The Soul of Brazil – Forest, Favela and Food in Rio

Three years ago, Caroline Neutzling started a blog about the favelas in Brazil. She was studying in Rio, and couldn’t find a good source of information for what was really happening in the poor communities, so she started finding out her self: “I really needed to know what was going on, from the people living there, so I started to find out and write about it. I thought other people might be interested too”. They were.

Enquiries started coming in through the blog, and for one and a half years, Caroline, or Caca as she prefers to be called, has been running a new, better kind of favela tour.

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Social Entrepreneur Profile – Leonardo Letelier and sitawi, Rio De Janeiro

Leonardo Letelier is the founder and CEO of sitawi, the first social enterprise fund in Brazil. He was previously Ashoka’s full economic initiative director in Brazil and a senior engagement manager at McKinsey & Company

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I met Leonardo Letelier when I was working at Oxford Jam – the “unconference” for social entrepreneurship.  Leonardo was attending the Skoll World Forum (SWF) on Social Entrepreneurship happening next door at the Oxford Business School, but like many of the SWF delegates, came to Oxford Jam for the interactive, fun, and lively talks that were taking place long into the evening.  I recently wrote this blog post about the value of the connections that come from attending events like this.

My conversation with Leonardo was engaging, entertaining and also very useful – It was obvious he knew what he was talking about when it came to social enterprise and finance. He told me about sitawi, the social finance not for profit organisation he had set up in Brazil.

He started it with a mission to develop financial infrastructure for the social sector. In pioneering the concept of social finance in Brazil, sitawi created the country’s first Social Fund – multiplying the impact on some of the most vulnerable people, communities, and ecosystems. It wasn’t as easy as that makes it sound, and the story of the first year, and the first few loans really show Leonardo’s entrepreneurial flair.

Since 2009, sitawi has lent over US$1 million to 10 organisations and sitawi won IADB’s beyondBanking award for socially responsible investments in 2011 and was featured in Stanford’s Social Innovation Review magazine. ssireview.org/articles/entry/journey_into_brazils_social_sector

I encourage you to read that article, as it was written by Leonardo and gives an insight into his personal journey through the University of Sao Paulo, an MBA from Harvard Business School, consulting at Mckinsey, director at Ashoka to founding sitawi.