Building Institutional Capacity for Scaling up Slum Upgrading - Distance Learning Course for Integrated Slum Upgrading Actions



Approval Date
Actual Completion Date
Proposal Focus
Core Focus
Secondary Cities
Country Type
Lesson Learned for Cities Alliance Members and Partners
This was the first course of the National Housing Secretariat (SNH) that has adopted the distance learning modality to capacity building local governments involved with the implementation of social housing programmes supported by the federal government. This same course for slum upgrading initiatives, was improved according to the recommendations of the final evaluation of the course, and was replicated to 600 participants of all other Brazilian states (this first one was only to states located in the northeast region of Brazil). After that, the SNH has also organized a 2,000-participants DL course for the capacity building of local officials for the preparation of Local Housing Plans and, next step will be the preparation of a new course related to the My House My Live Programme, phase II. (a) A Working Partnership All the stakeholders involved in the project played important role, from the definition of the curricular grid, selection of the teachers, advertising the course and identifying the students, as well as in tracking and evaluating course progress. This joint effort proved to be vital for the success of the course and was undoubtedly instrumental in producing the low student dropout rate. Ministry of Cities National Housing Secretariat was highly active members of the Project Coordinating Unit, which ensured constant feedback from and integration with the other institutional strengthening activities. The University of Sao Paulo (USP) played a major role as an implementing body through the Foundation linked to the Polytechnic School and the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Design. The World Bank Institute (WBI) was also an important partner of this initiative. It contributed to the design of the project, providing inputs on distance learning initiatives and financing the consultants for the preparation of the final Proposal. WBI has followed up all project phases and contributes to the dissemination of the experience abroad. (b) Content and curricular grid At the course preparation stage a substantial effort was made to integrate the various subjects in order to ensure a high level of coherence and avoid duplication. The selection of teachers was a carefully executed task involving the Ministry of Cities and other members of the Coordinating Unit. A multidisciplinary team containing several well-known figures as well as number of teachers working in the northeast (the region of Brazil targeted by this stage of the course) was successfully assembled to do this. Both the content of the course and the study timetable (the total number of study hours and by individual subject) in general met the approval of teachers and students alike. In view of the possibility of scaling up the reach of this course (in tune with the evaluation done by the Coordinating Unit and the teachers), It is suggested to look into the possibility of a small reduction in the number of subjects (from 12 to 10). In principle this could be done by grouping together the subjects of the first module (Urban Policy) given that they share common ground with regard to Brazil’s urban and housing scenario. (c) Teaching method and technology The teaching method employed in the course attracted a fairly high approval rating from both teachers and students. They had no difficulty in downloading, printing and reading the didactic material linked to course activities. Participating in debating forum was a very useful feature. Overall, Satisfaction with the online Moodle platform environment was high. The quality of the study texts and their importance as a learning resource was acknowledged.The teachers suggested the idea of incorporating audiovisual materials. (d) Monitoring Monitoring, together with guidance given in this respect by the Coordinating Unit, was considered to be effective and very important by over 80% of the students as a way of tracking the course activities satisfactorily. (e) Technical support Technical support (for accessing the course and the various subject activities, for navigating and using the Moodle platform) was provided by one IT technician, supervised by an EAD specialist. (f) Low dropout rate One of the most important features to be considered in terms of ‘good’ results engendered by the course was the low ‘dropout’ rate. Of the 330 registered students, 305 accessed the course. In the first two subjects the number fell back to 251 students and subsequently a small and gradual reduction was witnessed up to the end of the course. A total of 226 students actually finished the course. (g) Coordination and institutional liaison The Coordinating Unit functioned well, as indicated by the fact that the course went ahead as planned and its objectives were fully met. Periodic coordination meetings took place over the period of the course where performance and progress were discussed, decisions taken and the various measures and responsibilities defined to ensure its correct implementation. From the point of view of institutional liaison the stakeholders and their respective representatives in the Coordinating Unit worked well together. Responsibilities were precisely defined and all the activities were adequately executed. The only downside component requiring modification is perhaps the student registration procedure. (h) Student Registration The task of publicizing the course, defining the number of participants by locality and supervising student registration was coordinated by the Ministry of Cities, which subsequently transmitted the details of the registered students to the Coordinating Unit and the executing body. the inscription and registration procedure incurred a series of problems (wrong personal data being submitted, etc). For the next editions, it is suggested that student inscription should be done locally, directly into the system, with approval given remotely by the stakeholders. Also the Participants´ Guide (to be mailed directly to the registered students) should include the following: i) A list of evaluation and attendance criteria ii) A detailed list of activities and instructions on how to access results (how the questionnaires and forums work, how to access notes, provide samples etc). iii) Contingency Plan which refers to the possibility of the server or the Moodle breaking down or some problem occurring with the EAD specialist or IT technician which would prevent them from managing the system. (i) Course evaluation It is proposed that the evaluation of each subject should be done at the end of each module and evaluation of the method/technology/team should be carried out at the end of the course. (j) Teacher training It is proposed that a "Teachers´ Guide" should be prepared. This guide should contain detailed instructions on how to teach a particular subject and could be posted or e-mailed immediately before the teacher begins work.


The National Housing Policy of Brazil, approved in 2004, guarantees people’s constitutional right to decent housing, the social inclusion of the poorest sectors of our society and the rights of everyone to enjoy a wholesome environment. The scale of resources set aside under the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC) for slum upgrading and integration is unprecedentedly high both at the national and international level. However, the size and reach of the Program in Brazil presents new challenges for those responsible for managing it. One of the main challenges is the pressing need for institutional strengthening and the training of officials employed by the local municipal governments involved in the PAC, with particular emphasis on staff members with limited experience of executing slum upgrading interventions. In this context, this project aims to prepare, apply and evaluate a Distance Learning Course for Integrated Slum Upgrading Actions. The target audience for this course is professional practitioners working with municipalities and other government organizations involved in the implementation of the federal program involving the urban integration of slums. The main focus of the course is to build the capacity of the officials and enhance their skills for effective implementation of the slum upgrading projects funded under PAC.
