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The alternatives that help fuel Brazil's solidarity economy

Social currencies in Brazil.  Image: BBC.
Social currencies in Brazil. (Image: BBC)

Community banks and microfinance are playing an important role in many Brazilian neighbourhoods, now with support from central government.  This article on the BBC website tells the story.

Shopkeeper Heraldo Rodrigues da Silva, 55, owns a small store in Sao Benedito, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Vitoria, the capital of the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo. On the wall behind his counter, a sign announces that besides the real - Brazil's legal tender - he accepts the "bem", an alternative currency from a local community development bank, Banco Bem. The bank was founded in 2005 by an association of seamstresses who decided to lend their profits to a group of furniture makers so that they too could start their own collective. There are some 100 similar microfinance banks in Brazil, as well as many barter initiatives that also involve social currencies. The banks' aim is to promote the principles of a "solidarity-based economy" which, in their view, is fairer and more sustainable than the dominant capitalist model. Read more »

Community Arts

Harnessing art for social change and community cohesionCommunity ArtsOur experience suggests that art can be a powerful weapon in enabling people to participate in community activities and develop their own expression.  We organize occasional community arts events as well as integrating different art forms into some of our other programmes. We welcome proposals from community arts groups for one-off events and joint projects.


About Us

WorkshopThe Freire Institute is an organization for transformative community-based learning. In our programmes your own knowledge and life experience becomes the raw material for education. We develop tools and approaches based on the work of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, whose work has inspired many social movements and educational programmes around the world.

Education in this sense is a tool for individual and community empowerment and transformation. Our approach is informal, challenging and exciting. You do not need any formal qualifications to take part, just a commitment to learning and change. Programmes and activities are open to individuals, community groups and churches and we can tailor programmes flexibly to suit your group's needs. We also hold one-off community arts events and workshops around specific issues.

Our name is inspired by the work of Paulo Freire. Our approach owes a lot to the techniques pioneered by Freire and supplemented by practice elsewhere. We also draw upon organizing principles derived from Saul Alinsky and others.

These techniques and principles have been successfully adopted by community organizations, church-based groups and issue-based networks in many countries. The Freire Institute welcomes enquiries from anywhere around the world, and we seek to co-operate with other Paulo Freire-related institutes and organizations.