Porto Alegre Melbourne Model Pilot
Social Inclusion Project for Vila Chocolatão

28 Jul 2005  –  31 Jul 2014


The ‘Social Inclusion Project for Vila Chocolatão’ was a  social project which took place over many years supporting the resettlement of approximately 800 residents of the inner-city Vila Chocolatão slum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The model that came from the Vila Chocolatão Social Inclusion project continues to be used today across Porto Alegre, with the cross-sectoral Sustainability and Citizenship Networks that came from the Chocolatão project being used to work with vulnerable communities across the cities. It is now the foundation platform from which to implement action projects for Porto Alegre Resiliente.

The overarching aim of the ‘Social Inclusion Project for Vila Chocolatão’ was to restore human dignity and to provide education, training and access to livelihoods and employment for Chocolatão community members and build a positive future for the children of the community and for future generations. This was all undertaken during the period of some 7 plus years when the community was preparing to resettle.

Porto Alegre was one of the first cities to commit to the United Nations Global Compact and its Ten Principles in 2004. It was one of the five initial cities to contribute to a trial of the cross-sectoral, participatory model advocated by the Cities programme, termed ‘the Melbourne Model’. This was done through the Vila Chocolatão Social Inclusion project. The city also intended to contribute its many years of experience in public participatory systems to its trial of the Melbourne Model for the benefit of other Global Compact cities.

About Vila Chocolatão

Vila Chocolatão was settled in the early 1980s as part of a wave of migration across Brazil that saw thousands of families from rural areas move to the country’s rapidly industrialising cities in search of employment. In the case of Vila Chocolatão, community members set up informal shelter with limited resources on vacant land near the city centre. The community grew and most residents worked to draw enough income for themselves and families collecting rubbish from the city’s streets, as street pickers (or catadores in Portuguese). The waste that was brought back into Vila Chocolatão rendered the community vulnerable to fires, which caused regular and serious damage to the settlement and brought tragic loss of life. With the vulnerability and poverty came criminality, drug and alcohol dependency and domestic violence. Over many years, what is known in Brazil as the ‘parallel power’ came to dominate the community. Vila Chocolatão was situated in a prized location in the heart of the city, making it possible to drive illegal activities in downtown Porto Alegre. These forces would time and again violently intercept and attempt to block the path forward for the social and economic transformation that the small residents group was calling for.

The Impetus to Resettle

In 2000, when the government body that owned the land on which the community was situated – the Federal Union (Receita Federal) – initiated a legal request to reclaim the land and evict the residents. The Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region (Tribunal Regional Federal da 4a Região, TRF4) heard the Federal Union’s claim and determined that the eviction of the Chocolatão community should be postponed given the vulnerability of community members and the absence of resettlement options. In an unusual move, the TRF4 proceeded to initiate a social project to support a sustainable resettlement called the ‘Vila Chocolatão Social Inclusion Project’. The threat of eviction mobilised a small group of women to form the Mothers for Preservation (Assoçiãcaoe de Mães da Preservação) to begin formalising the community and be able to represent the community in the Participatory Budget (OP). A Resisidents Association was started and it put in a demand to the OP to be relocated

Issues and Challenges

  • The community lived in extreme poverty with most people earning meagre daily income through street picking, working as catadores, bring recycling rubbish back to the vila

  • The community was dominated by criminal groups and had problems with violence, drug and alcohol dependency and domestic violence

  • Regular devastating fires caused by refuse, candles and illegal electricity resulting in terrible loss of life and property

  • The community lived in informality - no tenure of housing, no formal employment, no formal recognition of citizenship (such as the Brazil card)

  • There were major health issues from lack of sanitation, excess of refuse in the vila and rodents

  • There was no legal water or electricity

  • Children begging on the streets of Porto Alegre


  • Resettlement of the community to an alternative site and provision of adequate housing

  • Quality childcare and early childhood education for the community's children

  • Fair and legal livelihood for community members

  • Citizenship, social inclusion and a life of dignity for community members


Private Sector

Macarroni Fast Food   |  



Vila Chocolatão Association   |   Mother's Club (Mãe Club)   |  

Civil Society


Establishment of the Vila Chocolatao Sustainability and Citizenship Network

Following the initial resident action, in 2005, the TRF4 employed lawyer Ronaldo Dreger and social worker Catia Seganinazzi to be part of a team communicating with City Hall and the inhabitants of Vila Chocolatão. There was a huge worry that the resettlement would come with compromises. In the community, there was also a group of women who became an organised cooperative and wished to discuss the settlement. Thus began the Social Inclusion Project.

