Transforming Territories Seminar brings together over 30 community leaders from Brazil

The Transforming Territories Seminar, held in September at São Paulo, aimed to foster peer learning among representatives of Community Foundations (CFs) that are participants of the Transforming Territories Program, an impact project conducted by IDIS in partnership with the C.S. Mott Foundation. With visits to supported projects, lectures, and training sessions, the seminar provided an opportunity to deepen the understanding of a fundamental theme: the transformative power of these organizations in Brazil. The meeting also included the participation of the Brazilian Philanthropy Forum.

In its second edition, the event had the participation of over 60 individuals, including leaders of CFs, philanthropists, partners, and supporters committed to the cause.

“The three days were important for connections, benchmarking, and expanding perspectives, processes, and possibilities”, summarized one of the participants.


“The Seminar was very special, especially because it was highly interactive. I believe in this collective construction for Transforming Territories for the coming years”, commented another participant anonymously in the event evaluations.


Inspiration and Example: A Visit to Cacimba Institute

It is not possible to visit São Miguel Paulista, a periferic neighborhood on the east of the city of São Paulo, and don´t notice the impact of the projects supported by Cacimba Institute. The organization has been part of Transforming Territories program since 2020, and can be considered one of the pioneer CFs at São Paulo. Cacimba was established with the support of the program and built on the solid trust that community leader Hermes de Souza had in the region. Since then, Souza has been at the helm of the Institute. Emphasizing the importance of inspiring action, the visit marked the opening of the seminar.

Throughout the day, social projects supported by Cacimba in the region were showcased. Many of them received guidance from leader Hermes de Souza and are now supported by the Institute.

Learning and Training: a constant

In the afternoon, the group took part in the “Diversity and Human Rights” workshop, offered by Clara Serva, partner in the Business and Human Rights department of the law firm TozziniFreire, and Maria Paula Bonifácio Custódio, a lawyer in the same department.

Between the moments of sharing experiences and breaks, there were cultural dance performances by projects from the NUA Institute, led by local individuals.

On the second day of the Seminar, lectures and discussions highlighted the relevance and actions of CFs in their territories, and many experiences were shared. The meeting took place at the Comunitas headquarters, which provides institutional support to Transforming Territories.

Here are the highlights from the four panels that were part of the event.


This panel featured speakers Elio Raymundo (President of the Network of Good Organizations), Thais Almeida (Executive Secretary of the Espraiada Institute), Alânia Cerqueira (Leader of the M’Boi Community Fund), and moderation by Pâmela Ribeiro (Coordinator of Special Projects at GIFE).

The panel brought new perspectives on how supporting small local initiatives can generate significant social and environmental transformations, highlighting the potential of funds dedicated to micro-projects and seed capital for community strengthening, especially in regions where resources are concentrated in large organizations.

Elio Raymundo, President of the Network of Good, which operates in the metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, emphasized how projects that receive small financial support can achieve “unexpected results” in local development. However, he stressed that this is only possible through trust in organizations and leaders who are change makers in their territorie.


This panel featured speakers Hermes de Sousa (Director of the Cacimba Institute), Ana Paolo Vieira (Council Member of FUNDAES), Flávia Mota (President of the JEQUI Community Fund), and was moderated by Lúcia Dellagnelo (Ambassador of the Transforming Territories Program).

Starting from the need to create bonds, Hermes brought the issue of trust to the discussion to strengthen partnerships and build with the community. According to him, “self-trust leads to trust in others,” and this establishes the regeneration of trust. The key to sustainable relationships, based on his experience, is “engaging and working with the community, not for the community.” To achieve this goal, it is necessary to speak the same language and adapt the language in each space, even in the construction of calls for proposals, which the Cacimba Institute has made more inclusive by allowing submissions through videos and audio in addition to written formats.


This panel featured speakers Eliane Macari (President of FEAV), Jair Resende (Superintendent at the FEAC Foundation), Célia Petit (President of the Manauara Association), and was moderated by Patrícia Loyola (Director of Social Investment and Management at Comunitas).

The partnership between foundations dedicated to neighboring cities – FEAV and FEAC for Valinhos and Campinas, respectively – also demonstrated the strength of collaboration in their areas of operation. As Jair Resende of FEAC shared, with more than 60 years of history, FEAC continues its mission to stimulate the social sector and has been supporting the development of FEAV by donating a century-old property to establish FEAV’s endowment fund. Mutual support is an example to be followed and demonstrates the power of community transformation in this territory.


This panel featured speakers Diane Pereira (President of the Baixada Maranhense Community Institute), Gisele Ribeiro (President of the Redes da Maré Association), Willian Narzetti (Executive Manager of ICOM), and was moderated by Mônica de Roure (Vice President and Director of Institutional Relations at BrazilFoundation).

Regarding potential, Diane emphasized the need to be within the territory so that community philanthropy can understand the possibilities, people, and the land of a region in different situations. She believes that “considering there is potential when the river is full because it’s good for watering the plants, and when it’s empty, it’s good for moving cattle to other regions. It is necessary to think that development is about seeing abundance, not scarcity.” The representative from the Baixada Institute also stated that a network of people is needed not only to understand abundance but also to materialize social change.

