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The democratic transformation of public policy through community activism in Brazil

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  • 1 University of Brasília, Brazil
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This article explores transformational change in public policy through community-based governance and the collective design of experience-oriented policy and action. Using a critical-interpretive theoretical perspective, we derived three key lessons in achieving this change from the experience of Paraisópolis, a Brazilian favela made famous for its COVID-19 successful response plan, despite historical state abandonment and overlapping vulnerabilities. The three lessons were (i) proximity coordination, (ii) collective learning, and (iii) affectionate relationality. All three underpinned the principle of ‘community activism’ and ‘deliberative empowerment’, which in turn were both crucial in effecting democratic transformations. Through our case study of Paraisópolis, we argue that transformational change crucially involved civil society engagement alongside inclusive deliberative forums. This reinforces the need to pursue a policy research agenda attentive to sociocentric experiences, ordinary actors and the emotions and values underlying public action.

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