This page collects materials in English about the Vilson Groh Institute, which is transforming marginalized communities in Florianópolis (Brazil) with education and opportunity.
The Vilson Groh Institute is a Brazilian nonprofit that coordinates the work of a network of organizations built over 40 years of grassroots work in marginalized communities. Today they reaches over 5000 youth across their educational programs and 2000 families. Their focus is on youth education, social support, social integration, professional preparation and community development in the urban periphery. For over 40 years Vilson Groh has been living in these communities and creating a more peaceful and just future in Brazil.
Vilson Groh moved in 1978 to a marginalized community in Florianópolis, then a favela, and never left. Now 66 years old and going strong, Vilson Groh’s vision and passion have blossomed into a network coordinating almost 400 volunteers working across six nonprofits. The institute’s focus is on providing opportunity to at-risk youth, by supporting families, providing full time and part time educational programs, helping train and equip individuals for their first job, and providing scholarships for technical and university level education.
Some results showing the impact of the Vilson Groh Institute results over the last 10 years:
If you wish to make a tax deductible donation in the US to support the Vilson Groh Institute, this can be done through the Pode Crer Fund of the BrazilFoundation, a 501(c)3 that supports Brazilian organizations promoting justice, equality and opportunity. To donate, visit https://www.brazilfoundation.org/podecrerfund/
Pode Crer is a new complementary education program and methodology created to shape the future of Brazilian education and society. It aims to prepare students to be engaged leaders in society and active participants in the knowledge economy. Pode Crer implements a new educational approach and curriculum that blends technology, citizenship and communication. It is underpinned by the development of leadership skills in students, with great awareness of the challenging social context of Brazilian marginalized communities, where the program is implemented.
The Pode Crer program and methodology aims at nothing less than reinventing basic education in Brazil, and consequently the future of the country’s human development. The strategy is to begin this transformation through complementary education, where it is possible to innovate, iterate and be bold.
Pode Crer currently takes place in the city of Florianópolis, in the south of Brazil. Is divided into three educational tracks for ages 11-13, 14-17 and 18-24. The pilot program took place in 2021 with 320 young people in a hybrid format. In May 2022, its second iteration began, in a fully face-to-face format, with 300 young people, some of whom participated in 2021. Pode Crer is free and open for all.
The long-term vision of Pode Crer is to provide complementary education from birth to university age. To enable this vision and to serve as hubs for the implementation and growth of Pode Crer, five Social Innovation Centers will be created across the greater Florianópolis region in locations close to partner organizations. These centers will have state-of-the-art infrastructure to offer all the educational tracks of Pode Crer continuously. The first center is planned to open by 2023 in the community of Monte Serrat in Florianópolis, where Vilson Groh lives. It will have a maker space, computer labs, classrooms and workshops, auditorium, library, co-working spaces and large spaces for social coexistence.
Pode Crer is supported by the network that was built over 40 years of work by Vilson Groh and many other engaged individuals in marginalized and impoverished communities. The Institute and its partner organizations have a long history of success creating new educational programs serving marginalized communities and vulnerable populations in the most challenging situations in Brazil, in the midst of urban misery and violence. Because of this long experience and its institutional management capacity, the Vilson Groh Institute and its partner organizations are in a unique position to create, operationalize, and refine bold new educational initiatives for Brazil.
Current activities being developed as part of the Pode Crer program encompass: enrollment of youth aged 11-24; training courses developing hard and soft skills and focusing on technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, English as a second language, arts, communication and citizenship contents; strengthening their social, psychological and academic developments with scholarships, meals, support to their families and preparatory courses for universities and trade schools; bringing them closer to the innovation and technology ecosystem, and helping them enter universities and the job market.
While Pode Crer is currently implemented in three educational tracks for students aged 11 to 24 years old, the long term vision is to continuously guide students from one track to another, and to be expanded to offer complementary training from kindergarten to university.
The curriculum has three foundations: technology, citizenship, and communication. They were designed to prepare the student to actively participate in the knowledge economy, which demands skills that are not part of the Brazilian education system.
Beyond just technical skills, the fundamental element important is the ability to work well with people. Developing autonomy, communication and teamwork for working in a creative and dynamic environment demands emotional intelligence, awareness and self-confidence. These are elements that form the foundation of leadership, explicitly developed and improved by CEOs and executives, but typically ignored in other contexts. Creating an inclusive knowledge economy that is not insular and elitist requires developing these elements in all individuals as part of the educational system. This means creating a society of leaders.
