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The contribution of good management to the quality of life in cities

by Richard Meckien - published Jun 20, 2017 02:55 PM - - last modified Jul 07, 2017 10:58 AM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Sylvia Miguel

Parque Ibirapuera

Ibirapuera Park

The planning of public policies, legislation and city master plans suffer from a well-known cultural malaise in Brazilian society: the deviation from their original functions aiming at attending minor or particular interests at the time of their implementation. Likewise, administration suffers from deviations when the management of the public issue is distributed among political parties. "Many problems are not solved by a political issue and the obstacles of the cities end up becoming a political platform, so there is no interest in solving them. We are impregnated with political behaviour. We bring political-partisan issues to the context of public policy discussion in a very exaggerated way," says Professor Arlindo Philippi Jr., who is participating in the 2017 Sabbatical Year Program at the IEA and develops the project 'Urban Experiences in the Perspective of New Ideas and Sustainable Solutions for the City.'

The ongoing work at the IEA will lead to proposals for public managers and urban researchers in the form of a book. The volume 'Urban Management and Sustainability' is due to be launched in early 2018 as part of the Manole Publishing House Environmental Collection, which Philippi Jr. has been developing for more than 10 years. The collection includes dozens of titles focusing on environmental issues, social issues, sustainable development, natural resources and public management. The present volume will count on the contribution of dozens of specialists in urban issues, including housing, sanitation, mobility, violence and management, among other topics.

Arlindo Philippi Jr abre o Painel 2
Arlindo Philippi Jr: "Many problems are not solved by a political issue and the obstacles of the cities end up becoming a political platform"

According to Philippi Jr., the kind of management practiced in Brazilian cities has been exhausted for a long time. "The city does not deliver what the citizen needs in terms of service provision, land ownership and other issues. In general, planning includes good things and good ideas, but it is subverted in its implementation by contemplating minor issues to the detriment of what would be best for the citizen," says the professor.

The governability of the cities is also flawed, according to the researcher. "The huge Brazilian political spectrum appears and the mayor ends up distributing the functions of city administration between the parties. Thus, he uses only a little of the knowledge sedimented in the very structure of the public service, which are the effective employees, who should be ahead of the administration," he says.

For him, when some innovation is presented in public management, it is generally received with much criticism, but it is up to the administrator to demonstrate that the measures will provide well-being to the citizens. "When I was the mayor of USP's campus in the Butantã neighbourhood, we received a lot of criticism due to the implementation of the exclusive bus and bicycle lanes. But through the website of our administration we were showing the reasons for the change. Today, the vast majority of people respect these lanes," he exemplifies.

Citizen participation is another important issue for good public administration, recalls the professor. "There is no solution for anything including democracy if there is no participation of people. Citizen participation presupposes that citizens have access to management information. The term 'transparency' has been used as a word of effect and so we need to remember that transparency in public management means providing data and technical knowledge through a reliable system," he emphasizes.

Information systems are fundamental management tools. Many of them have been created and deployed, but fail because it is often not in the interest of the government to inform citizens, according to the professor. Likewise, indicators of sustainability and effective communication of public facts are ways of promoting citizenship, he recalls.

According to Philippi Jr., the book to be published will be sent to city managers with the intention of presenting innovations and successful experiments in public management. It may also serve as a basis for the training of professionals who want to work with the urban issue, as well as contribute to the submission of new research on the discussed topics.


Three seminars, a technical meeting, partnerships with new research groups and the publication of academic articles are activities included in the goals of the sabbatical project. Through the set of proposed experiments, discussions and reflections, the study will seek to contribute with ideas and solutions that respond to the daily needs of people in changing urban environment in view of the principles of sustainability and interdisciplinary articulation.

The meeting 'Urban Experiments, New Ideas and Sustainable Solutions for Cities', held in April, focused on the visions of various segments and brought the successful experiences of cities in fields such as energy, urban mobility, housing, urban agriculture and inclusive culture. "São Paulo, for example, has an information system, called PRODAM, which makes it possible to follow the most diverse demands of citizens. And managers can benefit from this database to improve management," exemplifies Philippi Jr.

In May, the 'Academic Meeting on Interdisciplinarity and Innovation in Universities of Excellence' brought researchers from the most prestigious universities and research institutions in Brazil to deal with knowledge frontier topics that require the interface between disciplines to solve complex problems.

"The practice of interdisciplinarity in teaching, research and extension requires innovative approaches. It is a form of knowledge production that implies theoretical and methodological exchanges that make the professional and the researcher leave their comfort zone. This type of approach is increasingly widespread in the world, and in Brazil there are excellent groups working on this issue. There are universities that have been entirely created from the presuppositions of interdisciplinarity, such as USP' School of Arts, Sciences and Humanities (EACH), the Federal University of Southern Bahia, the Federal University of the Southern Border and others," says the professor, who has already served as director of evaluation of the Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES), and has been the coordinator of the Interdisciplinary and Environmental Sciences areas of the institution.

The business management dealt with during the 'National Business & Sustainability Colloquium', held in June, concerns entrepreneurship and innovation, not necessarily private companies. The venture may refer to companies or public management, explains Philippi Jr. The event brought together public, private and civil society organizations that showed management models focused on good practices based on sustainability.

According to the professor, the next step will be to seek interaction between the various research groups of the IEA that work on issues related to the urban issue. "The idea is to bring together the coordinators of these research groups to an initial meeting in order to identify common objectives and areas of action, as well as new research fields and new partnerships," he says. The prospect is to hold the technical meeting in August.

The professor will also participate in the 14th International Conference on Urban Health, which will take place from September 24 to 28 in Coimbra, Portugal, as an activity planned for his sabbatical year at the IEA. Philippi Jr. will participate on September 25, attending the pre-conference 'Shaping policies to promote urban health equity: a socio-technical approach. Evidence from the EURO-HEALTHY case studies', having been invited by the EURO-HEALTHY project coordinator.

Organized by the International Society for Urban Health Secretariat, a part of The New York Academy of Medicine, the international meeting will address 'Equity in Health: The New Urban Agenda and the Goals of Sustainable Development.' The International Society of Urban Health (ISUH) is a global organization created in 2002 that brings together academics, governments, NGOs and companies to improve the health of cities.

Photos: Allan White and Leonor Calasans