The MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) is launching a collaboration with Banco Palmas, the first community development bank in the history of Brazil, and a leader in discussions around the solidarity economy.
With support from the MIT-Brazil Program, part of the MIT International Science and Technoogy Initiatives (MISTI), a team of MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning graduate students will travel to Fortaleza, Brazil, this summer to support Banco Palmas in their efforts to build out their community research capacity. Using mobile technology developed by youth, Banco Palmas is aiming to leverage their social infrastructure in neighborhoods to generate and analyze data about community needs and interests, working with various levels of government to improve policy and programming to combat poverty and exclusion. CoLab will contribute substantive technical support in participatory planning and action research methods, as well as continue to seek out opportunities for mutual learning between Banco Palmas and other innovative community-based development initiatives in the Americas.
Banco Palmas economist Asier Ansorena had this to say about the partnership:
"We started collaborating with MIT about a year and half ago, when two students from the urban planning department came to do an internship at Banco Palmas over the summer of 2013. Both of them based their thesis work on Banco Palmas. Thanks to those students, we got an invitation from CoLab and MIT-Brazil to visit MIT to make a few presentations about our work. We were impressed with the decentralized fashion of the university and the amount of collaboration between students and faculty in and out of class; as well as their open-mindedness about our work, which is far from being mainstream. A couple of weeks ago we completed our second visit, where we've been able to formalize some of the conversations we initiated after the visit into specific projects.
"Needless to say, it is the same spirit of innovation that we found during the two visits, that we're hoping to bring to Brazil through our collaboration with the MIT. Not just bringing specific projects and contributions such as with the collaboration with CoLab, but also to motivate Brazilian universities to engage in similar conversations and cooperation with social organizations such as ours. It is important to show Brazilian universities the important role they have in helping to solve some of the most pressing issues of the country."