On the third and final day, participants had the opportunity to take part in the Brazilian Philanthropy Forum 2023. Learn more here.

Text produced by Alexandra Teles, Ana Beatriz Pedreira, and Leticia dos Santos, all from the IDIS team.


About Transforming Territories

The Transforming Territories Program is an initiative of IDIS – the Institute for the Development of Social Investment – in partnership with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, with a mission to promote the creation and strengthening of Community Foundations and Institutes in Brazil, with the engagement of donors and civil society, knowledge sharing, and technical support. BrazilFoundation and GIFE are institutional partners.

Community Foundations and Institutes have become an important institutional arrangement for social development and addressing the various demands of territories, whether they are neighborhoods, cities, or regions, with a long-term vision and seeking systemic impact for the development of the region. They play a central role in connecting social organizations and initiatives with donors, civil society, and the government, promoting transparency and engagement. These organizations act as grantmakers, financing projects and social initiatives in multiple causes to address the demands and priorities of the region, and they strengthen the third sector in the region through capacity building and technical support, invest in knowledge production, and promote a culture of giving in the territory where they operate.

Currently, the Transforming Territories Program consists of 17 community foundations and institutes from various regions of Brazil, located in 10 states.

Umbrellas, Lightning Rods, and Cisterns for a More Transformative Philanthropy

by Felipe Groba, Project Manager at IDIS

Still not very popular in Brazil, CFs stand out to support independent intermediation between investors and social organizations.

Imagine if there was a mechanism in Brazil that allows companies and individuals to allocate resources for emergencies and address highly complex socio-environmental issues in a specific territory, without compliance risks, and that also served as a legitimate instrument to advocate for causes and public policies without partisanship. Imagine if this mechanism could foster a culture of local giving and strengthen social organizations and local collectives.

These mechanisms exist. There are about 20 in Mexico, 201 in Canada, and over 900 in the United States — some with over 100 years of history — and they are commonly referred to as Community Foundations – CFs. CFs are independent civil society organizations that strengthen local philanthropy by raising resources from companies and individuals and strategically allocating them to generate impact in a specific territory, at the same time that supports the growth of formal and informal social organizations. They generate impact in a specific territory.

Visit of the IDIS team to ‘Tabôa’, Serra Grande, in Bahia.

Brazil currently has 14 organizations operating under this model in 10 states. Among this group, there are well-established organizations such as the FEAC Foundation of Campinas, the Baixada Maranhense Institute, and the ICOM – Community Institute of Greater Florianópolis, as well as younger organizations such as FEAV, operating in Valinhos, the Cacimba Institute in the São Miguel Paulista region (outskirts of São Paulo), the Manauara Community Association, and the recently formed ICOSE – Community Institute of Sergipe. All of them are part of the Transforming Territories Program, launched in 2021 by IDIS – Institute for the Development of Social Investment, financed by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and with institutional support from the Brazil Foundation, Comunitas and GIFE.

Visit of the IDIS team to Redes do Bem, a community organization in Rio de Janeiro

Most Brazilian CFs already have philanthropic funds established to raise and distribute resources to organizations and initiatives within their territories. In addition, they promote campaigns such as ‘Giving Day’, initiatives to engage volunteers and offer courses and training for local social leaders and organizations. Some of them also act as spokespersons for other Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the territory, advocating for the strengthening and regulation of philanthropic funds, unlocking resources, and advocating for legislative changes. The legitimacy to activate philanthropy and represent the social sector of the territory comes from the fact that CFs are not oriented towards implementing projects, but to channeling resources to local organizations that works directly with beneficiaries. Therefore, CFs become allies of local CSOs rather than competitors.

Successful experiences have brought some changes in the sector. According to the BISC – Corporate Social Investment Benchmarking research, published annually by Comunitas, 38% of the surveyed companies indicated some degree of priority to  support CFs in the 2022/2023 biennium, while 86% of Foundations and Corporate Institutes assigned medium or high priority to them. Within the industrial sector, 75% of respondents stated that they have introduced or strengthened CFs in their social investment strategy (compared to 20% in the service sector), confirming the trend of the extractive and manufacturing industry to seek local socio-environmental solutions to mitigate their negative externalities and enhance their positive ones, in line with ESG practices (environmental, social, and governance).

The potential of CFs as channels for local social investments primarily stems from establishing robust, diverse, and enduring governance, as well as a systemic approach based on the diagnosis of local potential and needs. This is achieved through listening to different voices within local civil society and engaging in constant dialogue with organizations working for the territory. These characteristics align with what companies expect to strengthen their engagement with non-profit organizations. According to BISC, 90% of companies consider “greater evidence of impact in partnerships” as a determining factor for strengthening the relationship. In comparison, 80% indicate the “need for the company to operate within a network”. These are precisely some of the main characteristics of CFs.

