Graduate students participate in the Geneva Challenge 2020 with a project for assisting the reintegration of ex-convicts into society

A team of researchers at the FAPESP Shell Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI) was named a semifinalist in the Geneva Challenge 2020 – Advancing Development Goals International Contest, being one of the three top groups in Latin America. This year, the objective of the competition, which is for master’s degree candidates, was to present innovative solutions for addressing the challenges of social inclusion. The students designed a digital platform, called Novus Via (“new way”), which connects ex-convicts with opportunities for work, education, professional guidance, and psychological assistance.

The group consisted of three RCGI researchers – geologists Maria Rogieri Pelissari and Mariana Oliveira Barbosa, and environmental engineer Luis Guilherme Larizzatti Zacharias, all of whom are Master’s Degree candidates in the Institute of Energy and the Environment of the University of São Paulo (IEE-USP). Geologist Ingrid Souto Maia Lamoso, a master’s degree candidate in USP’s Institute of Geosciences (IGc), is also a team member.

As the students conceived the project, they analyzed different aspects related to the prison population in Brazil, which is the world’s third largest. They examined the precarious conditions of overcrowded prisons; the lack of social assistance from the State, after release, and the difficulties faced for reintegration into society; the obstacles to accessing information, legal assistance, employment, and assistance centers; the high percentage of criminal recidivism and the role of education and employment in reducing that rate.

The platform was initially designed to serve individuals from the State of São Paulo, which has the Nation’s largest prison population: 30% of the country’s total. The State’s 176 penitentiaries have a capacity for 147,942 inmates, but actually house 231,287 prisoners, showing a deficit of 83,345 places.

According to the researchers, the objective of the project is to create a structure for providing former prisoners with opportunities, in line with the core premise of the 2030 Agenda of  Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN): “Leave no one behind”. After registering on the site, the individual will have access to job openings, free or low-cost training courses, professional guidance (including a manual for opening their own business), social assistance, and psychological services. All of this comes with geo-referenced data, according to the user’s location. Today, the students are seeking partnerships to get the project off the drawing boards and develop the platform.

About the prize – The Geneva Challenge, organized by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, Switzerland is a competition for Master’s Degree candidates that stimulates innovative projects and solutions for international problems, based on interdisciplinary collaboration between students in various parts of the world.

The contest selected five teams, one from each continent, and distributed 25,000 Swiss Francs to the winners: SFr.10,000 to first place, SFr.5,000 to each second-place group, and SFr.2,500 to each third-place group.