Giancarlo Oliveri
BrazilFellow since 1988

Ashoka commemorates and celebrates the life and work of this deceased Ashoka Fellow.

#Management#Brazil#Mato Grosso do Sul#Leadership#Grassroots#Community organizing#Mato Grosso#Poverty

The New Idea

Giancarlo believes that only by developing citizenship in the broadest sense of the word and promoting active popular participation in the decisions that affect their own lives and communities, can the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger be broken once and for all. Giancarlo intends to promote this participation by training a number of effective leaders from within grassroots communities. He has been experimenting with several ways to identify and help such leaders emerge. He proposes a series of intensive six-month apprenticeship and training sessions which will feed into an ongoing, regional mutual-help association of grassroots leaders. He would reinforce (and help spread) this work by documenting and publishing a number of concrete case studies.

The Problem

Giancarlo is presently working in Mato Grosso do Sul (Central South Brazil), but he has established other nuclei in the interior of Sao Paulo. Although portions of Mato Gross do Sul are frontier areas, it is largely a backward area with limited local leadership resources and deep poverty. Mixed immigrant streams (from both the northeast and the south) reinforced by ethnic and racial diversity (including some local Indian peoples) make unified and effective leadership more difficult. Many social problems remain inadequately addressed.

The Strategy

Bringing with him close ties to the church (he was formerly a priest and still works with the church) and more than 15 years of experience in dealing with youth and women's groups, community organizations, and the rural and small town poor of the region, Giancarlo envisions three concrete steps to multiplying the number of effective "popular agents" and institutionalizing their efforts. (1) First, he will launch intensive 6-month training programs, which will be heavily based upon apprenticeships with the grassroots organizations in the area. Each training course will engage six "students" -- both young people ready to start careers in community leadership as well as current grassroots leaders ready to grow. He will organize working apprenticeships with area health, youth productive, co-op, and Bible groups. These apprenticeships will be supplemented by regular meetings of the "students" with Giancarlo and other community leaders. During these meetings, they will compare their immediate work and prior experiences with the group and with case studies Giancarlo develops. They will learn to be self-consciously critical of their own intervention and, furthermore, will acquire the tools that will help them to do so. Giancarlo hopes that all participants will also begin to reflect together and to collaborate with each other. (2) Giancarlo will begin documenting cases of successful community organizing by grassroots leaders. Drawing on examples from the past 20 years, he will show "how people who were on the outskirts of society are now leaders" who have made change possible. Compiling case studies will make it easier to transmit important lessons of community organizing to his students, to those working in voluntary organizations more broadly, and to the general public. Giancarlo plans later to write a book based on these case studies. (3) Giancarlo will build a mutual help and collaboration network of grassroots workers across the region. He has already started working on this initiative. The extensive traveling that this work requires has compelled Giancarlo to devote all his time to this one undertaking now. With Ashoka's help, Giancarlo will be able to leave his part-time job as special assistant and troubleshooter for the Bishop to dedicate himself full-time to develop and spread his work.