The general objective of this project is to reinforce the capacity of local authorities through a course to undertake interventions in the areas of upgrading, land regularization and social inclusion for the population living in slums. This course intends to contribute to the consolidation of a reference methodology for these interventions to be adapted to different local and regional circumstances in other parts of Brazil and other countries facing similar challenges. The specific objectives are the following: (i) To train students to enable them to incorporate the lessons learned in the Distance Learning Course into their professional activities at all stages of the implementation of the integrated slum upgrading projects including in: the planning of interventions; project supervision, monitoring and evaluation; task management; the execution of works; familiarization with land regularization procedures; liaison with the beneficiary communities; social mobilization and participation etc. (ii) To maintain a systematic record of the techniques, methods and evaluations used in the course of slum interventions, to disseminate these experiences to others and to encourage the establishment of knowledge networks connected with the subject; (iii) To foster the exchange of information and experiences among the teaching staff and to encourage interaction between teachers and students as well as city to city exchanges; (iv) To encourage the study and analysis of the results obtained in the slum upgrading program by the city . (v) To highlight to other Brazilian states and municipalities the usefulness of the Distance Learning Method (EAD) as a valuable tool for technical training as well as being a useful vehicle for disseminating the importance of social interest public policies to a wider audience; (vi) To familiarize students with urban poverty reduction experiences and policies, particularly those promoted by the Ministry of Cities and Caixa, but also encompassing projects supported by the Cities Alliance, the World Bank and other stakeholders such as the Italian Government Cooperation Program (with specific emphases to the AVSI methodology applied in the Technical and Social Assistance Project in Salvador, Bahia)
Through a careful and detailed assessment Ministry of Cities and the USP team have come to the conclusion that the course should have a macro-regional approach starting in the region with the highest demand, the nine states of the Northeast. To have an impact, the initial 300 participants should be concentrated in a selected group of municipalities. This will also stimulate even more the establishment of informal network of exchange and dissemination among participants. At the same time it will allow for participation of universities of the macro-region, which is considered useful in focusing on the specific reality and also in follow up contacts between theses centres and local authorities. Finally, the Ministry of Cities had identified regional differences, social and historical, but even physical which justifies a macro-regional approach. The course will comprise four successive stages: 1) Preparation of the course including selection of teaching staff, the preparation of pedagogical themes and the course didactic material together with a number of other activities related to disseminating the existence of the course, the identification and selection of students, etc; 2) Course delivery/application: The course will be transmitted using the “Moodle” Modular Object Oriented Distance Learning software. This is basically an online course developed on the basis of well- structured pedagogical principles designed to help educators easily to create good quality online courses. The device serves as a valuable management tool for distance learning courses or for use in `virtual learning environments´. “Moodle” is a free and open-source software which provides a variety of resources for different types of activities such as discussion forums, tasking, questionnaires, chat, glossaries, opinion polls etc.; 3) Closure and evaluation: At the end of the course attendance certificates will be sent to those students who have successfully completed all the activities covered by the course. The certificates will be issued by the Escola Politecnica of the University of São Paulo. At this stage the coordinators will be responsible for preparing a Final Course Evaluation Report; and 4) Proposal for scaling-up: The proposal to upscale and replicate the Course in other regions of Brazil, with the support of the World Bank Institute, the Cities Alliance, the Ministry of Cities/Caixa and State and municipal governments, will be prepared at this stage.
Expected Impacts and Results
The distance learning course certainly contributed by assisting the implementation of slum upgrading projects approved under the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC). The curricular grid of the course, the selection of teachers and the contents of the didactic material, as well as the questionnaires and debating forums, were all prepared with the aim of delivering the outcomes expected in the initial project design and were duly and satisfactorily achieved. It is hoped that the participants of the course will acquire enhanced capacities for dealing with the challenges presented by the integrated slum upgrading interventions. Following participation in the course, it is expected that the beneficiaries will have made significant progress in the following skills and competencies: a.) improved capacity to understand and analyze the realities of Brazil's urban situation and its attendant problems, particularly those related to the shortage and poor quality of housing in this country; b.) updated knowledge of the concepts and methodologies applied in the upgrading and regularization of substandard urban settlements, as well as better familiarity with the concept of social work undertaken for the benefit of the residents of these areas; c.) updated knowledge and improved capacity to analyze and apply the relevant legislation governing housing policy and land regularization of slums and other substandard settlements; d.) updated knowledge and improved capacity to analyze and take an active role in integrated upgrading, land regularization and community-based social inclusion programs in slums and other substandard urban settlements; e.) increased capacity to undertake community-based development work; f.) updated knowledge of techniques used in slum upgrading and housing construction and an increased analytical and decision-making capacity for applying these techniques in specific cases; g.) a better understanding of the costs involved in slum upgrading interventions and enhanced expertise in preparing and analyzing such costs; h.) increased knowledge of concepts and enhanced capacities for using modern management techniques (planning, task management, geo-referencing and control) related to integrated slum upgrading interventions and social development. The Course Evaluation Report should include an assessment of the first impressions related to this particular impact. With a view to monitoring the implications of the course a periodic survey will be prepared for the different governments to pass on for perusal and comment by their ex-students. After conclusion of the course an evaluation questionnaire was circulated to students. The large majority of students confirmed that the course had contributed to improving their technical knowledge about this subject. They also commented that the course had helped to upgrade their performance in the subjects of professional interest to them.