BUILDING CAPACITY FOR COLLABORATIVE URBAN GOVERNANCE: EXPLORING THE UNIVERSITY'S ROLE
The highly urbanized, jurisdictionally complex, areas of Brazil, like those in other countries, present an immense governance challenge. The challenge becomes almost daunting when the goal is not only to achieve service efficiency, but also to enhance social inclusion.
To explore the university's potential for helping to build urban governance capacity at the local level, Brazil's Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte has developed with Canada's University of British Columbia an experimental post-graduate course for mid-career professionals, academics and community workers.
The bilingual course, "Methodologies for Transformative Action," enhances ability to analyze and lead processes of collaborative governance, social learning and participatory development.
Participants learn from the successful transformation of the Mãe Luiza community (in the City of Natal) from favela to bairro, i.e. from informal settlement to organized neighbourhood. They then explore possibilities for further action by social agents, governments, and universities to help the community continue its trajectory toward greater social inclusion through collaborative arrangements and development projects.
The course is designed to explore the following propositions:
1) The education, research and service missions of the university can be mutually supportive through courses that link concept exploration with action-research.
2) Such courses motivate not only life-long learning but also continuous personal theory building.
3) Such courses provide rich opportunities for mutual learning-- across social roles and professional cultures.
4) Such courses can be effectively and efficiently delivered through international partnerships that combine on-line learning with in-situ discussions and field work.
5) The impact of an internationally delivered course is enhanced when it functions in the languages of both countries involved.
6) Concepts that provide high leverage in generating understanding of existing governance dynamics, and of the possibilities for change, include: 'social capital,' 'social learning,' 'the tragedy of the commons,' and 'collaborative governance.'
Preliminary results from the experimental course provide insight into the factors that determine what is learned by whom, and those that determine how learning is applied to action and personal theory building.