Like the rest of the world, us team of the João Pessoa Sustentável Program were not ready to face the pandemic caused by the new Coronavirus. In March 2020, we were celebrating a bit more than a year since the launch of our association between the Municipality of João Pessoa and the Bank. We were organizing activities in various components of the program, to promote urban development in the city and to improve administrative and municipal management. We had just launched our first public calls related to urbanization projects and construction of social housing for the Beira Rio Complex, our main target territory within the program.
The crises surprised us and challenged us to think how it could respond effectively to some the new issues, since to date, João Pessoa has more than 13 thousand positive cases of Covid-19 and around 450 confirmed deaths (see Municipality Portal in real time). Under these circumstances, the City’s Cooperation Center was immediately identified as the key element to coordinate municipal actions towards an immediate response to the crisis.
The City Cooperation Center is aimed at supporting the municipality in dealing with crisis, providing logistic, technological tools and planning strategies for a successful collaboration between various public, municipal and associated services in health, mobility, civil defense, security, etc., through operating procedures and technological instruments. To date, the Center is still at its initial phase, consisting in preparing the construction of the future physical space and the technical processes, equipment and platforms to be implemented.
How to use a yet-to-be crisis management center to fight an actual crisis?
These challenges led the team to opt for the design of a pilot project for the Center: a campaign to combat hunger and support 10,400 families in vulnerable areas of the city (communities living in slums and in social housing). The priority was to provide food security for these populations and support them during the health emergency, so distributing food baskets, hygiene and cleaning kits was prioritized. However, to comply with social distancing and the established standards of humanitarian aid (‘do not harm’ concept where at rescuing someone, you cannot put them in a riskier situation than they already are), the decision was made to carry out door-to-door deliveries.
In addition to very short deadlines, this door-to-door option presented logistical challenges which tested the city’s internal planning and coordination capacity. However, it was possible to successfully mobilize and organize various public entities of João Pessoa – in social development, urban development, mobility, housing, infrastructure, health, municipal police, civil defense, participatory budgeting, administration, communications, and the security and social institute – with the support of the association of Brazilian Army, Navy and Military Police to carry out the program. The first of the two campaigns began on June 17 and successfully reached its objectives.
What are the lessons learned in technological innovations in times of crisis?
When conceiving the intervention, the team logically was puzzled with several questions: What institutions should be part of the distribution team? How to organize the transport of the food baskets? What happens when families are not at home? How to prove that families have effectively received these benefits?
Complementarily to the collaborative work within the city council, a mobile application was created to plan and monitor the campaign. The application can be used both online and offline, using digital tablets spread among field agents previously trained. A QR code system allows each basket to be individually scanned and associated with the georeferenced dwelling unit where it is being delivered, as well as information on the family head.
Especifically in the eight communities of the Beira Río Complex, territory subject to urban interventions under the João Pessoa Sustentável Program, a short survey was conducted among the beneficiaries that not only measured the effectiveness of the project but also allowed updating basic data on the families and the residential units. This information, exclusively and confidentially managed by the city council, will be used to better target and prioritize future activities in this area.
Takeaways from the experience
At the time the article is being written, the campaign is still in the implementation process, however, the logistics training, data management and prioritization criteria have been very valuable lessons. Institutional collaboration and the use of intelligent tech-tools are key elements to face any future crisis, such as the current one. The city is ready and has the support of its teams and the future City Cooperation Center.
Guest Author: Hugo Barbosa de Paiva Junior