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São Paulo taps citizens to train civil servants

Civil servants at Sao Paulo's city hall are getting trained by citizens in subjects such as transparency and open government. (Alf Ribeiro /

A bold experiment is underway in São Paulo to use citizen input to retrain city workers. María Hermosilla and Beth Simone Noveck report for Governing that Brazil’s financial center has launched “the world’s largest open-government training program.”

São Paulo is the capital of a Brazilian state that bears its name. Under a wider initiative called São Paulo Aberta (Open São Paulo), 150,000 civil servants will learn from everyday people. Two dozen citizen-led classes on subjects such as transparency and problem-solving are being held for municipal employees, social activists and the general public.

“São Paulo is betting on the radical notion that learning can happen outside of formal civil-service training colleges,” Hermosilla and Noveck write. The program dovetails with a wider, global effort to improve government by leveraging the skills, experience and knowledge of individuals outside the public sector. The city sets aside space for classes and pays educators a small stipend. 


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