Civil society in Brazil is experiencing significant transition and uncertainty. In 2013, a series of public demonstrations led some observers to comment that a “giant had awoken.” Our Transformative Scenarios process engaged players from civil society organizations, social movements, governmental agencies, the private sector, and universities in imagining possible futures for organized civil society in Brazil.
Participants took part in Dialogue Interviews, workshops, and collective writing to develop four scenarios. The scenarios were named after well-known children’s games. This was meant to create a language that would be recognisable across the country, highlight archetypal dynamics, and bring lightness to an otherwise serious conversation.
These narratives laid the foundation for building national consciousness of the challenges ahead, and of civil society’s potential to shape Brazil. “The scenarios play an important role in making visible the differences, contradictions, and divergent interests,” said Andre Degenszajn of the Group of Corporate Foundations and Institutes, “and this can strengthen the capacity of civil society to articulate itself, to reflect, and to look to the future.”
Reos co-convened this project with two entities: the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic and D3 Articulation for Democracy, Dialogue, and Rights. Project partners within D3 included Avina Foundation, C&A Institute, Getúlio Vargas Foundation, Forum for the Eastern Amazon, the Network of Independent Foundations, Kellogg Foundation, the Group of Corporate Foundations and Institutes, and the Brazilian Association of NGOs. Additional funding came from the Unibanco Institute and the Telefônica Foundation.
This transformative scenarios process was convened at a time when Brazilian civil society was facing three interlinked challenges. Firstly, widespread street protests in 2013 reflected a society influenced by new technologies, new ways of organising, and people’s newfound confidence in expressing their concerns and claiming their rights. These new phenomena caught the established NGO sector by surprise and to question old truths. Secondly, over the past 10 years as Brazil has become recognized as an emerging economy, changes in funding for civil society organisations—from both international and domestic sources—have led to instability and shifts in the sector. And thirdly, the Brazilian federal government was in 2013 in a process of redefining how it relates to, funds, and contracts with civil society organisations.
The four scenarios developed by the group were disseminated through a website, social media, four specific launch events and dialogues in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, as well as through dialogue sessions at existing forums including the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre, the Pan-Amazonic Social Forum, the World Forum on Human Rights, the Congress of Brazilian foundations and corporate institutes (GIFE), the II Symposium on the Legal Framework for Civil Society in Brazil, and the global WINGS congress. In a time of uncertainty, they offered a helpful language for Brazilian civil society organizations to discuss their changing context.
The scenarios were incorporated into strategic planning processes of civil society organizations, and led to new partnerships across participating institutions. One example of such a partnership emerged between an organization working with indigenous populations in the Amazon region and a community radio network.
At a policy level, the learning from the scenarios was incorporated into the process of formulating the new legal framework governing the relationship between government and civil society and facilitated the relationships among the leaders from both sectors involved in those negotiations.
Finally, this project contributed to sparking two further transformative scenarios projects: the Scenarios on the future of Education in Brazil, and the Scenarios for the future of Democracy in Latin America.
"These scenarios demonstrate that civil society can't be ignored”
"These scenarios demonstrate that the Brazilian civil society is a historic force that can't be ignored, that is here to stay, to transform, and to participate in building a new model for development."
—, ABONG (Brazilian Association of NGOs)
“This can strengthen the capacity of civil society”
"The scenarios play an important role in making visible the differences, contradictions, and divergent interests, and this can strengthen the capacity of civil society to articulate itself, to reflect, and to look to the future."
—, GIFE (the Group of Corporate Foundations and Institutes)
“Through the construction of narratives, we can build consciousness”
"The main potential this process opens up is that through the construction of narratives, we can build consciousness, more than consensus, of the challenges that we face over the coming 10 years."
—, General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil