Development Issues

Critical Thinking about the World’s Development

Community Foudation and Community Social Investiment: a Movement to Contribute to Social Justice in Brazil

Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
The Graduate Ccenter, CUNY – City University of New York

2008 International Senior Fellowship Program
By Jaqueline de Camargo,


“Community Foudation and Community Social Investiment: a Movement to Contribute to Social Justice in Brazil”[1]


The main assumption of the author, Jaqueline de Camargo, is that there is a place for a strong Community Foundation movement in Brazil; that the already existing community foundations and community foundation-like organizations in Brazil are carrying the seed of this movement [adapting the Community Foundation concept for local, regional and national realities]; and that it should be fruitful to broadly engage community leaders and youth leaders, in a systematic and systemic way, to promote this in the country. Such a movement, improving the conditions for sustainability and autonomy for social initiatives, would strengthen the perspective of “social justice” that nowadays, according to the author, is one of the most relevant aspects of the concept of community foundations. For this, some recommendations are made proposing the “action-learning” methodology, broadly including perspectives and knowledge of community social investments stakeholders.

Executive Summary

The community foundation is a concept explored worldwide as a good vehicle for donors to invest resources within a sustainable perspective as well as a vehicle that looks to address community needs. The community foundation concept has raised a genuine global “intellectual curiosity” amongst practitioners and social leaders.

The main purpose and assumption of the paper is to demonstrate that there is a place for a strong community foundation movement in Brazil; that the already existing community foundation and community foundation-like organizations in Brazil are carrying the seeds of this movement [adapting the Community Foundation concept for local, regional and national realities]; and that it should be fruitful to broadly engage community leaders and youth leaders in a systematic and systemic way, to promote this in the country. These assumptions are based on the fact that there is real interest in it in addition to the engagement of important third sector leaders in Brazil with this concept of the Community Foundation. Brazil’s third sector movement would benefit from such a conceptual frame, building alternatives to improve “social justice” issues like social inclusion, which is one of the most important gaps in Brazilian culture and to which the third sector has aimed its contributions.

The paper suggests that “community philanthropy” should be translated to “community social investment” as, in countries like Brazil, “philanthropy” has attributes related to creating dependence-donations, without any objective to transform reality.

The paper proposes that for such a community foundation movement in Brazil, some important challenges should be met such as the strengthening of autonomy through the creation of endowments in a country with no relevant and well-structured tax incentives and the need to influence legal frame for community foundations.

To take into account that some of the less well known organizations [and Grass-roots leaders] have a strong potential to operate in a community foundation adapted frame, as they already operate in community-philanthropy or, in a “community social investment” model, are also a challenge which the paper proposes to explore.

Looking for the inclusion of a wider range of social actors, like youth representatives, who have enormous potential and wish to be part of the solution of social problems, but who have been much more “receivers” of private social investments to/for them than partners of social change, is an opportunity identified by this paper.

As a method of research, besides a deep immersion in the International Senior Fellowship Program, the CFC – Community Foundation of Canada 2008 Montreal Conference provided several meetings and readings that served as a source of knowledge. It permitted the fellow to constantly re-order and re-structure some assumptions as well as the previously planned research. During the CFC conference, a special meeting was organized by the author, with some CF individuals and organization leaders in Brazil. This meeting definitely proved to be an effective method and strategy for the research.

Finally, some recommendations are made for a systematic and systemic approach, proposing an “action-learning” methodology, based on a vast bibliography and experience to favor learning and interchange of knowledge processes. Such approach is proposed as a method to favor the inclusion of the perspectives and knowledge of community social investments stakeholders, for the strengthening of a CF movement in Brazil.



It is important to acknowledge The Kellogg Foundation who supported me with a grant to attend the 2008 Senior International Fellowship of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. It is imperative to acknowledge the complete team of the CPCS and I would like to refer to the excellent debates led by the director Kathleen McCarthy and the coordinator of International Fellows Programs, Barbara Leopold; to Eugene Miller who cooperated with the research, and to Amal Muhammad and Peter Waldvogel who were so helpful to the fellows team. My Senior Fellows colleagues, Ekaterina Maksimova; George Varughese, LuAnn Lovlin, and Sonia Schellino shared with me the challenges and the goodness of an immersion program: I thank them. I want to show my deepest acknowledgment and respect for the work developed by the consultants who were part of our program and for the previous fellows, community foundations, and community philanthropy and youth programs practioners; mainly the ones who gave the fellows a tour and lots of valuable information. Among them, Andrés Thompson, the Kellogg Foundation Director for the Latin American and Caribbean Region has contributed to my development and reflections. I want to acknowledge as well the Brazilian participants of the 2008 CFC- Community Foundations of Canada Conference, in Montreal, who have accepted my invitation for a special meeting on community foundation in Brazil. They are: Lucia Dellagnelo, the leader of ICom/ Florianópolis; Tatiana Akabane van Eyll, the  IDIS – Instituto para o Desenvolvimento do Investimento Social representative; Cinthia Sento Sé, the coordinator of Affinity Groups of GIFE – Group of Institutes, Foundations and Enterprises representative.  Last, but not least, I want to thank Willem Rabbeljee, my husband, who supported me in the research and has become a new community foundation and community social investment partner.


“It is only when social justice is achieved for all citizens,

 that foundations can legitimately focus all their efforts on charity”

Emmet Carson



Cleveland, U.S., 1914. A banker, going beyond the limits of his sector, developed a strategy which would have deep social impact in the future, crossing barriers and frontiers all around the world. It contained the characteristics of being both strongly locally aimed at specific communities based in specific territories, as well as being fluid as a concept, serving a range of diverse historical and social circumstances.

