Fresh Ideas | Free Thinking #8

In this edition of Fresh Ideas Free Thinking we spoke to Brazilian social entrepreneur, Renato Orozco. Founder of Nossa Cidade, a social enterprise which improves the quality of life for the communities it works with; Orozco is also a trustee of the Minas Gerais chapter of the Awesome Foundation.

We caught up to talk books, business and basic income…

Fresh Ideas | Free Thinking #8

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What do you do?

I am an idealistic social entrepreneur from Brazil. About six years ago, I left my consulting career at a top Brazilian firm to start my transition into social entrepreneurship.

Today, I lead Nossa Cidade – Turnaround for Towns, which is a network support organisation for people creating change in small towns in Brazil; namely with the goal of improving the overall quality of life for the town’s citizens. At Nossa Cidade, I distribute social innovations to empower communities.

I am also a trustee of the Minas Gerais chapter of the Awesome Foundation – a global community of autonomous chapters, which gift no-strings-attached grants to ideas that will make the local area more ‘awesome’; I help awesome ideas to become reality. I also do some consultancy work; and I’m a random social entrepreneur when nobody is looking…

Where do you do it?

Mostly in Brazil. However, my wife is a New Yorker who lives in Queens and all my enterprises, family and friends are in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. So, travelling back and forth to balance my love life and social passion is a routine for me.

While I am in New York, I work remotely using Skype, Basecamp and Google Hangouts to interact with team members and clients. There are some positive aspects of being in New York as well; such as the amazing networking opportunities and – bizarrely – it’s cheaper to call Brazil from New York than to call Brazil from Brazil!

Who do you do it for?

The easy answer is to say that I do that for the several unbending and resilient self-appointed community organisers in small towns. Our mission, after all, is to support them.

However, after some reflecting, I came to the realisation that I actually do it for myself. I have met so many interesting and inspiring people, been to wonderful places and had so much fun and joy with what I do, that it is a no-brainer to realise that I am the one who has benefitted the most from this experience.

What has been your favourite project of the past year that you’ve been involved in?

The Oasis Game is a social innovation tool, which transforms whole communities by working together to make dreams come true. In such a project, a group of ‘players’ visit a community and engage with it through playful activities, to identify its positive assets; establish a trusting relationship, and access its collective dreams. Then, the whole community is engaged and turns their dream into a reality, all by themselves. This is all done during two days, without spending any money; but all the while, having fun!

I love running the Oasis Game in different communities, because – beside building real things like playgrounds and community centres – it also builds a sense of community empowerment, which is necessary to create positive change in the poor neighbourhoods and towns of Brazil.

What is the most innovative, ethically-minded business that you’d love to collaborate with?

I would love to be more involved in the blockchain revolution and cool innovations such as Ethereum, Bitcoin and Colu.

A blockchain is a distributed virtual database which cannot be breached, frauded or censored by anyone. With this technology, it is possible to disrupt democracy and run entirely decentralised monetary systems, civil registries and public policy decision making, to name a few.

An anarchist at heart, it excites me to think that one day we will have a world in which power is decentralised and decisions are made by individuals and communities.

What ethical business leaders inspire you?

Ouch – I can’t come up with any business leader… I guess I am growing quite cynical about these types lately…

But, here are some people that inspire me: John Croft, creator of Dragon Dreaming; Otto Scharmer, from Theory U; Muhammad Yunus, the father of microcredit; Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy; and Bill Mollison, the father of permaculture.

What are the five most interesting things that you have come across or read recently?

The book Sapiens, blew my mind. I am currently halfway through reading Homo Deus and I’m astonished at the future tech possibilities. I am also reading The Brief Summer of Anarchy, which is a book about the life and death of libertarian leader, Durruti – I’m really enjoying it.

Outside of this, the basic income topic plays hard with my imagination.

What’s the book, books or author that most shaped your thinking for the work that you do?

Muhammed Yunus was my first inspiration. His work led me to leave my consulting career, and attend the Public and Non-profit Management Program at Boston University. That was a huge move for me and it was where the basis for Nossa Cidade was forged! After that, Dragon Dreaming influenced the way I think about community development.

Finally, my fellow co-founders and members of the non-profit sector shape my mind, heart and soul daily.


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