It is important to note that CFs are primarily important intermediaries between donors and local organizations, aiming to meet donors’ philanthropic interests while always considering the demands of the territory. An example of this is Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), which are still relatively recent in Brazil. DAFs function as “philanthropy current accounts” for individuals and companies, managed by CFs, which are responsible for investing these resources in the capital market and distributing them to social organizations according to the donors’ preferences. This ability to accumulate resources for future allocation is analogous to cisterns that store water for strategic or high-need moments.

By consolidating and managing third-party donations, CFs are responsible for due diligence, monitoring, and accountability regarding the use of these resources. This allows large companies to fund projects and smaller organizations, as well as informal movements and collectives, as CFs act as a compliance lightning rod, mitigating risks for donors by being the direct receiver of these companies’ donations. Once the due diligence for receiving the resources is completed, it is up to the CF to mentor donors on the strategic use of these resources based on their broad knowledge of the territory, its demands and potential, and its organizations and leaders.

Last but not least, this privileged and democratically  territorial perspective allows CFs to serve as spokespersons for the local social sector, advocating for rights and visibility, conducting social campaigns, or even advocating for changes in public policies without being directly exposed to authorities. CFs act as an umbrella, protecting social leaders from unnecessary exposure to political and power games.

Brazilian delegation discusses Community Philanthropy in the Americas

Still little known in Brazil, the model of community philanthropy has been increasingly consolidated internationally as an important institutional arrangement for social development and addressing the various demands of the territories. According to a survey carried out by the Community Foundation Atlas, there are more than 1,800 community institutes and foundations in the world. Together, these organizations handle more than USD 5 billion every year.

To discuss the different contexts, opportunities, and challenges of community philanthropy in the Americas, 119 guests from ten countries in South, Central, Caribbean and North America met in February in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Brazilian delegation included Felipe Groba, IDIS project manager, and six other representatives of Brazilian Community Institutes, all participants of the Transforming Territories – a program from IDIS: Instituto Baixada Maranhense; ICOM – Greater Florianópolis Community Institute; Espraiada and Tabôa Community Strengthening Institute.

The event, promoted by CCA – Connecting Communities in America, an initiative of CF Leads (Community Foundations Leading Change), featured panel discussions and visits to social projects supported by Corporativa de Fundaciones – the community foundation of Greater Guadalajara – and which work directly on the issues of migrants and refugees, street children and community development. With a careful eye on diversity and the importance of everyone being able to express themselves in their mother tongue, there was simultaneous translation into four languages – Portuguese, English, Spanish and French..

During the plenary and parallel sessions, the participants discussed the contexts in which community philanthropy with a territorial focus takes place in their countries and realities. It became clear that there are regulatory and donation culture characteristics that differentiate the USA and Canada from the rest of the Americas, and that imply different levels of power and financial sustainability. On the other hand, all participants reinforced the need to strengthen organizations and collectives led by minority groups such as blacks and indigenous peoples, with the role of Community Foundations and Institutes – the CFIs – to make visible and support these groups in mobilizing material and technical resources and immaterial. According to Robson Bitencourt, Manager of the Territorial Development Program for Serra Grande and Tabôa surroundings

“the trip to Mexico was an immersion of observation, learning and exchanging knowledge in the field of philanthropy with other foundations in the Americas. It is important to broaden perceptions about the similarities and differences between what we do and what other organizations have also done, as well as the challenges and opportunities. The impression was left that we have opportunities to increase networking and leverage our actions”

The consequences of climate change on vulnerable populations were also at the center of the agenda, reinforcing the point that although the solution to this issue is global, the negative impacts will always be local and specific to each community. In order to unite efforts and address structural issues, the role of the CFIs as articulators of causes emerged, by creating local and even national coalitions to address major issues such as the lack of job opportunities, rural poverty, the issue of refugees, security and advocacy for rights and social justice..

The theme of trust in civil society organizations (CSOs) and their role in expressing the plurality of voices in a territory permeated all discussions. Panelists and event participants reported successful cases of North American grantmaking foundations that have increasingly adopted the donation of free resources – free of charge and without restriction to projects – as a basis for its financial contributions, recognizing the excellence and expertise of social leaders in managing their organizations and allocating resources in order to generate more impact in the long term.

During their stay in Mexico, the Brazilian delegation took the opportunity to meet and exchange experiences with teams from Comunidar (the community foundation of Nuevo León), Comunalia (an organization that supports community foundations in Mexico) and Corporativa de Fundaciones, in addition to having visited in loco the community foundations of Morelos and Malinalco.

“The technical visits to community foundations reinforced the similarities between Brazil and Mexico, promoting numerous insights and possibilities between Brazilian and Mexican organizations. We found qualified and motivated teams working in networks to promote social justice and community development in their territories” commented Willian Narzetti, executive manager of ICOM.


Felipe Groba, leader of Transforming Territories, adds, recalling that the meeting contributed to the identification of development opportunities for Brazilian CFIs at different levels of maturity.

Transforming Territories Program

Transforming Territories, an initiative by IDIS – Institute for the Development of Social Investment – ​​with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to encourage the creation and strengthening of Community Institutes and Foundations in Brazil.