By a mechanism of structuring a community organization with a diverse and reflective board, by building an endowment and addressing community needs, a whole movement on community foundations was generated. Legislation in The U.S. was modified to improve the mechanism and successful cases started to appear.

Community Foundations have been growing ever since in The U.S., Canada and in many regions of the world, sparking the interest of practitioners and researchers. Examples of its vitality are showing and present in regions such as Europe, Russia, South Africa and Latin America[1]

What has been so successful and has attracted so much attention for “social cooperation” in the world? Being a good vehicle for donors to invest resources within a sustainable perspective and also a vehicle that looks to address community needs: what exactly is community foundation?

For Dorothy Reynolds, a Mott Foundation consultant: “[community foundation] is a vehicle for the philanthropy of individuals, corporations and organizations that have concern for a specific geographic area. It provides leadership in the community it serves as an effective, independent arena for addressing difficult issues and/or advocating for needed programs, services or policies.”[2] 

As Eleanor Sacks, one of the community foundation global leaders, states: “The community foundation concept is flexible and adaptable, able to meet current needs and the changing needs of communities over time. It has shown the ability to adjust not only to local conditions, but to local impact of change from external sources, such as the ups and downs of economic cycles, the effects of globalization, the decline of centralized, social welfare programs, and evolving political, cultural and nonprofit environments. […] The adaptability of the concept makes it possible for communities to mold it to fit their own circumstances.”[3] 

For these characteristics and, I believe, because of the strong and true leadership of its promoters around the world, community foundations have stimulated a genuine “intellectual curiosity” in practioners and social leaders.[4]

Another community foundation global leader, Emmet Carson, referred to this “intellectual curiosity” in his speech at the Symposium on a Global Movement for Community Foundations in Berlin in 2004. Referring about the relevance of the decision taken by CF of Canada, to address community foundations by “social justice framework” Carson cites: “In short, a social justice framework necessarily involves attention to issues of what, how, and who. The principle of fair and full distribution of benefits and opportunities requires grantmakers to take into account the nature of what they are achieving through their actions.”[5] 

The approach from Community Foundation of Canada can illustrate how “social justice” has been addressed in that country and can inspire other realities around the world:  “Powerful economic, social and political forces will be working against social justice in coming years – increasing competition, new patterns of human settlement and changing roles for government. Yet Canadians have the potential to address the root causes of injustice through cross-community dialogue and collaborative action. Together, they can adopt strategies for systemic change for places, for people and for public policy. Governments will have to be part of the process and part of the solution to social injustice. But they are not well placed to lead the charge. The initiative will have to come from civil society […]. Charities and foundations are likely to be the lynch-pins of these civil society efforts to mobilize citizens to address the big issues […]”.[6]

Through the convening approach of Community Foundations of Canada, the strength of a “social justice framework” to address social and local development relevant issues is clear. Among these issues, it is possible to identify some of the main themes of private- and corporate social investment, such as equity for race, ethnicity and gender, social and intergenerational inclusion.

The main assumption of this paper is that there is a place for a strong community foundation movement in Brazil; that the already existing community foundation and community foundation-like organizations in Brazil are carrying the seeds of this strong movement [adapting the Community Foundation concept for local, regional and national realities]; and that it should be possible to broadly engage community leaders and youth leaders in a systematic and systemic way to promote this in the country. These assumptions are based on the fact that there is real interest in and engagement of important third sector leaders in Brazil with the concept of community foundation and that Brazil’s third sector movement would benefit from such a concept, building alternatives to improve social justice issues, like social inclusion, which is one of the most fundamental gaps in Brazilian culture, and to which the third sector has aimed its contributions.



Andrés Thompson, the Kellogg Foundation Program Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, asks if “the true community foundation would be a viable option in the different circumstances of Latin America and the Caribbean?” By the term: “the true community foundation” A. Thompson refers to a kind of organization that has both “a grantmaking capacity and community responsiveness.”[7]  

We can assume that the community foundation concept has convened leaders and organizations around the world because of the “democratic appeal” referring to its two main approaches, as expressed by Thompson: 1] being based on endowment, evoking sustainability approaches and being donor-oriented 2] The other being community-needs focused, evoking values of autonomy and accountability.[8]

Having analyzed initiatives, originated through partnerships and alliances in Brazil, to promote local development in specific regions that strengthen community social investments, Thompson questioned  their sustainability and effectiveness after the end of the project cycle , but affirmed their potential if the diversity of conditions is considered. As he stated: “The clear conclusion is that community foundations are not a model to be copied and replicated everywhere. Their feasibility depends on the specific environment in which they are intended to grow and develop and, to large extent, on the leadership capacity of the pioneer group[9]

However, if there is not “a model” to be replicated, there is a widely stated concept: “Whether in Barcelona or Bombay, community foundations share common features” which is the title of an interview with a Senior Advisor to the Synergos Institute and to Advisory Committee of the World Bank Community Foundation Initiative, Shannon St. John.

