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Ongoing CCC Research Addressing Agency in Rio de Janeiro Neighborhoods During COVID-19

November 2020

Overlook in Rio de Janeiro
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Desiree Poets

Several Community Change Collaborative members, including Molly Todd, Dr. Vanessa Guerra, Nada Berrada, Dr. Neda Moayerian, and Cathy Grimes, their faculty advisor Dr. Max Stephenson, and Dr. Desiree Poets, an Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Theory in Virginia Tech’s Department of Political Science, formed a research team in March 2020 to explore the dynamics of individual and collective democratic agency in two Rio de Janeiro, Brazil favelas during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Two Brazilian research group members, Dr. Poets and Helena Vasconcellos, have completed a thematic content analysis of more than 200 virus-related articles that have appeared in two community-based newspapers—Maré Online and Fala Roça in the Maré and Rocinha neighborhoods, respectively—between March and September 2020 and have conducted participant observation of relevant online events. Others on the team have explored and developed reviews of relevant academic literature. The group has also developed a plan to conduct virtual semi-structured interviews with community key informants involved in writing the news articles examined. To date, the team has developed three research papers (and the group may design more). Those are briefly profiled here.

The first article, now under consideration for presentation at the 78th Annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA), April 14-18, 2021, explores the ways in which residents of these two communities have expressed collective agency in questioning and redefining the socially imposed stereotypic image of favelas as well as challenging and negotiating systemic injustice in the context of the global pandemic.

The second paper, to be submitted for consideration for presentation at the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR) conference, July 12-15, 2021, highlights the role of informal sector actors in crafting a response to managing the ongoing pandemic in Maré and Rocinha. Drawing on concepts of informality, social resilience, sustainability and collective agency, the authors plan to provide a nuanced portrait of an otherwise stigmatized populations' challenges and achievements in asserting their rights with the Brazilian government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The third article, for whose presentation the team has not yet settled on a specific outlet, will explore the ways in which the dominant mainstream Rio de Janeiro newspaper, O Globo, has portrayed the favelas (or Maré and Rocinha, more specifically) by means of a narrative analysis of COVID-19 related articles from that periodical during the March-September 2020 period. The group will employ that evaluation to suggest how the neighborhoods are being described to the broader public and what that representation has implied concerning the availability of crucial public resources and recognition during the pandemic. The article will conclude with a reflection on the sources of the social memes identified and their implications for the exercise of democratic agency and possibility by the residents of the neighborhoods examined. 

Tiny Home Study Conducted for Pennington Gap, VA 

February 2020

Rendering of Tiny Home Development (Credit: Maria Saxton)
Rendering of the potential tiny home development at Leeman Field Park in Pennington Gap, VA. Image Credit: Dr. Maria Saxton

To support an ongoing partnership between Pennington Gap, VA and VT-IPG, the Institute partnered with Dr. Maria Saxton, NANO - Tiny Life Innovators, Environmental Planner and Housing Expert at Hill Studio, and recent graduate of the Environmental Design and Planning Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech, to conduct a feasibility study and to create a business plan for a tiny home development associated with the Town’s Leeman Field Park. The need for this study was driven by local government and resident interest in developing more short-term lodging options for overnight visitors engaging in family reunions, town events, outdoor recreation, and so on. Dr. Saxton has research experience investigating tiny home design concepts and worked with Town officials to explore Pennington Gap’s potential for a tiny house development through the research project.  Tiny homes are part of a fast-paced, innovative, and evolving industry in housing and hospitality, offering an opportunity for environmentally-conscious design options, a lower environmental impact for the home and its occupants, and resilient, flexible lodging for both short- and long-term stays.

The final report details goals for a prospective tiny home business, describes the target market, highlights major considerations for development including zoning and construction factors, outlines site management and occupancy concerns, and presents cost projections/return on investment (ROI) based on several variables and scenarios. Based on the preliminary financial model, both the Town and project investors would likely experience a positive 5-year ROI, showing promise for a successful project. In most scenarios, the Town need only provide minimal investment, leading to a 5-year ROI over 400%. For investors, financial prospects are based on more factors, including tiny home type and occupancy rates. Both of the tiny home types proposed in the report would experience 5-year ROIs of about 70% - 115% given a conservative occupancy rate estimate of 45%.

A summary of the findings from the 100-page report were presented at the Pennington Gap Town Council meeting in February 2020 by Dr. Saxton who joined remotely, facilitated by Max Stephenson and CCC members Lara Nagle, Neda Moayerian, and Courtney Surmanek who attended the meeting in person.  The visit also included a walking tour with Council members of the proposed site for the tiny home development. Council members engaged in discussion following the presentation, and will determine how to move forward with the proposed development concept dependent on the commitment of a local investor and in consideration of other housing opportunities. 

CCC Represented at the 2019 UEDA Conference as a "Place" Finalist for Awards of Excellence  

November 2019

CCC attends UEDA 2019
Neda Moayerian (center) and Lara Nagle (second from right) receive recognition on behalf of CCC's work at the 2019 UEDA annual conference in Reno, NV. Photo Courtesy of UEDA.

Neda Moayerian, Ph.D. candidate in Planning, Governance, and Globalization (PGG) and long-time CCC member, and Lara Nagle, Community-Based Learning Projects Manager at VT-IPG, presented CCC's model for community change research and praxis at the 2019 University Economic Development Association annual conference. The CCC was selected as a finalist in the "Place" category.