Social investment – the preferred term for philanthropy in Brazil – is currently facing a challenging moment. Although fairly recent, institutional philanthropy has now been in existence for over two decades, if we consider the end of the authoritarian regime as a reference point for ‘modern philanthropy’. Many organizations are now looking back trying to identify the contribution the sector has made to the country and the impact it has generated in social, environmental and cultural areas.
There has been much discussion about the capacity of social investment to produce effective change. Brazil has a philanthropic tradition that combines assistencialist practices with business approaches to social issues, creating a very diverse and complex picture of how private actors engage with public causes.
Next year, 19-21 March, GIFE will be holding its two-yearly conference in São Paulo, Brazil, under the theme Towards a transformative social investment. The aim is to provoke discussion on the elements that contribute to the capacity of social investment, in its various forms, to produce effective change. There are different perspectives on this issue. Some believe that systemic change can be achieved only if companies change the way they operate within society. While there is a strong case for impact evaluation as a tool for tracking transformation, others believe that producing change through social investment necessarily involves risk and innovation, even if measurement proves itself difficult and ineffective.
The impact investing industry is also evolving in Brazil, introducing new and diverse strategies for applying private resources for social impact. But some longstanding and pressing issues such as strengthening democracy and participation or the promotion of human rights and social justice will not be easily addressed by the growing number of social businesses.
The conference will present both a critical moment for reflecting on new and outstanding issues affecting social investment in Brazil and an opportunity to think about GIFE’s own role in this changing context.