St. John was asked by The Mott Foundation about what it is in the community foundation concept that resonates so well with people whether they are in Rustenburg, South Africa, Togliatti, Russia or London, England. St. John answered: “I trace it back to an innate human characteristic, which is the philanthropic impulse. […] What is fascinating about the Community Foundation form is that there are a number of institutions in places as diverse as Barcelona and Bombay that have grown up with the characteristics of community foundations – such as people within a community giving to either a common pool or to individually-named funds. Also, it’s people giving to an organization that is governed by a group of people reflective of that geographic area that gives for the benefit of that community. But these organizations I am talking about have never heard the words ‘community foundation’. They never heard about this thing started in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914 until someone comes along and says, ‘Oh, you are a community foundation’. But that wasn’t how hey started. It happens whether or not people call it a community foundation.”[10] 

The democratic approach of community foundations directs the debate to a widely considered, relevant factor: the reflectiveness of the board and the values approach.

“Using what we have, to get what we need” are the convening words of Linetta Gilbert, the Senior Program Officer of Ford Foundation for the area Community and Resource Development. She was referring to the Alabama Black Belt Community Foundation serving the poor rural area of the state.

As Gilbert states:  “[…] Two years later, and with much struggle to respect and embrace the potential and actual contributions of the whole community, an excited and engaged foundation exists. Its board has African American and White leaders, young and retired workers, a university administrator, a local blues singer, civil right activists, elected officials, civic and corporate leaders. Their goals are to improve educational and economic opportunities in the 11-county area to ensure an equitable community on the long term. Everyone is encouraged to give […]. The question we, as leaders of philanthropic institutions, have the courage to ask is: ‘Do we have the courage and vision to be the glue that brings diverse people together to work towards their shared aspirations for equity, rather than a glue that keeps far too many people stuck in conditions that deny their dignity and deprive them opportunity and hope’?”[11] 




WINGS’ 2008 Global Report for Community Foundations[12] lists at least three separate organizations in Brazil that are promoting community philanthropy through community foundations and/or community foundation-like organizations. They are:

Instituto Rio, established in 1995, being the first formal investment in the theme in Brazil, started with the technical support of Synergos and a grant from Ford Foundation and Avina Foundation[13]. In 2002, with the support of the Inter-American Foundation and with the participation of a family and their company [Vera Pacheco Jordão e Geraldo Jordão, and their company, Editora Sextante], Instituto Rio raised around 1 million dollars and developed an endowment worth around US$175,000. Instituto Rio has widely integrated with its in Rio de Janeiro, “by supporting projects, intermediating actions and capacity-building for organizations in the west zone, with a view to becoming an effective bridge to social investment.[14]”  Operating close to the “pure” concept, has the challenge to raise more than $19 million to be sustainable as a community foundation using only a percentage of its endowment. The Inter-American Foundation, WINGS, Global Fund for Community Foundations and Fundazione Zegna [Italy] are mainly supporting the growth of Instituto Rio as a community foundation.

ICom – Instituto Comunitário Grande Florianópolis, in Santa Catarina, has proved to be a successful adaptation of the community foundation-concept. Established in 2005, it started operating its public activities in 2006[15] and has attracted resources from global partners [Avina Foundation, Kellogg Foundation], but also local, from companies, families and individuals. ICom integrates diverse social actors in its programs, having created a “Board of Investors.” They developed two major activities: a Community Social Investment Fund, which raises funds from local funders to support social entrepreneurship among youth [with the technical support of Ashoka]; and Projeto Fortalecer, to provide technical support to local NGO leaders. ICom also developed a methodology launched in 2001 by Community Foundations of Canada [Toronto Community Foundation] called “Vital Signs”[16]. According to the WINGS 2008 Community Foundation Global Status Report, “Endowment funds are a new concept in Brazil and many donors still resist the idea of ‘immobilizing’ resources in face of pressing social needs. ICom is working to introduce the concept of sustainability, and demonstrate the need for long term social investment through different strategies”[17]. A “Permanent Fund” has reached, by now, the amount of US$ 13,823 or 4.05% of the total income in 2007.

IDIS – Institute for the Development of Social Investment[18] which, since 1999, started to develop a Community Philanthropy Organization [CPO] with the support of Kellogg Foundation and the Inter-American Foundation. A CPO does not make grants itself but establishes social nets to “identify community priorities and acts as a broker and catalyst for bringing together community and individual resources in conjunction with government money to tackle priority needs in their communities”. Although, according to the community foundation Global Report, IDIS, through its main leader, Marcos Kisil, has identified in a research paper that “the potential for the development of community foundations has increased greatly in Brazil”, IDIS believes that a “more supportive environment for philanthropy could be brought about by studies and research which demonstrate the primary importance of individual giving for community needs. Also, lobbying in the Congress for community foundation-type organizations is a must”[19].

The 2008 WINGS Global Report recognizes that interest in community foundations has been growing for some time in Brazil. Besides the structured cases mentioned in the report and, certainly, at least two more initial experiences among others, are already starting and/or are contributing to the community foundation debate in Brazil:

Fundação Tide Setubal, a family-foundation led by Maria Alice Setubal, which develops projects in the region of São Miguel in the East Zone of São Paulo, engaging the surrounding community directly and actively. The objective is to “contribute to local development in a sustainable way, through the strengthening of institutions and the empowerment of community”[20].

Fundação Comunitária Baixada Maranhense[21], an organization generated by an integrated pool of projects coordinated by the social organization CIP Jovem Cidadão – Formação, Centro de Apoio à Educação Básica, in Northeast Brazil. Led by Regina Cabral, it is developing a plan, with  strategic support from Kellogg Foundation, to, among other objectives, support productive small projects and to strengthen their capacity to generate social development, through two kinds of funds: a permanent community fund and a fund to support projects.  The group is presently organizing a seminar to generate a debate about community foundation and the possibilities as well as juridical constraints for the legal bases for Instituto Comunitário Baixada Maranhense.

