Project Fortaleza seeks to promote local leadership development and build social cohesion in urban slums through community organizing and public policy advocacy. We believe that one important way to achieve the transformation of slum communities is to promote citizen participation and strengthen civil society. We help local neighbors organize themselves in citizen committees and community assemblies, and then provide these new groups with coaching and technical assistance to strengthen their capacity. Fortaleza also seeks to advocate effectively for good urban governance, social justice, public accountability and larger-scale economic development to effect changes on a public policy level.
A fundamental part of this empowerment process is helping citizen committees to develop and carry out community improvement projects. At ConeXión Mosaico, we use these community projects as practical “leadership development schools,” in which participants learn leadership, project management, conflict resolution and negotiating skills while also growing in faith and hope. For each of the community improvement projects that Fortaleza’s citizen committees carry out, ConeXión Mosaico only contributes 30-40% towards the project costs. The majority of expenses, usually in the form of material, labor or machinery, are borne directly by the beneficiary community and the corresponding municipality. By developing this knowledge within indigenous leaders, as well as solidifying local community-based structures, ConeXión Mosaico is creating human capital which will remain at the community level independently of our organization’s involvement.