Join CatComm's Community Catalysts like us? Believe in us? value us? Please join.

“We are not trying to idealize them, but as an organization we focus on the attributes of favelas, and we’ve been working to highlight the urbanistic qualities that these communities have: they are pedestrian-oriented and child-friendly... there is a high level of solidarity... We are taking an asset-based approach to their development. As long as these communities are seen as having no value, or as places that shouldn’t exist, or as temporary places, we’re not going to get policies that are really productive, and we haven’t, from the government.” — Theresa Williamson, Catalytic Communities' Executive Director in Guernica magazine (June 2016)
Rocinha at Night - Kay Verhe

The Power of Monthly Giving

Monthly giving is by far the most sustainable and efficient way to support Catalytic Communities' tireless and ongoing work in Rio de Janeiro's favelas and on behalf of a future of asset-based community development and just urbanization worldwide.

Recurring donations are ideal for donors. They guarantee you provide the support you intend to while having an unnoticeable impact on your pocketbook. And they ensure we have the steady stream of support that we need to guide our efforts and support critical year-round programs.

When you join CatComm’s Community Catalysts, you will join a special, dedicated group of people that each and every month are guaranteeing key strategic support to Rio's favela communities in ways that generate asset-based community change locally and globally. There are a number of perks, too.*

Want to make us more efficient + empower us to generate even more impact with one simple act? Simply convert your existing support to monthly giving TODAY:

Rosilene and Rosinaldo await eviction - Lianne Milton
"The core issues facing Rio de Janeiro—persistent inequality, gentrification, increased risk of climate-induced problems, an out-of-touch political class—are in many ways an intensified microcosm of the issues already facing or likely soon-to-be facing almost every major city in the world. To learn about how Catalytic Communities approaches these issues is to learn about innovative and nuanced strategies for empowering communities and for overcoming these pressing issues." — Eli Nemzer, former CatComm intern, Northwestern alum (July 2017)
Asa Branca, LEED Gold-level favela - Sam Faigen

About Catalytic Communities

Based in Rio de Janeiro and with a US 501 [c][3] tax-exempt status, Catalytic Communities is an empowerment, communications, think tank, and advocacy NGO working since 2000 on behalf of Rio’s favelas at the intersection of sustainable community development, human rights, local-global networks, communications, and urban planning. CatComm supports and empowers residents of informal settlements, evolving strategically to support their needs as they arise.

CatComm functions as a news source, agenda setter, movement builder, and research collaborative, all in support of favela development. The organization champions an asset-based approach based on favela qualities and working to incubate a fair, rights-based and participatory model of favela integration to inspire alternative solutions to the challenges posed by informal housing worldwide. We conscientiously incubate programs to support Rio de Janeiro’s informal settlements knowing such communities will constitute nearly a third of the world’s population by 2050, and sharing our successes in support of organizers in cities around the globe.

Value Us? Believe in Us?

Learn more about Rio's favelas with this short doc CatComm supported on Vox:

“We had a revealing talk by Theresa Williamson of Catalytic Communities and some of the Columbia urban planning students in the group were deeply impressed by her work and vision. I think Theresa is reshaping the role of urban planners in the contemporary city and projecting the profession into the future.” — Jose Luis Vallejo, Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University (March 2017)
Children in Providência - Luiz Baltar

CatComm's Current Major Programs: A Triad

Today, CatComm has three major programs focused on innovative work in favela communications, capacity-building, and land rights. Each is designed with an eye to developing solutions in Rio that support organizers around the world:

  1. RioOnWatch, our award-winning community reporting site, is successfully shifting the narrative on informal settlements in Brazil and around the world, and offers a new model of media production that is being studied and replicated in other parts of the world. It turned eight this May, and here's a summary of all the site has achieved, plus a Guardian article relating how RioOnWatch helped influence reporting in the lead up to the Olympics.
  2. The Sustainable Favela Network, which started with our award-winning film 'Favela as a Sustainable Model' filmed for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, has now grown into a network of 111 sustainability and resilience initiatives in favelas all across Rio's urban fabric. We published a report about this network last year and are now preparing a series of community exchanges in September 2018 among these projects to strengthen them. And we're developing a Sustainable Favela Indicator based on environmental footprint, well-being and basic service measurements so communities can self-benchmark and advocate for policies that will allow them to develop in truly and thoroughly sustainable ways.
  3. Favela Community Land Trusts have the potential to offer a model for tenure security in informal settlements around the world (1/3 of humanity by 2050 who would otherwise have precarious access to land or be at risk of speculative displacement). This model allows residents to own their homes individually while they collectively own the land under their homes and manage it for perpetuity, thus providing the highest possible level of tenure security while also offering residents the right to develop their neighborhoods as a community or sell their homes as individuals. Our Executive Director spoke about it at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge last year. We are currently both developing a legislative proposal to make this a viable possibility in Brazil and working with communities in Rio de Janeiro interested in piloting a CLT. Workshops will be held in August 2018. This project involves a partnership with the Caño Martín Peña settlements in Puerto Rico who have successfully modeled the potential of Favela CLTs. Our work on this (and theirs) was recently featured in a CityLab article on this growing movement.

