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I'm a CatComm Champion - Join my pledge!

Im a catcomm championHere's an opportunity to help me support an incredible organization that we're working with here in Rio, one that is helping local communities throughout the world solve their own problems. I have agreed to become a CatComm Champion, pledging $500 to support Catalytic Communities’ unique work with community leaders around the world, but only if I can inspire at least 50 of my friends and colleagues to each contribute $50 or more to match my pledge (for a total of at least $3000).

The Power of Peer Networks - CatComm and PledgeBank

“Everybody knows the proverb about how it’s better to teach a man to fish than just to give him a fish, but there’s a step beyond that: it’s better that a man’s neighbor is the one teaching him to fish, his peer.  If some expert swoops in from afar you miss half the value of the interaction because of the inequality in that relationship. But if it’s his peer teaching him? Then the man is much more likely to offer something in return.  You are much more likely to create a real sustainable relationship rather than just a new dependency.” Theresa Williamson, Founder, Catalytic Communities

Can individuals change the world? It's all a matter of leverage…

At BRINQ we've been exploring the creation of peer networks for local innovators in the Base of the Pyramid, particularly for innovation in toys and all things play! And although we've already written a number of recent articles about them, we thought it was a good moment to again bring up our friends in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, who exemplify the power of peer networks. Those friends of course are the folks at Catalytic Communities (CatComm) , who we recently entered into a partnership with to help fundraise and expand their local world-changing network globally.

Why our intense interest in Catalytic Communities? Raw admiration for their work aside, we're just heeding the advice of Njeri Muhia, an economics professor at Egerton University in Njoro, Kenya who mentored us on participatory methods for development. Njeri told us, "Instead of trying to build entirely new infrastructure in poor communities, first try doing something new with existing capacity and groups." In Brazil, Catalytic Communities has already built a powerful peer network of community leaders and innovators drawn from amongst Rio de Janeiro's 750 squatter communities (favelas) and such a resource provides huge opportunities to new ventures like ours. In fact, through Patrick's involvement with the Base of the Pyramid Protocol, we found that networks like CatComm's are invaluable in seeking out new opportunities for business and development.

Finding the Hard Answers - Catalytic Communities Launches Upgraded Site

Catalytic Communities (CatComm), our community partner in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, announced the launch of its new community empowering site www.CatComm.org. CatComm is a huge inspiration for us here at BRINQ, their insights in cultivating and capturing local innovations have been critical to us in our early years and their active work with communities generating solutions has taught us that stronger relationships lead to more viable innovations. In a world of people content with "asking the hard questions", Catalytic Communities is a refreshing example of an organization actually looking for the hard answers.

Side Effects - A Day in the Community

"I'd love to hear your impressions," Theresa said to me as we boarded the bus outside of Rocinha, "about what you think of the communities here vs. where you lived in Kenya." Here was Rio de Janiero, Brazil and in Kenya was Kibera, a million-person shantytown in Nairobi, where I had just spent the previous three months living and working. Theresa and I were catching a bus to the outskirts of Rio for a visit with local community leaders and to spend a "Day in the Community", a regular event that brings together children and neighbors from six of Rio's favelas, Brazil's illegal communities. Theresa and I found a seat as the bus lurched forward and I sat there wondering about her request. What preconceptions had living in an African slum given me about a South American one?

Learning to Swim - Back in Brazil

I've been very happy with how far my Portuguese has come, especially after having been gone from Brazil for so long, yet my ability to communicate here is like being able to swim in a gentle sea, enquanto tudo tá tranquilo, tudo bom! ("While everything is calm, no problem!") But while sitting in on CatComm's open forum, a meeting for feedback from community partners and constituents, I experienced a very different world of linguistic aquatics; visualize the crashing waves at Ipanema, Brazil's most famous of beaches, where the people are beautiful but the weak stay out of the water.

Last night, a dozen of us met inside the Casa do Gestor Catalisador, CatComm's home and technology hub in Rio, located on the edge of the downtown, in a historic district by the bay and the center of the old slave trade. Around us on the Casa walls, on mounted wood or printed t-shirts, hung windows into the world of the favelas, the works of Brazilian photographer Maurício Hora, a man with an incredible capacity to capture the spirit of place on film. Maurício sat to my left, Theresa to my right, the rest were spread out in a circle around the room, community leaders and artists, passionate Brazilians all; not quite what my beach and bar Portuguese had prepared me for.

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