Network for Youth Agency: A Program Evaluation


photo 7 agencia
Participant youth, Wallace and Wellington, overlooking the city from their community
Photo credit: 
Agencia de Redes para Juventude Website


Veriene Melo
Co-principle Investigator
Program Associate, Program on Poverty and Governance
Jarillo hs2
Co-principle Investigator
PovGov Postdoctoral Fellow, CDDRL
Principal Investigator
Senior Fellow
  • Professor, Political Science


Characterized as a notorious case study of urban violence in Latin America, Rio de Janeiro slums (known as favelas) have long been home to dangerous drug factions. These are heavily armed groups that regulate the movement of illicit activities, establishing rules for the communities, and dictating the organizational structure of favelas as they spread fear and oppression among residents. Shootouts between the police and criminals only add to the instability and insecurity of every-day life in these territories. Confrontations often resemble war-like scenarios; dwellers are frequently caught in the cross fire and victimized in internal gang turf wars and police efforts to crackdown criminal activities. These tensions result in the violation of fundamental human rights and in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives every year.

Similar to the overall homicide pattern reflected in the nationwide statistics (out of 56,000 homicides committed in Brazil on a yearly basis, almost 50% victimize individuals aged 15-29),[1] there is one specific group that is predominantly impacted by this conflict. Although it’s difficult to assess the exact number of youth and young adults involved directly and indirectly with different drug factions in Rio (unofficial studies assert that as little as 1% of favela dwellers are actively involved in criminal activities),[2] we know who is getting killed: black and poor males living in favelas and peripheries throughout the state. In 2012, out of 4.043 "registered" homicides that occurred in Rio, 1.418 were committed against the youth – out of which 1.078 were blacks.[3] The majority of these homicides took place in favelas and poor communities in Rio’s North zone. In Rio, the risk of being victim of a homicide for male adolescents is 14 times higher than for other groups, and three times higher for blacks. This alarming figure calls attention to the necessity and urgency of investing heavily in educational and labor market programs for young people living in impoverished and violent areas of the city and to find innovative ways to engage the youth in such efforts.


Agência de Redes Para Juventude (Network for Youth Agency) is an action-based educational program attending selected youth and young adults aged 15-29 living in favelas impacted by the pacification security policy as well as communities from the city's peripheries. Rooted in an innovative educational methodology that make use of concepts of social entrepreneurship and seeks to advance the individual's creative potential, Agency helps participants design, develop, present and implement business ideas that can have a direct impact in their communities, while giving them skills and tools for engagement. The whole premise is that young people need to be active participants in setting up the framework for change to take place.


In the course of the 2015-2016 academic year, the Stanford International Crime and Violence Lab is set to conduct an evaluation study of Agency that aims to shed light on the various benefits that participants from the program enjoy and explore the possibilities for life advancements. Through the application of surveys and in-depth interviews with participants – complemented by a comprehensive analysis of the program’s educational philosophy, curriculum and target groups – we hope to assess Agency’s impact in terms of opening up pathways for educational and work advancements for the youth, as well as in building up platforms for community development and further engagement with the larger society. It’s estimated that over 34% of youth and young adults aged 18-29 living in communities that have been impacted by the pacification policy today are underemployed and not in school (NEET),[4] which highlights the policy’s shortage in terms of promoting educational and work advancement to this particular population.


Programs like Agency - that are effective in attracting participants, building on their potential and keeping them committed – are fundamental for the development a new and improved policy outlook on youth development work in Rio favelas, one in which individual agency and potentiality takes central stage in the development process. By carrying out an analysis on Agency’s impact and its on-the-ground prospects, we hope to offer a set of scientific results that can foster action and change, and advocate for the strengthening and expansion of educational initiatives that incorporate such progressive pedagogical tools. We believe that social and economic sustainability, increased social cohesion and the building of an overall more peaceful environment in Rio favelas, is contingent on proposals that directly benefit the youth.



[1] Anistia Internacional Brasil. (2014). Jovem Negro Vivo. Retrieved on November 9th, 2014 from: LINK

[2] Informal assessment based on results from an extensive study on youth participation in criminal activities in Rio favelas conducted by the civil society organization Favela’s Observatory.

[3] Treze Municípios Participarão da Campanha "Juventude Marcada Para Viver". (2013). Juventude Marcada Para Viver Website. Retrieved on January 26th, 2014 from: LINK 

[4] Lima, L. (2013). Nas UPPs, Uma Geração em Busca do Tempo Perdido. O Globo. Retrieved on October 19, 2014 from: LINK