Group of social investors set up new community foundation in Brazil

How can foundations encourage entrepreneurism and strengthen local organizations? How can they support the development of structures that enable the community to choose its own path for the future? A possible answer is provided by organizations like Tabôa Fortalecimento Comunitário (Tabôa Community Empowerment), one of Brazil’s first community foundations.

Over several years, Instituto Arapyaú, a family foundation that works in Brazil to promote sustainability, has been working in the area of Serra Grande in southern Bahia, a region with low indices for health, education and entrepreneurism that offers few economic possibilities. It became clear from working with local organizations in areas like improving public education, environmental conservation and promotion of local culture that traditional fundraising alone could not ensure the development and autonomy of local communities.

So, in 2014 a community foundation, Tabôa Fortalecimento Comunitário[1] was created with initial funding from Arapyaú, the World Bank and the foundation created by the family of documentary filmmaker João Moreira Salles. It provides advice and investment for local associations and small enterprises, including cultural and socio-environmental activities chosen by the community itself. Tabôa is run by an administrative board of representatives of the investors and community leaders and grantmaking is in the hands of a committee of 15 leaders from Serra Grande and the surrounding area. Small loans have already been approved for local enterprises such as Barraca da Toinha, which sells acarajé, a delicacy of Bahia, and Toca da Tapioca, a popular restaurant in Serra Grande.

Besides Tabôa, there are only a handful of community foundations in Brazil: Instituto Rio, in Rio de Janeiro; Instituto Comunitário da Grande Florianópolis, in Santa Catarina; and Instituto Comunitário Baixada Maranhense, in Maranhão. Since it is a recent movement, it is too early to evaluate its impact on local entrepreneurism. However, for the communities where they operate, organizations like Tabôa provide a potential path to autonomy and a means for new investors to foster their development.

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  1. ^ Tabôa is a plant native to coastal Brazil, used locally for a variety of purposes.

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