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TransformaMundo: Social Innovation, Brazilian Style
Alex Steffen, 28 Jan 05

Microcredit = worldchanging.

Community Supported Agriculture = worldchanging.

Putting them to work together in Brazil = priceless. Well, not quite priceless, but certainly worthy of a $1,000 grant.

Let me back up: ChangeMakers, the Ashoka website ("Open sourcing social solutions"), is sponsoring a competition for socially entrepreneurial ideas, and I think this proposal by the Brazilian NGO Nepa to marry microcredit to a direct rural-urban food marketing system is pretty darn sharp:

3) Strategy Summary: A micro credit organism anticipates the one year investment for family conversion to the Organic Agroecologic system of production. An Urban Family group is created and allied to the rural families through a week consumption plan, contributing monthly with an amount of money since the 7th month, and receiving weekly a basket full of organic vegetables as a counterpart. The micro credit has a 12 months payback period with a 12% year interest and a 36 months expiry date. The payment is a fraction of the contribution tax of each allied person.

4) How the Strategy Works:
The system allows that poor rural families, without access to credit and without any real payment warranty, could be included to the food production process in rural and/or urban areas up to 1 hectare. With one-year credit anticipation, NEPA proceeds to the rural family conversion to Organic-Agroecologic system of production and, at the same time, starts to create the urban allied group. On average, each group of 70 urban families guarantees the maintenance of one7 people family system of production working up to one hectare. Once people and / or institutions are aware of their participation in the system, many rural families could be inserted in the process, with a warranty of a Social-Economic- Environmental Sustainable system of production.

Makes at least first draft sense to me.

That's of course just a taste of what's going down in Brazil. Check out the other entrants in this contest alone -- a sailboat crewed by teens teaching ecological awareness to people living on Brazil's rivers, building a network of self-sustaining community computer education centers and this utterly indescribable but nonetheless cool oceanside ecodevelopment project.

Better yet, check out Catalytic Communities a rough and tumble database/ best practices project, run out of Rio by powerhouse Theresa Williamson, which tracks "innovations worth knowing about."

For instance, tomorrow they'll be leading a workshop at the World Social Forum which might as well be subtitled how to redistribute the future:

1. Community Technology Centers for Grassroots Leaders: An Exchange of Knowledge and Experiences

Learn about the Casa for grassroots leaders, an innovative technology hub in Rio de Janeiro, created to strengthen community-based initiatives. Catalytic Communities supports the development of networks of solidarity between the community leaders that visit the Casa. We offer this workshop to present our work and to connect with similar projects and centers globally. Offered in Portuguese, English and Spanish.

Better still, go read the stories of Vera Cordeiro and Rodrigo Baggio, on the "Brazilian social entrepreneurs" page.

Brazil, man -- I'm telling you, the future speaks Portuguese.

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