Innovation in the Heart of the Rain Forest

Last Summer, Rich Harwood and Lisa Flick Wilson were invited by the Odebrecht Foundation to travel to Brazil. On returning to the US, Rich wrote in his blog, that trip left him “with a feeling of immense possibility for that nation and its people.” Since that visit, Odebrecht and Harwood have continued to work together and in January formed a partnership to exchange content and highlight public innovation in the United States and Brazil.

One of the most powerful examples of Odebrecht’s work came when Rich and others visited a technical school for young people in the state of Bahia, in the north of Brazil, and the heart of the Atlantic Rain Forest. This school is just one of a number of programs supported by the Odebrecht Foundation. Students of the school talked of their pride, of feeling accomplished and competent and of wanting to give back to others. So in a region beset by poverty, this school has created the conditions for students to learn the skills necessary to make a living and build community at the same time.

During the visit to one school Rich was asked to say a few words. After speaking he closed by asking their permission to tell their story back here in the U.S. The story is a down payment on that request and pledge. As part of our partnership, the Foundation is writing stories about Brazilian public innovators for us to share with you. And in return, we are sharing tools with Odebrecht that they can translate into Portuguese and spread to people throughout Brazil.

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“When the opportunity to apply for CFAF came up, I was working on the farm and had given up on going to school. I was accepted and had no idea if it would work out, but I believed it would. I’m learning a lot and sharing what I’m learning with my community”