Narrowing the gap between rich and poor was a top priority for Teresa Surita, five-time mayor of Boa Vista, Brazil. Surita had long viewed early childhood development services as crucial for improving life chances and attaining that goal, and she had partnered with several programs to expand parent coaching and other opportunities. As her fifth term began in 2017, she turned to a program called Urban95, which called for making a top priority the needs of young children and their families in all of the city’s planning and programs. Building on work the city had already done, Surita and her department heads undertook projects that included adapting a neighborhood to the needs of young children and their caregivers and building a cutting-edge data dashboard and alert system designed to ensure citizens would get help when they needed it. The city sought to keep those efforts on track while also extending assistance to families among the refugees fleeing deprivation and violence in neighboring Venezuela. As the term of the initial phase drew to a close in September 2019, municipal officials began to take stock of progress and results. Despite some philosophical disagreements and some uncertainties about the future of vital federal funding, the city was on track to achieve its project goals.
Bill Steiden drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Boa Vista and Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July and August 2019. Case published October 2019. The Bernard van Leer Foundation supported this case study to foster early-stage policy learning.