela residents in order to position their business and brand.

Access to communities is more efficient through local leaders / advocates / ambassadors. We are enhancing communities' engagement and the understanding of its necessities through leadership for sustainability training programs based on co-creation and network building processes.


The main challenges were to position LEAD in deprived areas in order to support grassroots leaders; to build this specific LEAD identity and profile among other stakeholders (communities, government, private companies, academies and media); to co-create a specific training program for grassroots leaders and replicate it worldwide.

·       Diffusion in Europe and Brazil:

Delivering / Implementation