Other experiences could be mentioned, in this case agreeing with Shannon St. John, as previously mentioned, that they would not be formally recognized as a typical “community foundation” being more “community philanthropy” [“community social investment”] cases, but with a strong potential to organize and distribute strategic funds for their community. Just because they do not know the name “community foundation” does not mean that they don’t carry the seeds of good from and for their communities.

I am not suggesting, obviously, that all community based- or grassroots organizations will work as a community philanthropy organization or in accordance with the community foundation concept. Just imagine what Brazil potentially has in terms of community philanthropy or community social investments, considering their needs and capabilities to operate funds and be responsive to the community needs and opportunities, since a “social justice framework”. This potential is more or less hidden from our eyes which are often looking for structured models or which are seeing only part of the potential of community social investments. As this paper is proposing, there is a place for a strong community foundation movement in Brazil; the already existing community foundation and community foundation-like organizations in Brazil are carrying the seeds of this strong movement and it should be possible to broadly engage community leaders and youth leaders, in a systematic and systemic way, to promote this in the country.

One case is UNAS in the neighborhood of Heliópolis. UNAS is the Union of Groups, Associations and Societies of the Residents of Heliópolis and São João Clímaco, in São Paulo. Since its foundation in the 1970’s, it works to organize the residents of Heliópolis and to improve the quality of life for the population in the region. Their actions are focused on matters like the right to housing and currently they also work on education, sports, leisure, technology and professional education[22]. UNAS  are located in the second biggest slum of Latin America, lead by a group of persons from the community who raise money as well as human and political resources to broadly address community needs. They are developing their potential to work independently, as they were pretty much connected to political parties’ interests in the past. They did become more and more independent after the social partnerships with Action Aid, which improved their quality and community leadership capacity.

Also in São Mateus, East Periphery Zone, a group of 4 organizations and their 7 nucleons aimed at youth, have directed efforts to establish partnerships with each other, and alliances with local corporate and public sectors to improve their participation in the community, with an inter-generational perspective. They created the São Mateus Social Responsibility Network – Youngsters in First Place. This network was supported by Associação Caminhando Juntos – ACJ [the previous name of United Way in Brazil]. One of the strategies of the Superintendent of Projects was to invite and engage volunteers [from ACJ-UWB-associated companies] with some of the skills needed for the specific project. They constituted a specific Board for the project and were consulted to give suggestions and to participate in the decisions of the local group. Together with the Superintendent of Projects, the Board of the project and the São Mateus representatives, including youth, had the possibility to educate the Board of the Organization about a more “community driven” investment in projects.

The main action by the São Mateus Social Responsibility Network, in 2007, was the planning and production of FOCO – Annual Fair of Opportunities and Connections for Youth. Among its local partners, there are: business organizations: Rotary and CDL – Clube dos Lojistas [Shop owners’ Club]; companies: SOS, IBRAM, Gê Assessoria; government: Municipal District Office; State Secretariat of Social Assistance and Development; State Secretariat of Work; State Coordination of Youth; SENAI (National Service of Industrial Education); SEBRAE (Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service); coordinators and youngsters from the social organizations: Ação Comunitária, Ação Social, Associação Pe. Moreira, Centro Social, Obra Social, Sociedade Instruções e Socorros, Bloco Amizade, Cemais; and ACJ-United Way Brasil.

One of the manifestations of the community leadership of the group can be recognized by the words of one of the São Mateus group, Flariston Francisco da Silva:  “Every social, educational, corporate investment or public action should be concerned in generating human, social or economic development, with environmental protection, generating autonomy and eliminating dependence. We have to appreciate and learn how to work with the concept of integrated and sustainable local development, where every citizen and every community is called, encouraged, motivated and qualified to identify their main problems and potentials, and plan, initiating change processes optimizing what is at hand and consolidating partnerships.[23]

The São Mateus group will have to work, however, to establish a structured base if they wish to start a community foundation or want to become a community social investment fund aimed at local development. Some of their structure can be represented by the “critical factors” for the success of a community foundation that were identified by Kathleen McCarthy[24]:  1] entrepreneurial director(s); 2] donors to tide the institution over its early years; 3] a local giving base; 4] projects that resonate with the community; 5] an existing culture of philanthropy [or community social investment]; 6] backstopping resources [umbrella organizations]; 7] buy-in from constituents; 8] participation of associations like Rotary clubs and Chambers of Commerce to broaden its base of supporters.

Some of these “critical factors” the São Mateus Group already has, or are potentially present there, but they should indeed be considered in its complexity by the group.

I believe that UNAS and São Mateus group carry the seed of a community foundation. In previous discussions among their leaders, they also would like to learn more about how to improve their knowledge about community investments and building autonomy and sustainability for their community and youth projects.

The references to these “grassroots” experiences have the objective to exemplify both WINGS’ and Shannon St. John’s statement about the vitality of the concept around the world and, in this case, in Brazil, as maybe several practitioners and social entrepreneurs can recognize.



In June 2008, there was a meeting at ICom, Florianópolis, with a global representation of community foundations. Besides ICom’s staff and board members, there were present: the GIFE General Secretary and Chair of WINGS, Fernando Rossetti and the Coordinator of Affinity Groups of GIFE, Cinthia Sento Sé; the group connected to Fundação Comunitária Baixada Maranhense; the main leader of IDIS, Marcos Kisil; the Executive Director of Mexican Community Foundation Frontera Norte, Karen Yarza.