Read more about our history here.

Want to make sure we realize this incredible potential? Sign up as a Community Catalyst TODAY:

"RioONWatch offers a potential alternative and unique model for reporting on sports and sport-related issues by privileging the voices of community members and engaging in participatory and collaborative journalistic practices." — Sport Journalism for Peace Research Group at the University of British Columbia (April 2016)
"The residents of Vila Autódromo are opening their hearts and beginning to interact with the outside visitors brought by CatComm. Through these visits, Vila Autódromo came into contact with mainstream international media, because mainstream local media does not publish the negative and illegal actions of those in power. The mainstream local media only promotes the interests of itself and its allies, which are big business and government." — Jane Nascimento, Director of the Vila Autódromo Association of Residents and Fishermen (Oct 2012)

CatComm's Theresa Williamson toured Santa Marta favela with The Today Show:

Please Join Us

Over eighteen years, CatComm has developed an efficient outfit punching way above its weight. For about $100,000 each year we have expanded our work through a broad and committed network thanks to thousands of talented volunteers, solidarity reporters, research collaborators and partners.

From 2000-2010 we were all about networking our favela partners with each other to share their own knowledge and be savvy with technology. Then we spent six years focused on communicating to a growing audience that favelas have been unheard, misunderstood, neglected and repressed for much of their history. As a result, we helped stall, stop and improve outcomes in eviction and other situations for tens of thousands of city residents. The work we did during those years was highly compatible with a large volunteer network and greater financial resources were not required.

We're now entering a new phase engaged in physical support to favelas and requiring tools, techniques and models. We are investing in exchanges, training and organizing support, mapping, policy development, legislative proposals and developing green infrastructure, among other projects. In other words, this phase will require more financial resources. If we're going to be successful building on all we've done over these nearly two decades, and reaching CatComm's full potential, then we're going to have to invest in strategically crafted pilot projects that show that favelas can become fully sustainable, that community-centered development is the best development strategy, and that Rio's favelas are not an insurmountable problem but rather teeming with under-tapped potential—the potential to transform themselves, and ultimately, all of our communities.

Want to make sure we realize this incredible potential? Sign up as a Community Catalyst TODAY:

Vila Kennedy's Geiza Moura transforms a waste site
"Every project that CatComm creates, develops or realizes whether here in Vale Encantado or not, strengthens me more and more to continue fighting for the moral and ethical principles of the humiliated citizens forgotten by the public sector. CatComm is the catalyst of social struggles and collective victories that are not recognized by the government. I'd like to thank CatComm for the opportunity that they give Rio's communities and to show the world the importance of the communities within a city." — Otávio Alves Barros, President of the Vale Encantado eco-cooperative (2011)
Vihls sculpture of evicted man in Providência

*Special Perks for Community Catalysts

In the past, generous and talented supporters have donated art works, event tickets, and the mileage and accommodations for our Rio Raffle. Starting now, these and other opportunities will serve to recognize and thank our Community Catalysts, current volunteers and collaborators. We'll be raffling treats amongst monthly donors throughout the year and will hold the Rio Raffle when we reach our goal of $5,000 in monthly donations.

If you become a Community Catalyst, rather than sending you general appeals, we'll email you with important updates of interest to you, sharing our progress and how your contribution is making an impact. You'll be able to choose any of the following types of communication:

  • INSPIRATION. Personal updates from CatComm staff, relating small and large victories, testimonials and stories directly from favela organizers.
  • DEEP ENGAGEMENT. CatComm is charting a forward path in its vision, bringing a potentially endless stream of opportunities for action, program, research and policy development. As we consider new approaches and collaborations, you can choose to participate, provide input and engage directly in new opportunities that arise.
  • KNOWLEDGE. Research reports, essays, articles, chapters and entire books produced by members of the CatComm team and collaborators will be sent to you, when possible even prior to official publication.
  • COMMUNITY ACTION. As we publish more and more lessons from favelas with community-building and community organizing strategies, we'll make sure these come to your inbox to support your own efforts at community-building where you live.
  • NETWORKING. You'll be invited to CatComm-related events in your town--whether a happy hour among members of our network, a lecture by ED Theresa Williamson, or events we hear about through the extensive CatComm network.


If you prefer to join by setting up a direct deposit from your bank to ours, please let us know here. Or for checks, mail monthly to Catalytic Communities, PO Box 42010, Washington, DC 20015.

"A recently released study by Rio-based NGO by Catalytic Communities found that coverage of the city's favelas in eight major global news sources increased drastically during Rio's Olympic cycle, from 45 total articles mentioning favelas in 2009, when Rio was named the host city, to 315 in the year leading up to the Olympics. Favelas were increasingly the main subject of those articles. Furthermore, by 2016 favela residents were directly quoted in 16 times as many articles as they had been in 2009. The coverage also became more nuanced, with less emphasis on violence and drugs and more on favelas having a strong sense of community and its residents being active agents of change." — Vice Sports (December 2016)
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