Opportunity Areas for for Social Intervention of Technology in Bel Air, Port-au-Prince

Brainstorm Session with VivaRio
May 11-12, 2012


These are some of the current challenges the local teams are experiencing or observing in the area of Grand Bel Air (Bel Air, Warf Jeremie, Delmas 2, Pointe Rouge, Forturon, La Saline, etc.). We have listed some potential ideas and opportunities coming from our own brainstorming and discussion, but do not limit proposals and ideas to the ones we are presenting. Do explore alternative ideas and solutions we might be too close to the problem to think of.


1. Funding of projects.

There are plenty of promising, enabling and empowering projects, ideas and initiatives in place and ready to be implemented at a local level, but funding is limited, so their deployment is phased and their expansion limited to the availability of resources and the distribution of funding according to priorities, seasonal needs and evolving conditions.

  • Ideas/opportunities: probably crowd funding or individual promotion of each project by its own stakeholders, to ease the pressure of centralized funding and fund raising from Viva Rio.

2. Sustainability Issues.

After the earthquake, Viva Rio extended its operations and given its trustworthy presence and efficiency in the field it received support from international donors and partnered with other organizations. As time goes by, this influx of funding is becoming more and more limited and scarce, raising the issue of sustainability of projects which initially were outside the normal scope of Viva Rio but which have had a significant impact in peace and local development.

  • Ideas/opportunities: How to achieve, explore sustainability options for the local initiatives?


3. Garbage.

Grand Bel Air is a big slum between the mountains and the Caribbean Sea. Garbage from the highly populated mountainside comes down with massive water when it rains. There is no regular garbage collection service and people are not used to properly disposing of garbage (there are very little trash cans available publicly anyway).

  • Ideas/opportunities:

4. Drainage.

Garbage also creates a flooding problem by obstructing the open canals for water. There is no closed or functional drainage system. Some of the canals end up in the docks, but their exit end is often obstructed.

  • Ideas/opportunities: Can we map the critical flooding or obstruction points and/or the flow of water and garbage? Can we do early detection of obstructed exits or canals before rain comes and a flood happens?

5. Recycling.

There are a number of limited organizations with small recycling operations within the Grand Bel Air area. Viva Rio itself is setting up the Green Island Recycling Center - a 25,000 sq. meter garbage collection and recycling center within Grand Bel Air (Cité Soleil). They plan to found a dozen microenterprises to recycle rubble and garbage into profitable products.

  • Ideas/opportunities: How do we get people to properly dispose of garbage? How do we promote recycling? What else can we do?


6. Local Management and Capacity Building.

Viva Rio is committed to passing the torch on a long term and empowers the local stakeholders as project leaders and manager, to have the community take full ownership of the initiatives. But, even when the locals are highly motivated, hard working and often schooled individuals and community organizations, management skills need strengthening. Viva Rio has been actively organizing microenterprise and management courses.

  • Ideas/opportunities: A repository of templates and tools which can be easily used by local project leaders to manage the initiatives, monitor and improve their performance and efficiency? FAQs? One-on-one counseling from volunteer mentors?

7. Sharing and Leveraging the Know-how and Experience of Viva Rio.

Viva Rio operates in one of the most complex and officially declared dangerous zones in the region where other organizations do not. Yet, it has been successful in deploying initiatives, interacting with the local stakeholders and mediating in urban conflicts and community safety issues.

  • Ideas/Opportunities: This know-how could be useful to other organizations and regions and perhaps even be a source of sustainable income.

8. Difficulties in Structuring an Active Local Network of Partners.

In particular because of lack of other partners and the sometimes overwhelming presence of Viva Rio which makes the small local partners look up to Viva Rio with inflated expectations of resources and solutions.

  • Ideas/opportunities: Can Viva Rio's position be used to attract other organizations and partners with their experience in safety and community relations as an assurance or incentive -- for those organizations which have remained outside the realm of Grand Bel Air out of security concerns and related issues?

9. Increased Violence.

Since last November, local violence and confrontations among local bases increased steadily. The bases offer social services and support for their followers or areas of influence within Grand Bel Air. New community leaders and gang members are coming up and this causes a lot of tensions between several sub areas. Furthermore there is a growing frustration caused by political instability and a slow recovery after the earthquake. Most of the bases are accompanied by Rara music bands (Rara presence on national radio is very limited) and have very passionate followers, each from their own area within Bel Air. This passion and identity is a fertile ground for competition, friction and confrontation with "rival" or neighboring bands (usually very close to each other). One factor that might trigger or help ignite actual confrontations or incidents is the frequent consumption of alcohols in Rara performances. Viva Rio has been successful in organizing joint "Vodou" festivals where the bands participate and share the stage. They have also created a "reward" system where each community where there is no violence-related deaths each month receives 5 scholarships, which are publicly allocated to random community kids through a transparent lottery system. Viva Rio already has many projects that offers alternatives to violence: Sports, dance, music, conflict mediation, interpersonal mediation, collective mediation, reinsertion of youth and children at risk, art-courses, professional formations, the formation of young leaders in risk prevention and reaction to natural disasters, and a project to offer opportunities to enter the labor market.

  • Ideas/opportunities: Can we apply ramifications to social reputation systems based on criteria other than loudness or force? Can we turn the competitiveness among bands and groups into a positive, non-violent confrontation experience? Can we extend the rewards or follow up on them or inform of the advance to this and other rewards via SMS (feature phones are wide spread)?


Document prepared by Jente Minne (Viva Rio), Carlos Miranda Levy (Relief 2.0) and reviewed by Ubiratan Angelo (Viva Rio), at Viva Rio Administration Centre in Port-au-Prince on May 11-12, 2012.