Leadership Empowerment for Sustainability Training Program

Watch the brief video of how we did it (versions in English, Portuguese & Spanish available below):


“Best educational programme and work days of my life.”

Mark Giltrow, Program Head, Sustainable Business Leadership, British Columbia Institute of Technology - Vancouver, British Columbia


  • Project strategy, co-creation, implementation
  • Coalition building / collective impact facilitation - Building emotional bonds for high impact relationships
  • Evaluation
  • Promotion

Main Partners:

  • Lead Canada - United Nations body
  • Lead International United Nations body
  • AMAVALE - Fallet Neighborhood Association
  • O Plantador / Peace Compact
  • Galera.com / Prazeres Tour
  • PROA / ReciclAção
  • Babylonia Child day care centre
  • Prefecture of Rio de Janeiro / EixoRio Institute
  • Banco Santander
  • Light
  • Observatorio de Favelas

Main Results:

  • Transformation of deprived areas in a platform for development through Leadership empowerment.
  • Twenty leaders from Lead and from the Communities were empowered.
  • Participant's last application project (Lap) co-created and delivered to Favela Fallet is a cooperative for sewers. This plan is being further developed so that it can be implemented. The plan was approved by the community.
  • A project in communication area is being developed for favela Complexo do Alemão.
  • Leonardo’s approach multi-stakeholder approach to co-creating solutions will be scaled-up, and replicated in other Lead training programs worldwide.
  • This session in Rio’s favelas was so successful that it has been agreed with LEAD to repeat it annually.
  • All Lead participants successfully obtained the Fellowship.
  • Lead Fellows are presenting new projects to Brazilian favelas.
  • After the training program meetings are being set up with Rio’s Prefecture to create new projects.
  • Due to this training program the Community Fallet could implement two new projects for children.
  • Due to this training program the project 'O Plantador', from the community Complexo do Alemão, could engage five communities from São Paulo in the initiative 'Peace Compact'. One of the objectives is to unite grassroots leaders from Brazil.
  • The video about the project is being diffused worldwide, bringing positive visibility to all participants and partners.


This article describes an innovative approach to developing leaders pioneered by Leonardo M. Dias in the Rio favelas. Leonardo led a group of LEAD Canada Members who worked with local people to co-create solutions to a wide range of social, economic and environmental challenges. There is a big opportunity for organizations to develop new business models centered in world deprived areas, but the people working in this area must learn about social, economic and environmental issues.

The Rio favelas project is a training program in sustainability. Participants learn through real experiences that generate demonstrable impact. By becoming members of a network of sustainability practitioners, participants can go on to develop further projects. As a main consequence, deprived areas are converted into platforms for development.

The Lead Canada training program on sustainability lasts one year. The key components of the programme are online learning, and three face to face sessions, the last of which is international. This innovative multi-stakeholder project in the favelas of Rio was created by Leonardo M. Dias. “My passion is building bridges between government, businesses and communities in order to reduce poverty and create more sustainable communities”, says Leo, who was brought up Rio. It is the third and last session, during which participants are challenged to apply what they have learned during the year – e.g. systems thinking. Participants work with grassroots leaders from Rio’s favelas to help them develop solutions that meet local needs. One of the main outputs from the programme is LEAD Associate Project (LAP). Co-created with multiple stakeholders, LAPs are designed to be implemented and must have the potential to have lasting impact. Generating maximum impact is what matters, not simply making recommendations. In this way a concrete legacy is left to the favela. Participants can put their newfound skills to work in a meaningful way, that will positively impact the communities. 

Additionally, the LAP is the final and the most important challenge for Lead Canada participants to become Lead Fellows. Upon graduation, LEAD Fellows enter a network of more than 2,500 professionals working in sustainability across all the continents of the world, and in multilateral organizations like the UN, the World Bank, government and corporations. Cross sector cross cultural networks are the way to empower leaders, and facilitate projects that make a difference by paving the way to a more sustainable and better world.

One of the main differentials of this project is that leaders, with a background and experience in sustainability, learn to how to deliver social projects that generate real and greater impact through Leonardo’s co-creation methodology. And at the same time, grassroots leaders from Rio’s favelas, learn how to implement their projects. They learn how to structure, negotiate, communicate and work with corporations and multilateral organisations. In addition, a real community network is created, in which strong emotional bonds are built to enable further projects. 

I would like to have the possiblity to work in Canada with the social technology you are using in the favelas in Rio.

I am constantly amazed at how that one week in Rio is potentially changing (for the great!) each of our lives and others we didn't know were part of our journey. I am thankful each day for that experience, what it might hold in the future, and the people it is bringing together.

Kelly Learned, Senior Regional Planner – Calgary, Canada

It’s the first time someone comes here to really empower us, to actively listen and try to understand our needs. I am feeling very motivated after this project with Lead. We need initiatives like this one to enhance our life’s conditions and change for better. This experience is unforgettable for us.”

