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Anaclaudia Rossbach is creating a way to work deeply with poor communities, helping their residents to form as a group, build credit, identify needs, goals, resources, and represent these to institutions who can lend their support, particularly in the area of housing. 

This profile below was prepared when Anaclaudia Rossbach was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.


Anaclaudia Rossbach is creating a way to work deeply with poor communities, helping their residents to form as a group, build credit, identify needs, goals, resources, and represent these to institutions who can lend their support, particularly in the area of housing. 


Anaclaudia’s approach guides poor communities through the identification of their needs and the formation of savings groups, and links them to resources and partnerships necessary to build homes and create a culture and reality of financial savings. Her model connects the community with the government, financial institutions, and construction companies to create a system of micro-credit that allows people and communities to build and own new homes, upgrade existing housing units, and secure products and services previously unavailable to them. To strengthen existing groups and link them with emerging groups elsewhere in Brazil and in South Africa, Anaclaudia is establishing ways for communities to share strategies and techniques that they have found helpful in building their groups.


Of the 170 million Brazilians who are estimated to be living in permanent homes, about 6 to 7 million live in favelas in substandard conditions and about 0.7 million live in slum conditions marked by an almost complete lack of public services.  

Starting in the 1970s, citizen organizations began to act in support of slum-dwellers. In 2001, this work resulted in the creation of the City Statute, an amendment to the Federal Constitution of the same year. This statute guaranteed the right of Brazilians to live in dignified and safe housing and established a framework for the cooperation of public and private sectors to work together to achieve this goal. A few years later, the organizations created the City Ministry to continue the work, but instead became distanced from the population they were formed to support. They began instead to act in a role similar to real estate agencies. To develop programs for these communities, the government hired outside consultants to conduct research, register the families, diagnose problems, and formulate programs instead of engaging local people who could complete the work from within the community and with a better understanding of its workings.  The approach proved largely ineffective and costly.

A compounding challenge is that mortgage lending resources are largely unavailable to people who earn less than middle class wages. The real estate and mortgage industries are conducted by financial institutions that are regulated by the Brazilian Savings and Lending Bank and the Foundation for the Guarantee of Service. Brazil has seen years of inflation, high taxes and risk of default: mortgage financing in Brazil fell from 85 million/year between 1966 and 1990 to 37 million/year between 1990 and 2002, with both SBPE and FGTS restricting the terms of loans so that they benefited the middle class (people who earn more than five times minimum wage), a group that represents barely 20 percent of the Brazilian population. With the demands of the middle class not yet met, the institutions of private financing have difficulty focusing on underprivileged groups. In order to fill this gap in the financial system, public institutions and the citizen sector must create mechanisms to help the private sector overcome the (perceived) obstacles to lending to high-risk groups, such as low-income families. The state has largely failed to mobilize resources through the supervision of the private credit system to include Brazil’s poor.   


Anaclaudia’s first step is identifying communities that are in real need and that show potential to form groups. She and her team at Interação (International Network of Community Action), the organization she created, invest their efforts in communities characterized by crime, insecure living situations and lack of public infrastructure. These are densely populated areas, with most people living in extreme poverty. Once site selections are made, Anaclaudia and her team meet with the community, and with them, assemble an effort to carefully map the houses that exist in area, including those shelters that are not recognized by the municipality. Various tools, including a survey to be completed by the community, aid the team in establishing needs and priorities and to see where the gaps are in terms of access to public resources. The result is a census that is shared with the municipality to aid in designing programs that address the specific needs of the community. In one community, for example, the information gathered was reported to the Secretary of Housing, which used it to direct a housing project in the favelas.

