São Paulo’s Housing Movement Organizations: Activists Squat, Lobby, and Protest for Affordable Housing

by Sara Beckman, Nuno Gil, Felipe Massa, and Cristina Sousa

Housing Movement Organizations (HMOs) in São Paulo, Brazil, work to solve homelessness where housing far outpaces wages. HMOs occupy abandoned buildings, often shoveling out truckloads of garbage, to create apartments for families who work paycheck-to-paycheck. Communities may lack basic services such as water and electricity, yet residents pay a small monthly fee and adhere to strict rules such as banning drug abuse. Charismatic leader and homeless advocate Carmen Silva creates self-actualized living arrangements for Brazil’s low-income families. Students are asked: Are HMOs a scalable and reproducible solution to tackle the grand and global societal challenge of homelessness?

Learning Objectives

1) Expose the complex systems nature of the homelessness problem and the complicated dynamics among the many stakeholders involved. 2) Explore alternative organizational approaches to tackling the grand challenge, or wicked problem of homelessness, at a local level while acknowledging its global scale. 3) Encourage stakeholder cooperation to collaborate towards a higher-order goal and volunteer essential resources and capabilities. 4) Explore how social movement organizations (SMO) work. 5) Identify complementarities between alternative forms of organizing. When used with the other Berkeley Haas cases on homelessness, students to compare and contrast alternative forms of governance.


Pub Date: October 1, 2023

Discipline: Social Enterprise

Nonprofit Organizations, Systems Design, Systems Theory, Complex Systems, Social Assistance, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Equality, Creating Shared Value

Product #: B6043-PDF-ENG

Industry: Social Advocacy Organization

Geography: Brazil, South America

Length: 9 page(s)

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Berkeley Haas Case Series The Berkeley Haas Case Series is a collection of business case studies written by faculty members at the Haas School of Business. Cases are conceived, developed, written, and published throughout the year, on subjects ranging from entrepreneurship and strategy to finance and marketing. Each case includes a teaching note for use in the classroom.


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