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Playing hard to change the world!

Joao Felipe Scarpelini's picture

Young people from across Brazil spark a movement to bring change and empower communities.

All those who criticize online social networks and the time young people spend on them, will have to reconsider their arguments now. Especially after the example given by a group of young people from Brazil last month!

The simple idea of bringing people together to make a difference was enough to fire up a group of committed young people who decided to use Internet to respond the needs of Santa Catarina, a region in the South of Brazil that was affected by heavy floods last November.

After the floods, over 70,000 people were evacuated from their houses and infrastructure in the region was heavily impacted. After months, still many families are displaced, living with relatives or in provisory shelters and the prospects of development in the region were not looking at all promising until now.

Oasis Santa Catarina is an open youth-led network that brought together over 3000 people from all over the country (and the world!) to share and contribute their dreams, their knowledge and their skills in order to change the reality of Santa Catarina.

Using the free online social network platform, the group started with the “Oasis Game,” a social technology designed by Elos Institute, that kicked off a sustainable network to support and empower healthy and resilient communities in regions that were damaged by natural, human or social disasters.

Since April, young people, business people, governments and the communities themselves have been meeting online to learn more about the situation and to discuss their needs. Also to identify what each person can contribute to the network. The platform optimizes collaboration, even if long distance, among Brazilian society. Any individual is invited to share their talent, skills and resources. The rule is simple: everybody contributes giving their best however they can!

Check out these photos from the project:

However Youth-led Development is not about talking but it is about taking concrete action. So Oasis Santa Catarina network started last month a new “Hands on” phase. For that, 250 students from across the country organized in teams, travelled to the region to join efforts with the locals to build and restore public spaces prioritized by the community. During 10 intense days, they worked in 6 municipalities, and developed 12 different action projects simultaneously. They built playgrounds, bridges and repaired roofs and structures in other public spaces. In doing so, the students more than improved the local infrastructure; they helped spark a movement for change.

The 10 days action was a powerful tool to reinstall self-esteem and entrepreneurship among the local inhabitants from the six cities were the project is taking place. The living proofs of this are the informal groups that are being self-organized by the community in Santa Catarina to keep up the work in the area. But the story is not over yet!

Now that the population is empowered, the local authorities committed and the business community engaged, the project is working to channel this energy and develop a long-term action plan.

For that, an International Seminar of Best Practices (named REUNES 2009) is being organized in November, with the aim of bringing together the best and most unique knowledge in the world today to generate local plans for low-cost housing prototypes and innovative infrastructure that can adapt to climate change.

At the seminar, university students from across Brazil and the members of the affected communities will meet with scientists, activists, engineers, architects from around the world, as well as with local authorities and local business representatives to discuss and learn about possible sustainable solutions to rebuild Santa Catarina.

The outcome of this process is the creation of a Regional Sustainable Development Action Plan. The plan will incorporate the most cutting-edge technology available in sustainable construction and urban planning with the dreams and needs of the local population.

More than that, the Oasis Santa Catarina Network wants to motivate and inspire a youth-led movement that will bring Brazilian society together to collaborate towards building a sustainable country for all. They are the perfect example of how when communities learn to dream together and to creatively collaborate towards making those dreams come true, another world is not only a possibility but becomes a reality.

The team wants to share this model widely so it can be used by populations elsewhere that are confronting climate change disasters. And for that they created a Virtual Network called Oasis Mundi, which aims to engage the global community into a collaborative network.

To learn more about the initiative, and (why not?!) to join their efforts check out

And here's a video that shows the whole process:

Oásis Santa Catarina from Rodolfo Nakakubo on Vimeo.


Submitted by Eugenia on
This is a great project ... I'm so impressed by everything that's been achieved. I think it should be replicated everywhere in similar needs. Hopefully soon enough in my country. Once again, this amazing Brazilian team is rocking the world. Paulo and all of you, congratulations!!

Submitted by Musa Ansumana Soko on
Hi Joao, Thanks for letting us know of such an innovative project. It is indeed a very laudable initiative which really needs to be emulated by others from around the world with no exception from me. The Youth Partnership for Peace and Development in Sierra Leone commits itself by taking this as a best practice in the bid to usher a fresh brand of youth building communities. This is what I call the rise of a new era from young people to develop their world. Congratulations and keep the fire burning.

Submitted by Paulo Farine on
I agree a new era to develop our world is rising... we can see in diferents areas and regions of the planet. I am very impressed with this project by the simplicity that it happened. The motivating issue was: "what is your gift to Santa Catarina?" The goal was join people from different backgrounds offering their best as a gift to solve problems in Santa Catarina and then act together to reach a common dream. We could see the power of collaboration and collective intelligence. My dream is spread this experience to the world and see people connecting with others to reach common dreams. What about collaborative solutions for deforestation? What about join people from different backgrounds to find solutions for Amazon deforestation? And for tsunamis in Asia? A lot of auto-organized actions around the world connecting people for a better world... What would happen if we get the same energy and passion that people have watching a soccer game to act together to build a better place?

Submitted by Isaac on
The Former UN Secretary General could never have been more correct to state that we, the young people are the most precious resource that this planet has! What more evidence could prove Kofi Anan right than the efforts of Oasis? Young people taking action and transforming communities - this is what we need and as long as we are empowered, the limit of our achievements and actions will only be the extend to which we could dare to dream and realize our potential. Kudos to Oasis Brazil!!

Submitted by Joseph L on
That's a great project alright - my hat off to Paulo for playing such a big role in getting it started. This is not the first time I've heard tell of students and other young people coming to the aid of damaged communites - especially in South America.

Submitted by Karekhaa Nair on
What do you think of the formation of IBSA (India, Brazil & South Africa) south to south cooperation. Is it benefiting to the development of each of their countries by a much tighter relationship?What are other countries saying about this? & how does the role of the civil society play in this matter? We want to hear your opinion! Join IPC-IG in the debate on ID4Ds website!