In 2007, the Network development was further supported through the newly established Local Solidarity Governance (Governança Solidaria Local) system and a fulltime coordinator, Vania Gonçalves de Souza, was employed. At this time the project became formally connected to the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme as an Innovating project using the Melbourne Model of cross-sectoral collaboration. A system of guidance was used to support the formalisation of the group, who would then work with the community and bring together partners who were working with the Chocolatão residents.

The Network had the objective to improve the lives and dignity of the Vila Chocolatão community in preparation for the resettlement.  A number of concrete actions were taken. These initiatives included:

  • Building a shower block and community meeting house: None of the resident’s shelters had washing facilities, previously there had been no formal social structures. This action not only gave dignity to the locals, but also served as a way to empower them to use new facilities in their new homes (for example, many of them were learning to use bathrooms for the first time).
  • Formal mapping of the community, provision of street addresses and legal connection of electricity: As well as reducing the risk of fires, connection of electricity was seen as a critical step in building dignity and opening the pathway to citizenship for residents. Without a legally recognised address in Brazil you cannot obtain an identity card, a prerequisite to securing formal employment. This was a highly unusual (and controversial) strategy given the community was scheduled to be relocated, but very successful.
  • Formation of a recycling cooperative and building a temporary shed for the recycling cooperative: Improving livelihoods was a core focus for the Chocolatão Residents’ Association and the network. Prior to resettlement, a temporary communal recycling shed was built, with a not-for-profit network partner providing training in recycling and business management systems. The community engaged slowly over time and the initial group of seven women eventually grew to some 40 members. A formal recycling cooperative was established with rules, regulations and processes, contributing to the gradual development of a ‘collectivist’ culture. It also prepared them to work in the new recycling unit, NA Nova Chocolatão.
  • Negotiating the site of the new community and design of the project: Locating a site for the new housing development was a lengthy process. Morro Santana, located 12.8 kilometres from Vila Chocolatão, was the second site choice as negotiations for the first prospective site were abandoned in response to objections from neighbouring communities.

There were also numerous numerous social programs for the health, welfare and development of the community’s children delivered by NGOs and others.

The new site finally selected to house the Vila Chocolatão community was located about a half hour drive from the original community. It was to be called Residencial Nova Chocolatão. Whilst some newer residents of Vila Chocolatão demanded to be included in the development, receipt of houses was restricted to those living in Vila Chocolatão on the census date in 2009.

Role of partners-network members

The Porto Alegre Municipality assumed the overall responsibility for the administration of the resettlement project, however, multiple participants ranging across the Federal Government, the State Government of Rio Grande do Sul, the private sector and civil society contributed to the implementation of resettlement plans and the social inclusion project. Some of the specific roles of partner/network members in the Vila Chocolatão included:

