Favelas at the Vanguard: Rethinking Our Assumptions in Sustainable Development

Speaker: Dr. Theresa Williamson, founder and executive director of Catalytic Communities Theresa has become an outspoken and respected advocate on behalf of Rio de Janeiro's favelas in the face of current face-paced transformations. Her work in relation to forced evictions in the name of the upcoming World Cup and Olympics preparations has been widely publicized, most recently in the New York Times.

Theresa, a joint Brazilian-British citizen, holds a PhD in Planning from the University of Pennsylvania and founded Catalytic Communities in 2000. Theresa's talk will build on the growing global dialogue around informal settlements, particularly consolidated ones like those in Rio, and the potential lessons they offer towards a sustainable urbanization worldwide. Since 2000, her organization, Catalytic Communities (CatComm), has provided capacity-building and technology training, media exposure, meeting spaces, and global networks of support to over 2000 leaders from over 250 low-income communities across Rio de Janeiro. As a result, the tide is beginning to turn on the stigma these communities historically face. They are increasingly recognized as creative, self-built neighborhoods that comprise an important niche within the urban fabric, one worthy of recognition, respect and investment.

For more information, contact: Annemarie Gray (graya@mit)

[Image: By chensiyuan (chensiyuan) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]