The central presence of Monica Patten, Director of Community Foundations of Canada was quite helpful to the community foundation debate in Brazil: besides being a convener for the agenda of community foundations and social community investments, she strongly agreed with the proposition that there was a need to work collaboratively, thus improving contexts where there is still no established culture of philanthropy aimed at community strategic investments.

Another meeting was meaningful for the purpose of this paper. In the context of my learning process at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society of the CUNY Graduate Center Senior Fellowship and as a Kellogg grantee, during the CFC 2008 Conference in Montreal in November 2008, I invited the attending group of the Brazilian representatives to meet on this topic. In this meeting, 4 persons were present: representing ICom [Lucia Dellagnelo]; IDIS [Tatiana Akabane van Eyll]; GIFE [Cinthia Sento Sé, the coordinator of the Affinity Groups]; and myself. There was a good understanding among the group about how to strengthen the concept of community foundations and community philanthropy in Brazil. Lucia Dellagnelo spoke about her efforts to leverage community foundation concepts in our country, with the support of Global Fund. She shared with the group the importance of an approach on how to better explore and create a culture of giving in Brazil, considering mainly the legal constraints and lack of support via tax incentives in this area . All persons gathered recognized the present moment as important for Brazil with reference to community social investments and how strategic it would be for an organization in the country to be the base for a systematic approach to a dialogue in the country.

In this case I would like to present a successful and possibly inspirational case given by Barbara Leopold[25] during her orientation for the CPCS Program to identify successful cases of the implementation of a systematic dialogue for the strengthening of the concept of community foundation and focusing on the following question:

How to contribute to a more systematic and systemic dialogue about community foundation in Brazil, as circumscribed in the equation: social investment and social justice? How to improve a collective and shared learning about community foundations and community social investment in Brazil?

The model case is illustrated by TUSEV [Third Sector Foundation of Turkey]. A seminar was organized by them in 2006 with the following objectives: [1] Discuss the viability of the community foundation practice and its adaptation in the Turkish context [2] Introduce the community foundation practice and its various applications across the world.

It was a one-day Seminar, with one-to-one approaches taking place before the Seminar. They invited 70 national and international participants from every sector. The following are the aspects considered at the debate: governance for transparency and accountability; standards and criteria for allocating funds to NGOs; gaining the trust from donors; tax incentives and legal structures; locality: national or local?; how community foundations can make funds more accessible to NGOs?; competition for donors?; in what ways are community foundations different from or similar to existing practices?

TUSEV Seminar Recommendations can be summarized as follows: “learning by doing” [Ellis Center]; pilot program [World Bank] in a place with good balance of wealth and a good degree of “right” partners; clarifying legitimacy and taxation [Synergos];not preventing innovations, clarification on “principles and values”, and having a similar meeting in prospect locations for community foundations [Mott]; community foundation for “community development” [UNDP Turkey]; community foundation as a mechanism one gives through and not gives to [T. Philanthropic Fund and PwC Turkey]; look at existing community level organizations [CAF Russia]; local commitment as a crucial factor [WINGS].

It is relevant to highlight the fact that one year after the seminar promoted by TUSEV, a community foundation was established and registered in Turkey[26].


BEING BROADLY INCLUSIVE AND REFLECTIVE: challenges and opportunities

As it has been explored by community foundation literature, and by this paper, one of the pillars of the community foundation concept is the autonomy of communities [since an endowment is built using a community’s own resources/management]. The obvious advantage to supporting the autonomy of the social groups which are leading and engaged in the promotion of the betterment of community, is that other sources of financial resources do not always stimulate autonomy, these, being, many times more connected to the donors point of view than to the community perspective.

However, the issue “building autonomy” by “building an endowment” will have to be adapted to cultural and legal frameworks, since in countries like Brazil there are no relevant and well-structured tax incentives, making it difficult to raise money for social purposes and for social strategic goals. It is imperative that umbrella organizations seeking to strengthen community foundations start a coordinated effort to influence the legal framework.

In addition to the challenges of building sustainability and autonomy through the constitution of endowments, the issue of “being inclusive” is a challenge as well. I would like, also, to refer to important actors who should be considered and included in the consultations and convening processes about community foundations in Brazil.

Grass-roots leaders, as previously mentioned, and youth representatives have been much more the “receivers” of investments, than partners in social change. In the case of youth, there is a tendency for private social investments in Brazil to support projects for them to start an early productive life, providing them with skills to enter the work market. However, it is even more important that policies on youth, such as those supported by the World Bank, “be directed to expanding opportunities for developing the human capital of youngsters and their capacities as decision-making agents, and also offer second chances to manage consequences of bad outcomes that occur early in life”[27].

Youth should be more seriously considered by social private investments and social community investments as a source of social change.

It is important to mention that in Brazil a few organizations already have incorporated this approach. Some Initiatives aimed at youth and social entrepreneurship, like Ashoka [GMM] and IYF – International Youth Foundation [IAM], for example, have been supporting projects to empower and include youth as social change makers. These also include initiatives of GIFE members, which have invested in youth, and their participation in the GIFE Affinity Group on youth [GAJ]. Part of this group is represented by Institutes and other GIFE associated members who have been developing relevant work in Brazil with youth as a field of social investment and social development.

GIFE/GAJ has a seat on the Second National Youth Council (CONJUVE). Its representative, Rui Mesquita Cordeiro, comes from the activist and intellectual youth movement and he is Program Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean Region at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Two examples will illustrate for Brazil, and for community foundations globally, the opportunity for youth to be seriously engaged as actors who are “part of the solution of social problems” and are included in decision-making processes.