  • Federal Regional Court of the 4th Region (TRF4) – the federal government body who heard the case for the eviction of the original Vila Chocolatão community, lead the establishment of the Social Inclusion project, key in several projects and have been working with the Chocolatao community since 2005.
  • DEMHAB – construction of the Nova Residencial Chocolatão village.
  • City Industry and Commerce Office (SMIC) – provision of income generation training programs for all and provision of income generation training for ‘at risk’ women and monitoring their entry into the job market.
  • City Local Governance Department (SMGL) – ongoing role in coordinating the CSN, developing the social capital of community members and assisting with finding solutions for challenges faced by the community.
  • City Health Department (SMS) – the Santa Marta Community Health Clinic worked with the Chocolatão community prior to resettlement. A registered nurse from the clinic visited the slum daily, providing assistance where needed and directing those in need of urgent medical attention to the Clinic or a hospital. After the community resettled, the health centre Posto Tijucas assists the population of Nova Chocolatão.
  • City Education Department (SMED) – ensured school attendance of children living in Vila Chocolatão and implemented the PIM/PIÁ and Literate Brazil programs. Every child had a place at school post-settlement, including 120 kindergarten-aged children.
  • City Social Assistance Foundation (FASC) – implemented various programs in Vila Chocolatão, including PETI (child labour eradication program) and the ‘Chocolate for Strawberries’ project (aimed at preventing children working in farmers’ markets and facilitating the employment of mothers as cleaners in the same farmers’ market. Mothers would also receive leftover food at the end of their shifts). Ação Rua monitors the territory through systematic approaches with the objective of identifying and preventing homelessness and child labour in the region, with a focusing on rescuing families. FASC also ensured the continuation of various projects and places in SASES to all the children at Nova Chocolatão.
  • Mother’s Club – the Vila Chocolatão community organisation that delivered the ‘Friends of the Ball’ project, which aims to offer children activities on weekends and after school hours to keep them off the streets.
  • Vila Chocolatão  Association – the community residents association focused on ensuring the resettlement would benefit the residents of Vila Chocolatão.
  • Macarroni Fast Food – a private sector sponsor of Vila Chocolatão’s Bom de Bola soccer team.
  • Soluções Usiminas – private sector partner who constructed the new recycling centre at Nova Chocolatão.
  • Empresa Vonpar – gave the financial support to the NGO CAMP to hire a psychologist and specialist to empower a small group of catador at Vila Chocolatão. The challenge was to help the catadores transform into recicladores and be able to work as a cooperative and manage their own recycling unit at Nova Chocolatão.
  • Braskem – provided financial support in hiring a social specialist educator to empower the workers in the new recycling unit.
  • Companhia Esadual de Energia Elétrica (CEEE) – provided Vila Chocolatão with access to electricity and assisted with the provision of income generation training for local residents.
  • Public Enterprise of Mass Transit (EPTC) – implemented a traffic education program.
  • NGO Cirandar – made available a library for the Chocolatão residents in NovaChocolatão. Cirandar had the financial support of C&A Institute and Unesco.
  • C&A Institute – a not-for-profit public interest organisation dedicated to promoting and enhancing child and adolescent education in Brazil tasked with making a library available for Chocolatão residents in Nova Chocolatão.
  • Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IGBE) – a federal government body that delivered training courses to residents and donates paper for recycling at the new recycling centre at Nova Chocolatão.
  • Receita Federal, Ministerio Publico Federal and the Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA) – These organisations also donate paper for recycling at the new recycling centre at Nova Chocolatão.
  • SERPO –  federal government body that assisted with interviewing community members and recording their expectations in anticipation of the resettlement in May 2011.
  • Parceiros Voluntários – NGO that facilitated the involvement of various stakeholders in the resettlement process.

On 12 May 2011, the relocation of the community and the demolition of Vila Chocolatão commenced. The following day, a sizeable public ceremony and celebration marked the inauguration of Residencial Nova Chocolatão.


Residencial Nova Chocolatão

Residencial Nova Chocolatão was completed in 2011. The substantial capital works project included 181 two-bedroom homes, four commercial buildings, a childcare centre with the capacity to care for 120 children, a library, a state of the art recycling centre and a sports field. From May 12-14, 2011, the 200 or so families of Chocolatão were relocated and re-housed in the newly constructed Nova Residencial Chocolatão.

A key feature of the new village is a state of the art recycling facility at the entry to the community. It is managed as a cooperative by the community.  The community added the recycling centre to the City plans for Residencial Nova Chocolatão, which was originally only housing. There is also a very large (12-room) well-appointed childcare facility at the top of the village.

Whilst the community continues to have challenges, there are indications that some of the initiatives that were developed during the resettlement project have had positive impacts on the community:

  • There has been an increase in employment and income: Approximately 40 households receive their income from work in the new recycling cooperative. For some, this has been a stepping stone for them to move into the formal employment outside the community. Partnerships have been established with Brazilian supermarket chain, Zaffari and international fast food chain McDonald’s to give traineeships to Chocolatão adolescents to counter illegal means of earning an income.
  • The childcare centre has very high attendance: There is a well-attended after-school literacy program.
  • There is a reasonably high retention of houses: This is in contrast to standard resettlement projects  (with no community engagement) where most residents return to the streets within six months. Many of the residents are building (unapproved) extensions to their houses. This is an  issue for the Department of Housing who own and manage the new site,

The Chocolatão Model

Arising from Vila Chocolatão’s resettlement and the Social Inclusion Project is the development of a new model that is deeper and more specific to impoverished communities than the broader ‘Melbourne Model’. We refer to this model as the Chocolatão Model, or the Porto Alegre Sustainability and Citizenship Network. It focuses on lifting citizens out of poverty throughout different dynamics, thereby improving the standards of of life of the residents. The ‘Chocolatão model’ proved that a sustained cross-sectoral network group of actors and residents is a valuable structure. It enables the advancement of human rights and promotes participation and citizenship in vulnerable areas through gathering and coordinating support and resources.

Following on from the Vila Chocolatão resettlement project, this valuable model for engaging with vulnerable communities has been applied in three other informal settlements: Santa Teresinha, Vila Santo André and Região das Ilhas. The work with these communities is currently in progress.

