Notes from Brasil

Juanita Brown reports directly from Brasil, on process activism and the power of conversation to change the world …

Day One:
Carlos, Marcela and I all made it to Brazil safe and sound and we are ensconced in our hotel which is quite lovely and small…

We went to a lovely informal reception late this afternoon at the Willis Harman House with key people connected both with the community Café being held here as part of the World Business Academy meeting (a full day Café!) in a neighborhood that they want to use as a model for cleaning up the whole city of Sao Paulo (a city of 20 million people!), and with the World Business Academy meeting.

It was a wonderful and heartfelt opening circle with people from community groups, business, & spiritual communities.  It wasn’t an actual café but more like a lovely modified council circle with the question “Who are you and what is your connection to the World Café?” Once again, like in the Bay Area Café I was just dumbfounded by the incredible stories–including one woman who had done a Café with representatives from 90 different countries on the topic of diversity and identity … and also about a bank here ABN/Amro from the Netherlands with 30,000 Brazilian employees that is actually hoping to become a “café bank” through becoming a leader in sustainability efforts in their own bank and within the banking industry here.  I was floored!  Lots of tears and laughter..

And, if I paid close attention, I even understood much of the Portuguese….


Day Three:

Brasil is turning out to be an amazing experience already. Yesterday we went to Santos, which is an hour from Sao Paulo on the coast to meet with Edgard Gouveia. He is the Ashoka Fellow who founded the Elos Institute and received this honor for their work in local communities here in Brazil.

The Elos core team in Santos shared a video with us of the program in January where young leaders from four continents (primarily, however, from Latin America) came together for a month long program called “Warriors without Weapons”.  Their task was to learn collaborative, non-adversarial organizing approaches (including World Café) and then to work with one of the poorest communities in Santos, Paqueta, to clean up and transform a truly devastating area. Even I, who have spent a lot of time in Latin America was shocked at what it looked like and how horrible it was when they started.

A key part of the month was to help host a major World Café with residents of Paqueta and all key stakeholders in Santos to this effort – government, NGO’s, businesses etc. Carlos Mota came from Mexico to be their mentor and Café coach.  The idea was to use the World Café and the efforts of these young people as “attractors”  to evoke love and care for the neighborhood through the power of passion and possibility rather than through the power of protest and provocation.

Yesterday, the group shared with us a 10 minute video they’d made of the whole process and shared their stories of the large Paqueta Café which set the stage of the whole rest of the work there. When I saw it I just wept and wept, to see how this little “being” that was born by accident in our living room is now truly serving so many different wonderful efforts around the world.

To see the faces of the young leaders there yesterday at Elos, beaming as they shared their experiences and what they learned and are now planning next in the community in terms of the next phase Cafés and projects helped me know that there is, indeed, hope in this crazy world of ours.

And, a seed idea emerged as well from the group … there is “something” in the combination between these types of processes which foster collective intelligence and democratic voice across levels and life situations and the critical content “issues” whatever they may be – neighborhood development, indigenous rights, global warming, worker participation, AIDS, human trafficking etc.  And that we don’t have a good way of showing in a heartfelt and inspiring way the power of the combination between these processes the evoke collective intelligence and commitment to positive change (process activism as I think about it) and the critical issues themselves (issue based activism). Issue based activism is often adversarial frameworks, and process work is often seen as “soft”.

We now have such good “footage” both of World Café work and of key areas of application (like in the Dresden Cafés and here in Brasil and other settings) that creating some kind of powerful short video that helps show and communicate the both/and here – that it’s not just the World Café (a key catalyzer) or not just the “issue” or “program” (the key “content”) that’s important to support (which is where most people’s attention goes)  but the power of the combination of them that is truly the change force for large scale systemic impact in terms of lasting results.  To create “something” that helps tell THAT story would be  of service so many different groups trying to make a difference across the globe.

Anyhow, I’m sorry I’ve gone on – but this was a fascinating conversation we had yesterday based on these young people’s experience with the power of that combination in their own lives and work.

Today we are planning for another major community Café here in Sao Paulo as part of the Latin American World Business Academy meeting. They hope that the Boulevard Paulistano project will become a model for other neighborhoods here in Sao Paulo–a city of 20 million people!  And, at the end of that day, the World Café book is being launched in Portugese.

Who could have imagined all this when we were sitting in our living room with a small group of 24 people
in a dialogue around intellectual capital!


  1. Hi Juanita! Wonderful to see you here feeling the energy flowing in Brasil. Meaningful contents are becoming issues in our restaurants, homes, bars and world cafés! love,

  2. Ola Juanitaaaaaaaa!!!
    Nos adoramos receber voce aqui em Santos. Realmente fascinates as ideias e sentimentos que surgiram do nosso encontro.
    Creio, realmente que estamos despertando algo belo e poderoso!
    Um abrazo latino!

  3. Hello Juanita,
    What you’ve touched on in your story from Brazil, particularly with the youth, is very much what we are after in The Youth Dialogue Project (YDP) – the bridging of process and issues to access our intergenerational collective creativity. The youth are starving for this learning. I’d like you to see the 20 minute video we’re just completing (ready beginning of August) on the Youth Dialogue Project – featuring the launch of the project with a World Cafe. It’s just a beginning but I think its going in the direction you raise. We’re also putting together Mariah Howard’s visual recording of the YDP, which we’ll post on TWC site – we need someone to help with an edit to define its meaning.


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