Group – São Paulo , Brazil

1990 onwards

USINA is a multidisciplinary working group in Sao Paulo founded in June 1990. They started as technical advisory to social movements and political engagement processes. Since then, they have been working with processes that foster people’s own capacity to plan, design and build. They also work to mobilize public finances to aid the struggle for urban and agrarian land reform and advocate for housing rights. By working to support community-led, high-density, urban-housing initiatives, USINA has helped in the planning and construction of more than 5,000 housing units. This group has also contributed in urban planning projects, in the development of community-led facilities, in slum upgrading programmes, and aided in the formation and organization of cooperatives.

In order to develop complex multi-story buildings, USINA’s collaborators have provided interdisciplinary technical and social assistance to organised community groups. This has been done by establishing a participatory mutual help (‘mutirão’) approach; a truly self-managed process at all stages of the project – from the design phase through to implementation and monitoring. Their projects are funded entirely through public resources, therefore, USINA has to engage with mobilising local, state and/or national public resources to support these community-led initiatives where residents contribute with their labour.

The skills and abilities of participating groups have vastly increased throughout the various projects carried out by USINA. These skills and abilities are not only in the construction sector but also in terms of political engagement and negotiation, personal and commercial financial management and the development of small businesses.

Key Projects

Paulo Freire

Mutirões União da Juta



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