The Chocolatão Sustainability Network group continued to meet and support the community for a period after the resettlement (for more than a year). Many have said, including network members, that support should have continued for a longer period after the resettlement.

International coverage

The Chocolatão story and the Sustainability and Citizenship Network Model was presented at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum by project leader, Vania Goncalves de Souza. This was at a session jointly hosted  by the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme and World Vision International titled “Collaboration and Innovation to Address Urban Poverty” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012.


Much has been learned from the Vila Chocolatão Social Inclusion project and  the Vila Chocolatão Sustainability and Citizenship Network activities and the model that has come from it. These key learnings include.

  1. Improving the lives of vulnerable communities is a collective responsibility:
  2. Major change takes a long time and require dedicated coordination: Sustained participatory, cross-sectoral engagement is not a fast nor easy process.Projects require resources for dedicated coordinator and need to be resourced beyond political cycles.
  3. Shared goals and dreams and a realistic understanding of challenges:
  4. Legal and formalised participatory systems enable projects to start and make them more likely to be successful: The Participatory Budgeting system was critical to the project. The GSL system resourced a coordinator.
  5. There are benefits to city government from working in a sustained way within in a community focused network: The network structure and process reduced the bureaucratic silos within the city government departments and agencies and helped to facilitate new cross-departmental working relationships. The active and sustained participation of respective city government departments in the network improved communication, transparency and reduced service overlap. The network also enhanced relations and communication with state and federal agencies and connection to external funding streams and programmes and engaged private sector support.
  6. It is important to work with principles of equal right and responsibility and to meet in neutral local locations (at the community if possible): The fundamental principle of equality and neutrality is a valuable cornerstone of the network model. Meetings are always held in the local community and no one group is more important or has greater authority than another. All members have an active role to play and bring resources and expertise to specific challenges and projects. As well as action, the network was a place for problem solving. New challenges were talked through as they arose and collaborative solutions were sought.
  7. Projects need strong leadership from within the community, this will often needs to be nurtured and supported:
  8. Be prepared for new challenges:
  9. This model is valuable for the new Sustainable Development Agenda and shows that the SDGs cross cut in complex urban projects: A network of partnerships is a valuable platform from which to address entrenched societal inequities and action change. This project has resulted in a good model for It has showed that a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) goals are impacted or addressed with complex projects that works to improve the lives of vulnerable people in impoverished communities.  As well as SDG 11: Make cities safe, inclusive and sustainable, this ambitious project was working to:
    • end poverty (Goal 1)
    • improve health (Goal 3)
    • improve education (Goal 4)
    • improve gender equality (Goal 5)
    • provide access to water and sanitation (Goal 6)
    • provide access to energy (Goal 7)
    • provide decent work and inclusive economic growth (Goal 8)
    • reduce inequality (Goal 10)
    • create just, peaceful and inclusive societies (Goal 16)

Future plans and actions

A significant outcome of the Vila Chocolatão Social Inclusion Project is that the principles and approach that emerged from the preparation for resettlement – ‘ the Chocolatão Model’ – are now being applied in other vulnerable communities in Porto Alegre. These include Vila Santa Tersinha, Vila Santo André and Região das Ilhas. A number of strategies are drawn from the Chocolatão experience to support the ’emancipation’ of these communities. They include the legal connection of electricity and water (Vila Santo André), the development of a recycling cooperative (Vila Santa Teresinha) and livelihoods development (Região das Ilhas).


Felicity Denise Vania Liz - Rio

From Left: Felicity Cahill, Denise Souza Costa, Vania Gonçalves de Souza, Elizabeth Ryan in Rio de Janiero where the Chocolatão Social Inclusion project was presented at the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum.

This project summary is drawn from the original project scope and research conducted by the UN Global Compact – Cites Programme from 2012 to 2015. Felicity Cahill undertook the detailed mapping research exercise which used mixed methods – qualitative document analysis (QDA), stakeholder analysis and qualitative interviewing – to build an evidenced picture of the history of the Chocolatão resettlement and the approach and projects of the Vila Chocolatão Sustainability Network. The research project was led by Elizabeth Ryan and developed with the cooperation and support of Porto Alegre City Hall and the Vila Chocolatão Sustainability Network. Vania Gonçalves de Souza coordinated the participation of network members in the research and provided update reports from 2012 to 2016. Interviews with Network leaders were conducted by RMIT researcher, Dr Elizabeth Kath. The full research report was published in 2016.

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