First of all, it is important to mention the place and space youth occupied at the 2008 Community Foundations of Canada Conference[28].  Their presence was amazing, not only as artists, singers and dancers, but also as being part of the invited reflectors during this 3-day conference. But what particularly demonstrates the effectiveness of their presence at the Community Foundations of Canada Conference, were some sessions driven by youth and the presentation of a project with strong presence of youngsters in its development in Vancouver [29].

There are several references about the engagement of youth in community foundation literature. The Mott Foundation publication, The Balancing Act, highlights the issue:

A worldwide movement is developing that may help ensure the future of effective grantmaking- involvement of young people as decionmakers and, in some cases, fundraisers. The Youth in Philanthropy movement in the U.S. in the YouthBank Programs that are emerging in Northern Ireland, Russia and Bosnia, give raise to the hope that future generations will be sophisticated and effective grantmakers.

“The Mozaik Community Foundation in Sarajevo, Bosnia, has teamed with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland [CFNI] to scale up development of YouthBanks in that country. Mozaik has secured local support from five municipal governments for the local YouthBanks, and more than 50 young people are being trained as grantmakers. Prior to this project, CFNI worked with the Community Foundation Tuzla [also in Bosnia] to establish a successful YouthBank in that city.

“Not only are young people becoming involved in philanthropy, but also they are ahead of most of their elders in terms of their global interests.

“Exchanges between YouthBank in Russia and Northern Ireland have taken place, as have exchanges between the Youth Advisory Committee in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and Togliatti, Russia.

“This is but the beginning of the international movement of Youth in Philanthropy and bodes well for its future”[30].

Through his work together with members of the youth movement, Rui Mesquita Cordeiro demonstrates that “youth actually wants to take more part in the discussion spaces and political debate in Brazil, and moreover, wants to discuss public policy not only for the youth, but also policy aimed at the Brazilian society as a whole[31].

Referring to his “responsibility of having been recently (April 23, 2008) chosen to represent the group de Afinidade de Juventude (Youth Affinity Group) (GAJ) of the group de Institutos, Fundações e Empresas (Group of Institutes, Foundations and Company) (GIFE), at Conselho Nacional de Juventude (Counselor in the Second National Youth Counsel) (CONJUVE)” Rui Cordeiro lists the voted priorities which clearly show the potential connection between youth and social justice movements.

Since CONJUVE does not reflect a specific geographic area, but the whole nation, it is made up of meaningful communities that reflect, if not geography, communities of identities. The purpose of referring to this movement here is to indicate the vitality of a segment of population which represents almost 50 million persons (between the ages of 15 and 30) who should be increasingly included in decision-making processes.

“…With 634 votes, racial equality was number 1 among all the priorities at the 2008 Youth National Conference. The most important discussion-points in such meeting[s] were related to strengthening of racial justice policies for new black youth generations. [..] The message is clear: let us all open our eyes to the theme of Racial Justice!

[…] “Similarly, but not less importantly than such 22 top priorities, another cross theme that is more connected to the Legislative Power than to the Executive Power echoed unanimously in all the National Conference, and among all the different youth groups: that the National Congress should discuss and approve the Proposal for Constitutional Amendment 138/03, also known as the Youth PEC. [My comment: This project has been recently approved in its first phase].

“[…] After all, young people do not only want to voice their opinions on public policies relating just to young people, but also on those relating to society as a whole.   And the reason for this lies precisely in the fact that the current generations of young people are not merely inheriting from the previous generation the problems and a responsibility of policies for young people, or for society as a whole, since the new generation always completely takes on the role of the previous one, and not just sections of it[32].

Approaches which will build bridges among the sectors, generations and diverse social groups could really bring some answers the country [and Social Responsibility Movement] are looking for, to overcome some of its greatest challenges of being one of the most unequal countries in the world: rich in natural resources, a growing economy, but with race and gender deficits clearly reflected in the most important indices such as education, health and distribution of wealth.

ACTION-LEARNING PROCESSES: ways to make it happen; some recommendations

Finally, considering the previous analysis of the TUSEV case, following the recommendations and main tendencies already in process to implement the concept of community foundations in Brazil and integrating some of my previous experiences, I can identify four potential steps that refer to a methodology that has been successfully used to favor learning processes among persons and organizations in development contexts[33].



The methodological steps reflect, in the context of this paper, a technical approach to the three main assumptions the paper underscores: [1] there is a place for a community foundation movement in Brazil; [2] the already existing community foundations and community foundation-like organizations [or community social investments] in Brazil are carrying the seeds of this strong movement,  adapting the community foundation concept for local, regional and national realities;  and    [3] it is important, as we move forward, to broadly engage, in a systematic and systemic way, community leaders and youth leaders to promote the concept in the country.

It is evident for any social manager that there is not only one way to reach a good or expected result. The recommendation of the “action learning” methodology to structure a systematic process to implement the concept of community foundation in Brazil comes from some previous successful experiences with learning processes that I have had the opportunity to organize[34].

This methodology has permitted me to contribute to learning processes that include the perspectives and knowledge of persons, who are not only part of the leadership, but also the persons who are simply beneficiaries of or general stakeholders in the projects. Because stakeholders at all levels are heard and engaged in the decision making processes, contributions to the final solutions are equally systemic and effective.

