I recently spent two months in Brazil exploring whether enterprise could meaningfully change young people’s lives and their communities. Amongst the many determined young people I was privileged to meet and learn from were a self-taught, teenage journalist, a founder of an arts charity tackling child trafficking and a creator of the first favela dance school in the ‘City of God’.


Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts, where some of the most affluent neighbourhoods sit alongside favela communities that face incredible levels of disadvantage. The ability to survive and access opportunities that might change one’s circumstances relies on being creative and enterprising and the determined, hardworking attitude of many of the young people that I met was a far cry from the laid-back, work-shy, 24 hour party lifestyle that I had associated with Brazil.

Whilst the need to be enterprising feels like a part of the DNA of many young Brazilians, the concept of social enterprise and the potential role it can play in tackling the social and environmental issues facing Brazil’s communities, is still being established.

The young people I met with initially had set up projects and enterprises connected with a creative or cultural activity that they were interested in, and there was often a wider social benefit involved borne out of their experiences, the communities that they lived in, and their frustrations at the lack of opportunities for their peers.

I’ve shared (below) a snapshot of 3 young social entrepreneurs that I met whilst in Rio, offering some insight into their projects and some of the circumstances that inspired them:

Michel Silva, 20, from Rocinha one of Rio’s largest favelas, has been running his online community newspaper, Viva Rocinha, since he was 17. Michel has taught himself everything he knows about journalism, photography and building websites from the internet, and has created a news platform that keeps his community informed about important local issues as well as becoming a regular source for international news outlets.

The inspiration for Viva Rocinha came by chance when Michel discovered that one of his favourite online gaming communities had an online newspaper connected to it. Initially starting as a hobby, Michel’s commitment and passion to his project quickly grew when he realised it offered him a way to show there is much more to life in his community than drugs and gangs. Michel’s ability to tell the stories of local residents whilst highlighting the social and environmental issues affecting them has led to him becoming a role model, with his hobby becoming his vocation.

The passion and drive that Michel showed to set up his own project was something that I saw over and over again in other young people that I met. João, 20, was one of the founding members of Soldado Anônimo, a project that uses media, art, drama and poetry to highlight and tackle issues around sexual exploitation and trafficking for children and their families in Brazil.

João and his team were all part of Oi! Kabum, a creative media school in Rio, which offers training to young people from disadvantaged communities. They saw an opportunity to use the digital media skills they were learning about to explore and provoke discussion around difficult issues that affect many families in favela communities. The workshops that João and his team deliver in different communities are seen as innovative not only because of the creative approaches they use but because young people deliver them, encouraging peer to peer learning.

Another key element of João’s project is giving a voice to people from favela communities who are often marginalised by the media. Many Brazilian young people feel that they are portrayed negatively in the press, and the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with living in a favela community can have a direct impact on the ability to find work or access a good education. Setting up a creative project or enterprise often provides a way for young people to create opportunities for themselves as well as others around them.

Adany, 30, set up Movimentos, a dance school in the City of God community where he grew up to offer something positive for children and young people to do and to give them the chance to gain more formal training. Adany’s dance school provides a place to go for young people that might be at risk of being drawn into destructive pastimes and is the first of its kind in his community.

Finding resources and the support to respond to the level of demand from children and young people in his community is a challenge for Adany, as private companies and government departments are reluctant to support a programme based in favela community, despite its impact and social ambition.

There is a real opportunity to work with and support young Brazilians like Michel, João and Adany to channel their talent and creativity into projects, which develop them and the communities around them, and this summer’s _SocialStarters programme in Rio will provide the opportunity to do just that.

Written by Jiselle Steele.

Young, creative entrepreneurs in Rio de Janeiro need support to gain greater visibility for their projects in order to inspire and give confidence to fellow young Brazilians. The _Social Starters summer 2015 programme offers experienced professionals an exciting opportunity to share their expertise and learn from driven, young entrepreneurs.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can join the six week programme in Rio de Janeiro and become a Social Enterprise Consultant, APPLY HERE