The One Film You Should See from 2020: An Uplifting Start to 2021

January 2, 2021—Happy New Year! Here at Catalytic Communities, before we dive into our 21st year, we want to share a 28-minute video, now with English subtitles, that presents many of the most important moments we realized in 2020, through our Sustainable Favela Network (SFN). The Network took on an unprecedented importance during the pandemic as a life support system for community organizers across Rio’s favelas. This weekend, please take the time to view this video. We know you will leave the screen inspired by the power and potential of Rio’s favela leaders:

Building on all we’ve done with the Sustainable Favela Network in 2018, 2019 and 2020, in 2021 we will be launching the Network’s Political Front. Favela organizers will be developing strategies to engage policy-makers in realizing the 82 proposals described in the SFN’s commitment letter to the sustainable development of favelas, signed by 94 candidates last year.

Meanwhile, the SFN will continue realizing monthly plenaries with activities and projects developed by each of its seven working groups (water and sewerage, solid waste, solar energy, gardens and reforestation, environmental education, memory and culture, and income generation).

As with all our work, we depend on a healthy mix of contributions from individuals and foundations to ensure both the resources and flexibility to respond to favela needs and strategic opportunities for impact. It was due to the recurring contributions of 110 supporters that we were able to instantly pivot and develop the life-saving, widely-cited Covid-19 in Favelas Unified Dashboard, or engage mayoral candidates in a first-of-its-kind debate organized online by favela leaders.

Both of these opportunities to act arose suddenly, and we were only able to respond because of ongoing support from people like you. So, if you can, please make a one-time or recurring donation (monthly, quarterly, or annually) through our secure website or PayPal.

Please also put us in touch with institutions you believe may be interested in supporting the SFN. We have a range of potential projects in mind, from an international virtual exchange among favela leaders, to solar installations at key favela organizations, and the completion of the first full-favela ecological sewerage system, and others, looking for the right partner!

We look forward to continuing to work with you in 2021 towards a world in which informal settlements like favelas are recognized for the critical role they play in guaranteeing human and community development. Together we will build on their qualities and realize the sustainable, vibrant cities of tomorrow.

Warmest wishes for a transformative and refreshing 2021,
—Theresa Williamson and the CatComm Team

P.S. For a deeper dive into the SFN’s 2020 activities, check out the detailed materials below, focused on a series of in-depth coverage of the SFN’s final event, its 3rd Annual Meet-Up, this year on Zoom. There, we launched the SFN’s Guide to Museums and Memories of Favelas, and the SFN’s Products and Services Catalog.

Visual Summary of the SFN’s 2020 Activities (in Portuguese)

Complete Coverage of the 3rd Annual Sustainable Favela Network Meet-Up

On Saturday, November 7, 2020, the Sustainable Favela Network held its 3rd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up, bringing together members of the dynamic network—comprised of residents, technical allies, and activists—from nearly 50 favelas across Rio de Janeiro, as well as quilombos, urban peripheries, and other regions of Brazil and even abroad. The purpose of the meeting was to bring the entire network together, promote mutual strengthening among socio-environmental organizers, evaluate the SFN’s 2020 activities and map joint proposals for 2021.

Part 1: 2020 Retrospective

Part 2: Launch of Catalog of Sustainable Favela Products and Services

Part 3: Launch of Favela Museum and Memory Guide

Part 4: Virtual Tours of Water & Sewerage Projects

Part 5: Virtual Tours of Favela Solar Panels

Part 6: Discussions on Solid Waste & Favela-University Manifesto

Part 7: Fresh Food, Ravengard, and 2021 Proposals

Visual Summary of SFN Proposals for 2021 (in Portuguese)


The Sustainable Favela Network (SFN) is a project of Catalytic Communities (CatComm) with the aim of building solidarity networks, increasing visibility, and developing joint activities that support the expansion of community-based initiatives that strengthen environmental sustainability and social resilience in favelas across the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region. The project began with the 2012 film Favela as a Sustainable Model, followed in 2017 by the mapping of sustainability initiatives in favelas across Rio. In 2018, the program organized local exchanges between eight of the most well-established community programs, followed by the 1st Annual Full-Network Meet-Up, launching the SFN formally on November 10, 2018. In 2019, the program organized another round of exchanges—this time open to all SFN members and to members of the public—in five favelas in Rio de Janeiro. The activities carried out in 2019 culminated in the 2nd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up.

In 2020, the SFN’s Working Groups continued to meet—online, due to the coronavirus pandemic—carrying out a range of activities such as emotional support meet-ups, teach-ins, seminars, fundraising campaigns, a commitment letter for political candidates, and a debate with mayoral candidates. To close the year, the Sustainable Favela Network held its 3rd Annual Full-Network Meet-Up, presented in the articles above and in this series, with the aim of bringing the network together, promoting the mutual strengthening of relationships among socio-environmental organizers, evaluating the SFN’s 2020 activities, and making plans for 2021.

Starting in March 2021, the SFN will hold monthly virtual plenary sessions (on the first Tuesday of the month), with all its working groups (water and sewerage, solid waste, solar energy, gardens and reforestation, environmental education, memory and culture, and income generation) divided into breakout rooms, and will launch a Parliamentary Front. Meanwhile, our WhatsApp groups remain active, with organizers exchanging ideas on topics relevant to the socio-environmental struggle of favelas. If you are interested in participating in WhatsApp groups or plenary sessions, please send an email to indicating your interest.