Bahia Superintendency of Social Assistance (SAS) & Salvador Municipal Secretariat of Social Promotion and Poverty Alleviation
This blog was originally published in December 2015 by Ariel Sim, a researcher for the Bolsa Familia Project. You can read more from her at her blog here.
Lesson: It's more important to have a bench filled with talented players than a single MVP.
Today we switched gears. While our other team started their interviews in Belo Horizonte, our team dove headfirst into the State of Bahia. Located on the Northeastern coast and a deep history from the African migration, Bahia is a playground of diversity. We are slowly understanding the impressive reach of Bolsa Familia into this region of Brazil, where skewed distribution of wealth reinforces intergenerational poverty among traditional population groups like gypsies (cigana), artisanal fishermen (pescadores artesanais), members of the religious community practicing Condomblé (pertencente a communidade de terreiro), riverside dwellers (Ribeirinha), and family farmers (agricultores familiares). Getting one-on-one time with state and municipal coordinators of the program is vital to understanding how Bolsa Familia works in practice and not just by design.
Our first stop? Bahia's state office for the coordination of Bolsa Familia and Cadastro Unico. Bolsa Familia cash transfers move directly from the federal government to the municipalities and beneficiaries. However, the state still plays an important role in coordination, cooperation, training, monitoring and evaluation of the Bolsa Familia programs within their area. The state office does not directly fund Bolsa Familia programming, but in the state of Bahia, some interesting innovations have helped municipalities improve their performance and reduce the frustrations of municipal managers. Most notably, the State of Bahia began a program to directly connect municipal managers in order to share concerns and build best practices. The idea is simple: connect people dealing with the same types of problems so they can help each other. The State of Bahia refers to this as the network of managers. The program started in 2012 and only took a month to consolidate the network. Beyond creating an environment for municipal managers to learn from each other, the networks have facilitated direct communication between municipal managers and Caixa. Caixa sends representatives to the network meetings, where municipal managers talk about the technical issues they are experiencing with the Caixa information management systems. An important feedback loop that was previously missing.
After speaking with the State of Bahia, we made our way into the city center of Salvador to visit the Municipal Office for Cadastro Unico in the City of Salvador. Within the Cadastro Unico building, we talked an expert from the Municipal Secretariat of Social Promotion and Poverty Alleviation. This is the frontline manager of the municipal Bolsa Familia program. Again, we learned about some interesting innovations happening here in Salvador to improve the implementation of Bolsa Familia and Cadastro Unico. Mobile Bolsa Familia is a fleet of vans equipped with forms and laptops for Cadastro Unico registration. They move around the city to help people register. Salvador also opened a call center to get in touch with families who need to update their information and schedule appointments for those families at the Cadastro Unico office. Finally,Mala Directa (Direct Mail) is a contract between the City of Salvador and the postal service to send information to families about updating their information. This provides a paper copy of instructions and next steps. Together, the mobile vans, call center and postal service tackle the question of reach from complementary angles. A very impressive suite of services.
After our session, we got a tour of the new facilities at Cadastro Unico Salvador, where families will come to register and update their information. The space is not yet open, but will be fully operational in a matter of months. We also got a closer look at the Cadastro Unico form, used to register families for a range of social benefits.
Tomorrow, we head out to Sapeaçu, a small municipality about three hours outside of the city. We're excited to speak with municipal managers implementing Bolsa Familia in a rural setting.
Photo Credit: A Sim