About eighteen months ago, Alex sang the praises of Brazil's numerous social innovation initiatives, including what was then characterized as a "rough and tumble" database of noteworthy innovations in Brazil known as Catalytic Communities (CatComm). Since then, the rough and tumble site has evolved into an established leader in community empowerment, and was recently selected as a Tech Museum of Innovation 2006 Tech Laureate in the Equality category.
CatComm's online Community Solutions Database (CSD) offers public, freely available information (in three languages) on community-initiated solutions to local challenges, which may include everything from sanitation to unemployment to HIV. The CSD accepts submissions from community groups who have documented their work as a means of sharing their solutions with others who might use similar strategies to deal with issues in their own communities.
These may be projects run by official organizations like 501[c]s, or they may be "mom and pop" enterprises supporting a dozen youth with no formal institution behind them. [...] There are three requirements: (1) the project must be helping to solve at least one community challenge; (2) the project was developed by a member of the community or, if not, it comes from an experience that could realistically be used as a model by members of a low-income community; and (3) the project serves as a positive and ethical example for other communities.
CatComm balances online and on-the-ground work, taking advantage of tech tools which create opportunities for individuals to meet and work face to face. In downtown Rio de Janeiro, they have opened "Casa do Gestor Catalisador" (Catalytic Community Manager's House), a hub for networking, incubating ideas, writing up projects, and accessing computers and web-based tools. They also run a gallery space with rotating exhibits by local artists engaged in socially relevant work in Rio. Just as many entries in the CSD provide step-by-step instructionals for community solutions, the CatComm site describes the characteristics of their Casa hubs as a way to encourage others to establish "Sister Casas" in other locations that might catalyze local action and improve the lives of communities around the globe. It's this kind of working model-as-solution that garnered CatComm the Tech Laureate Award, applying technological innovation and distributed access to online tools in the name of humanitarian support.
LOVE THE NEW SITE!!! Brilliant and stimulating work- So glad to see this vision come to such great fruition! Looking forward to collaboarting and sharing ideas on transfering your approach- community to commuity empowerment in Africa and beyond!
Thanks for your wonderful contribution to community-led social action!!
-Melanie St.James, MPA