In practical and concrete terms, the recommendations of this paper, following the 4-step action-learning methodology, are: 


[1] Action [Demand for Social Justice and community social investment]: Which significant things are already in place /concretized – such as, important community foundation initiatives that have started and have connected global, offering space to new experiences to emerge as part of solution for the demand for social justice?

The community foundation and community foundation-like experiences in Brazil already operating and the ones which are starting up should be better known by Third Sector community. Both GIFE and ICom meetings which reunited national and global organizations and leaders in 2008, and the consultation developed by Lucia Dellagnelo, ICom leader and Global Fund grantee, were important milestones and reflect a multiregional and diverse scope of experiences in Brazil. The dissemination of their proposals, involving youth groups and perspectives, by means of articles, documents and communications will be highly fruitful, making clear to the third sector community, the connection among these experiences and of all of them to the two most relevant bases in the concept of community foundation: social justice and social local development.

[2] Reflection [Social entrepreneur immersion; youth social-entrepreneurs engagement; peer learning and knowledge exchange; affinity groups]. Umbrella-organizations like GIFE which connect private social investors and is affiliated to WINGS; foundations and agencies which fund and support community foundations and community social investment initiatives like Kellogg Foundation; Synergos; Avina; Ford Foundation; Mott Foundation and World Bank through Global Fund/WINGS; organizations that catalyze others, such as IDIS; community foundation and community foundation-like organizations and, starting community foundation- and community social investments initiatives, such as the previously mentioned [Instituto Comunitário Baixada Maranhense, supported by Kellogg Foundation; and Fundação Tide Setubal]. Community foundation centers aimed at practioners knowledge, such as the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, an Affinity Group, for example, could improve mechanisms for working collaboratively to complement competencies and to improve opportunities in the field.

Some guide questions for this step: Do we know of any other experiences that are useful here? How are they building trust for potential donors? How and who should be broadly, but significantly, engaged? What do we share/ have in common, that can be implemented and complemented if we were put together? What are the means to allocate resources? Who, which organizations and/or groups are potentially connected to our experience? Which of them could better represent and reflect the movement in Brazil? In what ways are Brazil’s community foundations different/similar to existing practices in the sector? What/which contributions do other significant actors in the field bring to the enterprise of strengthening community foundation in Brazil? What legal structures could be better focused to  benefit community foundation and community social investments in Brazil in the future?

3. Learning: [Seminar]: Organizations and connected youth previously engaged in the process to strengthen community foundation and community foundation-like movement in Brazil and other organizations, practioners and social entrepreneurs from countries where community foundations and social justice and local social development have been a coherent experience, should be part of a seminar. They should, then, engage other identified relevant actors which eventually would not been involved yet, as decision makers [like youth and community- based leaders], in questions such as: what other theories/experiences can help us to deepen these learning? What kind of community foundation concept should be adapted for Brazilian social, cultural, economic and legal contexts?

Such a Seminar would much probably look for some consensus about community foundations in Brazil.

4. Planning: [Strategic Plan: “so, what does it mean in practice? ” ] Completing the action-learning cycle, a new group and sub-groups formed after the experience of social-entrepreneurs immersion; peer learning and interchange of knowledge; affinity groups and seminar, being reflective on the diversity of third sector organizations and movements aimed at social justice and social local development, would develop a strategic action plan.


A strategic action plan, developed by a reflective group of representatives of community foundation and community foundation-like initiatives in Brazil, with the contribution of global, regional and community social investments leaders, including youth representatives, will be the guide for a systemic and autonomous process to improve community foundation concept in Brazil. It will reflect the belief of an “innate human characteristic, which is the philanthropic [or community social investment] impulse”[35] , aimed at building community capacity to face the challenges and the opportunities for social inclusion, with inter-generational, inter-sector, multi-racial and social development perspectives. This is the main objective of social leaders, but it also is what companies and corporate social responsibility might look for and, what governments are about.



[1] See List of community foundations around the world, by Dorothy Reynolds, in the recent series: The Balancing Act, The Roles of a Community Foundation, Edited by Charles Stewart MOTT Foundation, Set. 2008.

[2] REYNOLDS, D., The Balancing Act, The Roles of a Community Foundation, Edited by Charles Stewart MOTT Foundation, Set. 2008 [Preface].


[3] FLEURT, S. and SACKS, E. W. In: “An International Perspective on the History, Development and Characteristics of Community Foundations” in WALKENHORST, P. [Ed.] Building Philanthropic and Social Capital: The Work of Community Foundations. Bertelsmann Foundation Publishers, Gütersloh, 2001. [pp15-17].

[4] An example of the interest of practitioners and academic researchers is the International Senior Fellows Program at CUNY, The Graduate Center, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society – CPCS, has attracted fellows from several countries, interested in improving their work as leaders through the community foundation approach.

[5] CARSON, E. D. “The Road Not Yet Traveled: A Community Foundation Movement for Social Justice”. Community Foundations: Symposium on a Global Movement. Berlin, Germany. December, 2004 [p.6] [Referring to a paper written by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research and Development for Community Foundations of Canada’s Project: Social Justice Grantmaking-Moving Beyond Traditional Charitable Roles].

[6] CFC – Community Foundations of Canada. Strategies for Social Justice: Place, People and Policy. Prepared for Community Foundations of Canada by Judith Maxwell. September, 2006

[7] THOMPSON, A.. “Community Foundations in Latin America. Can the Concept be Adapted?”. In “Focus on Sustaining Community Philanthropy: Looking for New Models“, ALLIANCE, vol.11, number 1, March 2006 [pp 41-43] []

[8] THOMPSON, A. Idem, pp- 41-43.