Flávio Mazzaro “Fafá”, President Neighborhood Fallet Association – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Leonardo brought participants to visit different favelas and to know his local partners. The objective is to empower the leaders, conduct stakeholder interviews. Meeting local people enhances the learning experience, and creates opportunities to share local leaders’ projects. The result is a bigger multi-stakeholder network, and more visibility for local leaders. The main visited favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil were: 4. Fallet, 2. Complexo do Alemão, 1. Vigário Geral, 3. Morro dos Prazeres, 6. Babilonia, 6. Chapéu Mangueira, 5. Santa Marta.

Leonardo facilitated conferences with cross-sectoral partners. There were speakers from private companies: Banco Santander and Light, Rio’s Prefecture: Instituto EixoRio, Government Security body: Head of UPP - Police Peacekeeping Unit, NGOs: Observatório das Favelas and experts in communication, engagement and fundraising. The main objective is to explain how these organizations are working with the favelas, and what are the plans for the future, besides enhancing the networks built during the project.

Participants included:

  • Authorities from North America, for example: British Columbia Institute of Technology Sustainability Program Head, World Bank Consultant, Lead Canada Vice President and General Director, Government Urban Planner, Health Canada Professional, etc. 

“I learned more than I could have ever hoped for and that the impact it had on me will last my entire life. It has influenced my personal life, my professional goals and my dreams and aspirations. Incredible! I will never forget this week in my whole life, it’s part of the best memories of my life!”

Johnnie Belinda Cluff, Director, Projects & Events, Qu'anglo Communications & Consulting - Ormstown, Quebec, Canada

  • Grassroots Leaders from the mentioned Favelas: President of Fallet neighbourhood association; Director of Plantador newspaper and Pacto da Paz initiative; Babylonia day care centre coordinators; Chapéu Mangueira gastronomic centre director; social project’s leaders in Morro dos Prazeres, NGO Afrorregae general coordinator.

“Thanks to Leo we were able to connect with each other and with experts who are helping us to co-create practical solutions to some of our most urgent problems”

André Luis Ramos, Community  Leader, Director of ‘O Plantador’ & ‘Peace Compact’ projects – Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By the end of the program a lasting legacy is created. Participants develop the skills and attributes required to work with deprived areas, and in cross cultural environments. They learn how to engage communities in a new cultural situation through projects co-creation. Additionally a strong network between participants, grassroots leaders, businesses, government and NGOs is built in order to enable further projects for their organizations or the projects they, by their own, would like to do. The objective is to empower the different participants so that they can make a difference, create real impact and develop themselves in sustainability.

Participants also leant about Rio de Janeiro, its economy, social aspects, political situation and land use.


Sustainability is a ‘new’ topic. Paradigms have changed and the new generations are looking for a better world. In the same way, careers and the way we work have changed. Lots of young students, as well as experienced professionals, are looking for training programs to deeply immerse in sustainability with real practices and a strong network building to be empowered. This context challenges the conventional educational systems because they are not prepared for these changes. Students need practical programs oriented to concrete results, with active learning techniques that empower successful leaders in sustainability. Leaders need to be able to enable their projects, passions and dreams to make a difference.

It is often the case that sustainability professionals work at a distance from reality. Society does not believe in the sustainable impact that companies are communicating. The added value of sustainable initiatives to the brands is small, and emotional bonds are not being built with customers. Projects create less impact than they could do because they still being created and decided with little participation from the groups that are under social exclusion reality. There is a big opportunity for organizations to develop new business models centred in world deprived areas, but the people working in this area must learn about social, economic and environmental issues.

A pacification process is being developed in Rio’s favelas, but few of them are ‘pacified’. The social issues – education, sanitation, health, housing, transportation, security, jobs, income generation, etc – have yet to be resolved.  Local leaders, who really know the reality and the needs, have to be empowered to be able to address the issues, enabling projects with private companies, governments, NGOs, international cooperation agencies, media, etc.

Main Related Information:

Video - Conference at Great Minds about this project

Conference at Rio+20, United Nations Summit, about Leadership for Sustainability in Communities

Interview at RTVE - Radio Televisión Española - Program 'Hora America' about this project (Spanish)- 02/07/2014

Interview at RTVE - Radio Televisión Española - Program 'English Language Broadcast' about this project (English) - 21/06/2014

Interview at RTVE - Radio Televisión Española - Program 'Mundo Solidario' about this project (Spanish) - 13/06/2014

Interview at RTVE - Radio Televisión Española - Program 'En Un Mundo Feliz' about this project (Spanish)- 28/10/2013

Interview at RTVE - Radio Televisión Española - Program 'English Language Broadcast' about this project (English) - 02/10/2013

Interview at RTVE - Radio Televisión Española - Program 'Emissão em Português' about this project (Portuguese) - 09/09/2013

UPP - Police Peacekeeping Unit - publication about this project

Conference 'Rio sem Fronteiras' from O Dia newspaper

Article about this project

Article about this project

Related Global Context

Pictures from Community Fallet Pictures from Community Complexo do Alemão

 Pictures from Community Vigário Geral

Pictures from Community Morro dos Prazeres

 Pictures from Communities Babilonia 
& Chapéu Mangueira

Pictures from Community Santa Marta