The initial registration aids Anaclaudia and her team to identify low-income families, many headed by single mothers, to join together to create a savings fund and mobilize other families to join as well. The savings generated by the community is applied to realize goals that may include buying land and investing in improving homes. The management of the growing fund provides a glue for the community, and offers a concrete resource around which decisions about shared goals and priorities are made. In São Paulo, one of the groups grew their fund to approximately 7,000 reais, part of which has been allocated for the reintegration of residents who had been evicted or had lost their possessions. During the initial phase of forming the group, Interação invites communities that have already undergone the process, to share their perspective, consult, and mentor the groups. A fruitful exchange has been realized with groups from South Africa, resulting in a very positive impact.

Once the groundwork is laid and needs are established and agreed to, Interação connects the communities with external financing, and offers technical support for data verification, the proposal of reintegration, the negotiations with the landowners and the government. Anaclaudia also conducts meetings inside the community with all the actors directly linked to the community: the municipality, the owners of the land, the electric company, the community leaders, and different partner companies.

Almost 34,000 people in four cities have benefited from the work of Interação: 1,000 families in Osasco, 6,000 families in Várzea Paulista; 40 families in São Paulo; and 1,500 families in Novo Gama/ Estado de Goiás. In Goiás, 539 families gained ownership of their homes. In Osasco, all areas were included in a plan of action for the municipality to better administer the areas. After legalizing possession of the land, the residents worked with the municipality to formulate a project for infrastructure improvement. Using the resources acquired through their savings, they can invest in collective projects to improve their homes.

By emphasizing the importance of the niche that these communities represent for public and private banks and for construction companies, Anaclaudia has established partnerships with the Portland Cement Association of Brazil, the National Association of Construction Materials, public and private financial institutions, the federal government, and Cities Alliance. These partnerships support a micro-finance fund that offers credit to low-income families to purchase construction materials, and opens doors to working in other areas of Brazil and attracting the attention and resources of banks interested in this credit niche. Another important partnership is with the local municipalities, which have begun to use the resources and links with the community to design and implement projects to improve the area. In addition, through her partnership with Eletropaulo, a private electric company, Anaclaudia has created a program to regulate the electricity in the slums in the Metropolitan region of São Paulo.  

Finally, Interação has also created partnerships that link it to communities in similar situations in other parts of the world, such as with Slums Dwellers International (SDI), which supported the model from the beginning with the methodology of communal housing and exchange between the communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Anaclaudia has mobilized SDI to use her methodology of partnering up with the government, private banks, and construction companies and believes that this collaboration can draw in the real estate and mortgage system as well as low-income communities around the world.


Anaclaudia was born in São Paulo but, as her father was in the military, she moved often, and learned respect for different ways of living. At university, economics held her interest and directed her to see its practical application in the public sphere. As a budgetary intern at the São Paulo City Government, she remembers being shocked by what she perceived to be the disorganization of the public sector. After graduation, she signed up to be an auditor at KPMG in Brazil and then Portugal, where she assumed significant responsibilities for German corporate clients, gaining a good understanding of the local laws, and working fluidly across cultures and sectors. During this period, she found distressing not being in Brazil doing something for the development of the country. In 1996, she quit KPMG and returned to São Paulo with her German husband and their two small children.

Anaclaudia returned to school to study social economics and after earning a Master’s degree, focused on a study of the World Bank’s financing poverty and links to instances of violence. Soon after, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development invited her to work in public finance, an opportunity that allowed her to apply best practices of the private sector to the public sphere. Within two months, she had assumed the responsibility for administration, accounting, bidding, and human resources. She also coordinated a micro-credit project and a public-private partnership to urbanize Heliópolis and Paraisópolis, São Paulo’s largest favelas.  

Through the Secretary of Housing, Anaclaudia became involved in a global task force to address housing and met through this connection Joel Bolnick, a South African Ashoka Fellow involved with SDI. Later, on a visit to South Africa, she contacted Joel and spoke of her interest in creating an organization in Brazil that would employ and adapt some methodologies in use by SDI. Thereafter, she established International Network of Community Action, as an independent group with freedom of expression in the public and private sectors and other international groups.