Social Innovation connecting Switzerland to Brazil

From the 2nd to the 15th of August 2022, Swissnex in Brazil hosted the "Social Innovation Summer School" in Rio de Janeiro and welcomed 11 students from the University of Lausanne (UNIL). They met with innovative organizations and solutions that tackle social inequalities.

Before the trip, the Swiss students worked on two social projects as part of their course “Major Contemporary Social Issues”: One project aims to facilitate the youth’s access to sexual education in societies where the topic tends to be neglected by public institutions and parents. The other project deals with domestic and sexual violence against women by offering vocational courses for women to reach an independent economic foothold. 

In Brazil, the students strived to “tropicalize” these project ideas by confronting the Brazilian reality, which is drastically different from Switzerland and continuously adjusting aspects of their projects to the local context. Swissnex organized a field immersion program enabling the students to reach their goals and develop their projects. For two weeks, the students experienced the routine of leading social innovation organizations in Rio de Janeiro from three sectors, such as Viva Rio (non-profit), Fundação Roberto Marinho (private), and the Secretaria Municipal de Políticas e Promoção of Rio de Janeiro’s City Hall (public).

The visit to “Casa da Mulher Carioca Tia Doca” – an establishment founded by the secretary of women that provides a safe space and vocational training for vulnerable women escaping a violent environment – has unanimously been chosen as the student’s most meaningful and insightful excursion. 

To complement the program, we visited the international social enterprise “42 Rio”. We had online workshops on ensuring sustainability in a social project and creating value through a business model in Brazil by the NGO “Mauern fürs Leben” and the social innovation startup and Innosuisse camper “Herby”. Last but not least, Swissnex organized sessions on the key differences between Brazilian and Swiss culture, which we mitigate in our daily work routine. The students had a pitch training workshop held by social communication coach Fabrício Martino who prepared them for their showtime.

The program’s highlight was the “NexGen Social Innovators Night” held at the event space of Swissnex in Brazil, where we were honored by the presence of the Swiss ambassador to Brazil, Mr. Pietro Lazzeri, and where we brought together the city’s leading actors in social innovation. During the event, the audience applauded the project pitch of the two student groups and engaged actively in the Q&A sessions. The atmosphere was marked by curiosity and clearly inspired spirits.

Swissnex is extraordinarily thankful to all organizations and people who collaborated on the program of these exciting weeks, everyone who voluntarily shared their insights and marked the path of young visionaries and potential future social entrepreneurs.

The experience through the Students' blog posts

Partners

Swissnex is extraordinarily thankful to all organizations and people who collaborated on the program of these exciting weeks, everyone who voluntarily shared their insights and marked the path of young visionaries and potential future social entrepreneurs.