[9] THOMPSON, A. Idem p. 43 A CPCS Fellow, Fabiana Hernández-Abreu [researcher of the Local Development Program, Latin American Center of Human Economy, Uruguay], agrees with Thompson’s proposition. As she declares in her paper for the 2007 CPCS Emerging Leaders International Fellows, “Community Foundations: a vehicle to endorse and sustain development processes taking place in Colonia Uruguay?”:  “[…] it is possible to think that the community foundations’ concept can be utilized to endorse local development processes, and to conclude that the feasibility of a community foundation in Colonia [Uruguay] has to be discussed and imagined among Colonia’s community and local development stakeholders, by taking into account the novelties this model would bring with it.” [p. 3].

[10] See St. John interview with Mott Communications Officer Maggie Jaruze at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.  August  2008

[11]GILBERT. L. “Are we the right sort of glue?”  in “Focus on Sustaining Community Philanthropy: Looking for New Models”, ALLIANCE, vol.11, number 1, March 2006 [pp 31-32] []. Linetta Gilbert, in a debate with the 2008 CPCS Senior Fellows, stated: “It is important support institutions that are value based. Strategies can change, but not the values”.

Still according to the Boards and their roles in keeping alive the values of an organization, a community foundation in Mexico – FES, Fondo de Estrategia Social, led by Marcela de Rovsar, developed a 4 step model based on “a mix between a community foundation and a social venture programme” where the board members have a strong participation in the development processes of projects and are ‘educated’ for their board responsibilities. In: ROVSAR, M. O.   in “Focus on Sustaining Community Philanthropy: Looking for New Models”, ALLIANCE, vol.11, number 1, March 2006 [pp 31-32] [] and in her presentation for the 2008 CPCS Senior Fellows.


[12] WINGS – Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support. 2008 Community Foundation Global Status Report., September 2008. Researched and written by: Eleanor W. Sacks.


[14] WINGS – Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support, Idem, p.82.


[16] Vital Signs methodology has a high potential to raise significant data referred to community local development, to share the information with community integrating all sectors, including local government and generating a positive relation with community. ICom launched its first Vital Signs report: Sinais Vitais, Florianópolis. Check-up Anual da Cidade, Relatório 2007 and it is the first time a report like this is developed for a Brazilian city. For more information about Vital Signs see:;

[17] WINGS – Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support. 2008 Community Foundation Global Status Report., September 2008. p.90.


[19] WINGS – Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support. 2008 Community Foundation Global Status Report., September 2008 p.95.  To find out more about individual donors and philanthropic attitudes of individuals in Brazil, see: SCHLITHLER, C.; KISIL, M.; OTANI CORREIA, T. Descobrindo o Investidor Social Local. IDIS – Instituto para o Desenvolvimento do Investimento Social, SP, 2008.

[20] Fundação Tide Setúbal. Relatório de Atividades 2007 – Participação Comunitária e Qualidade de Vida. Atuação da Fundação Tide Setúbal.


[22] This presentation of UNAS is part of ACJ-United Way Brazil 2007 Annual Report and was translated by its Board Chair, Mark Vogt and his working team at PricewaterhouseCoopers. 

[23] ACJ-United Way Brazil 2007 Annual Report, coordinated by Jaqueline de Camargo, Superintendent of Projects.

[24] Kathleen McCarthy is the Director of CPCS – Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at The Graduate Center, CUNY. The mentioned “critical factors” were listed by her during a learning session with the 2008 Senior Fellows.

[25] Barbara Leopold is the coordinator of the CPCS – Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society International Fellows Programs.

[26] TUSEV. Community Foundations and Turkey: Summary of Conference and Working Group. 6-7 October 2006, Istanbul, Turkey.

[27] World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation, World Bank. 2006.

[28] CFC – Community Foundations of Canada 2008 Conference. November 7-9, Montreal, CA.

[29] For more information, see: Youth Vital Signs []. “Youth Vital Signs is a youth-driven project, that gives fresh voice to the experience and knowledge of Vancouver youth aged 15-24. In: Vancouver’s Youth Report Card, presented during a specific CFC Conference Youth Session, coordinated by Barbara McMillan, the Director of Regional Strategies for Community Foundations of Canada. According to this project it looked like clear that there is a potential to address “social justice” issues and to favor inter-sector and inter-generational partnership for “local development”.

[30] REYNOLDS, D., The Balancing Act, The Roles of a Community Foundation, Edited by Charles Stewart MOTT Foundation, Set. 2008 [Highlights].


[31] MESQUITA, R.C. Political Impressions about the 1st Participatory Youth Conference for Public Policies in Brazil” In:

[32] MESQUITA, R.C. Idem.

[33] This methodology was applied by Instituto Fonte and Nucleo Maturi in the context of workshops to promote “Interchange of Knowledge” among social organizations in the Program organized by ACJ-United Way in Brazil. It reflects the Action-Learning process, according to the CDRA – Centre for Developmental Practice []. The diagram indicated was selected from: Action Learning, a Developmental Approach to Change. Adapted from Action Learning for Development: use your experience to improve your effectiveness, by James Taylor, Dirk Marais and Allan Kaplan.

[34] I refer to the learning programs I have had the opportunity to develop at MacArthur Foundation and at ACJ – United Way in Brazil

[35] See p. 8, the referred statement of Shannon Saint-John.


27 November, 2008 Posted by | Development, Social Justice | Leave a comment