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New Grants

Instituto para o Desenvolvimento do Investimento Social (IDIS), $266,000 for a two-year project directed at increasing social investment activities in the state of São Paulo by developing community foundations with strong corporate support. The program will include local leadership and human resource development, information systems for community-based organizations, and office equipment upgrades. (BR-801)

Federação das Industrias do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (FIRJAN), $212,000 for a three-year project toward increasing corporate social investment in the state of Rio de Janeiro. A small-grants fund will be established to mobilize resources from 10 companies for direct investment in communities, to train companies to develop social programs and to organize an international meeting for the exchange of best practices. (BR-802) 

Instituto Rio (IR), $168,200 for a three-year project to improve the quality of services provided by base groups and expand the private sector’s participation in grassroots development activities in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The award will support a small-grants fund, technical assistance training for base groups and IR staff, salaries and administrative costs, and dissemination of best corporate grantmaking practices through events and publications. The project will directly benefit 500 women, children and adolescents in the city’s western zone. (BR-803)

Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor (RITS), $227,635 to improve computer literacy and Internet access for 40 low-income NGOs and base groups in the Brazilian Northeast through a two-year program of training on computer software, technical assistance, technological support and donations of hardware. At least 160 families will directly benefit. (BR-804)

Instituto Ethos (Ethos), $295,433 for a three-year project directed at increasing private sector investments in poverty alleviation and local development. The award will support research on corporate best practices; the distribution of manuals on lessons learned; the development of an electronic forum of best practices; and regional debates and seminars on social investment and local development. More than 7,200 corporate decision-makers and local stakeholders throughout Brazil, including 570 Ethos member companies, will benefit from greater information on how to assist low-income communities. (BR-805)

Instituto Nenuca de Desenvolvimento Sustentável (INSEA), $169,991, over three years, to undertake training programs and purchase equipment that will better enable 14 cities and towns in Belo Horizonte to partner with recyclers and develop income-generating alternatives. (BR-806) 

Supplemental Grants over $10,000

Centro de Articulção de Populações Marginalizadas (CEAP), $16,695 to low-income base groups for staff transportation, required benefits and payroll taxes. Increased funding for transportation will support more frequent site visits to participating neighborhood organizations, enabling staff to provide additional technical assistance and monitoring. (BR-795-A1) 

Access to Technology for Low-Income Communities

By Judith Morrison, Senior Foundation Representative for Eastern South America

Rede de Informações para o Terceiro Setor (RITS), founded in 1997 as a virtual network of civil society organizations, is guided by three principles: to disseminate information on third sector institutions at no cost to them, to promote NGO exchange and build capacity, and to help organizations reach their goals by making technology available. This grant from the Inter-American Foundation brings RITS into a partnership with the IAF and IBM-Brasil that will provide training, computers and Internet access to 40 nongovernmental organizations of limited means in the Brazilian Northeast.

The program offers participants 70 hours of training on specific software, technological support and a donation of state-of-the-art IBM hardware. Community groups will be expected to develop and maintain their own institutional Web site according to the training they will receive on professionally accepted standards for Internet use and distribution. This Web element has been identified as one of the project’s most valuable components because of the potential for disseminating and exchanging best practices for local development. The thorough training and the availability of equipment before and after office hours will maximize use of the donated hardware by volunteer staff of the participating organizations, as well as by the low-income residents of the communities they serve.

Not surprisingly, RITS has already received more than 150 applications from diverse civil society associations, including several neighborhood and community-based groups, to whom this opportunity represents the only possibility to access the Internet. Participants for this two-year program will be selected according to rigorous criteria, including the ability to articulate a plan for how technology will directly benefit the community and base group. Preference will be given to those with no computer or with equipment inadequate for Internet access or with only a limited understanding of computer systems. Organizations not yet legally recognized will receive support toward formalizing their nonprofit status so that they become eligible to receive a donation of equipment to own permanently.

RITS teaches organizations to interact and use technology in order to become “protagonists” on the Web and otherwise. Its methodology effectively minimizes the digital divide by empowering communities to manage and maintain their own systems. Once mastered, skills can be updated or transferred to newer technologies as they become available. At the end of the program, the NGO beneficiaries are left with lasting benefits.