The full development of a knowledge economy also requires a society with functioning institutions and high levels of interpersonal trust. In Brazil these elements are still fraught and often absent. The country has institutions that are an important foundation but are still young and fragile. It is necessary to change Brazil’s pervasive culture of corruption. This culture manifests itself through a generalized mindset of trying to get ahead of others, usually by skirting the rules or disregarding what is public and common. It is necessary to inculcate civic mindedness into every Brazilian, and a genuine regard for everything that is common, shared and public.
When implemented on a national scale, Pode Crer will be paving the way in Brazil for the creation of a society of leaders with an inclusive knowledge economy - something that still does not truly exist anywhere in the world. The creation of an inclusive knowledge economy is the only sustainable way of closing the great social gaps in Brazil. In an economy where everyone actually participates, it is not necessary to permanently resort to assistance programs or income redistribution.
The institute’s grand project for the next few years is to shatter social segregation by building innovation centers across five marginalized communities in the Florianópolis region - to serve as a development model for the rest of Brazil. The projects and studies for the first center are done, and the estimated construction cost is 6 million brazilian reais, about 1.1 million US dollars. The project includes a library, maker lab, co-working space, classrooms and socialization spaces. It will be built in Mont Serrat - the community where Vilson Groh lives at - and completely reinvent the community’s image.
After Monte Serrat neighborhood the next two centers will be built in the Monte Cristo neighborhood in Florianópolis and at Ponte do Imaruim in Palhoça. The first is home to CEDEP (https://cedeponline.com.br), a popular and experimental education center that has 30 years of experience with complementary education. CEDEP carries out innovative educational experiments with vulnerable youth based on the philosophy of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. The second location is home to the AJPII elementary school (https://ajp2.org.br/), where the Pode Crer track 1 pilot takes place (11 -13 years).
Pode Crer is free and open to all, aiming to serve vulnerable students from marginalized communities. Students are divided into three educational tracks for different age groups. Ages 11-13 (track 1), 14-17 (track 2) and 18-24 (track 3). Students on tracks 2 and 3 receive an allowance of R$200 (USD 40) per month during the program. This allowance is fundamental to incentivize them and their families to focus on studies rather than procuring work to supplement family income.
The 2022 implementation is supported by a team of 21 people, including educators, social workers, pedagogues and administrators. The budget for 2022 is R$1.2M (250k USD). There is currently a funding shortage of about R$200k (40k USD) for funding the last 5 months of allowances for Pode Crer students.
Today Pode Crer is implemented as two weekly meetings in the morning or in the afternoon, in classes of up to 25 students who have classes and workshops on two topics a day. In the current two-day-a-week format, a team of 4 educators working full-time could serve 400 students on each educational track. To offer the program 5 days a week to 400 students, a team of 8 educators would be required. Currently, the two biggest limitations for the Program are financial resources to hire the entire team as full-time staff (many can only be paid part time), and physical space for the program’s activities. It is possible to double the reach of the program with the current team and twice the financial resources, with an yearly operating budget of R$2.4M (about 500k USD).
Vilson Groh was born and raised in Brusque, a city founded by German immigrants in 1860 in the state of Santa Catarina. Having recently graduated in theology, he came to Florianópolis in 1978 to study Theology at the Federal University of Santa Catarina - UFSC.
In 1979, he arrived at Morro do Mocotó, where he was welcomed by Claudete, a black woman, and practitioner of Umbanda - an Afro-Brazilian religion that blends African traditions with Roman Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous beliefs. This friendship consolidated a strong perception of what life in the “periphery” really means - in the hills and favelas, without access to opportunity. In 1983, he moved to Mont Serrat hill, where he has lived since then. His live has been one of total devotion for social justice. “I am a happy person. If I died, I would not be aware of saying what I did or what I did not do. Life has always been a surrender. This surrender internally gives you inner peace, which is not the peace of cemeteries, it is the peace of struggle.”
Through Vilson Groh’s leadership and that of many others, small projects have flourished and became reference organizations in communities. As time went on other organizations joined the movement, and the Vilson Groh Institute was founded in 2011, to strengthen the actions of these organizations already under the leadership of Vilson Groh. Today these organizations are:
Throughout 2020 as the pandemic unfolded in Brazil the Vilson Groh Insitute stepped up it’s support programs to impoverished families. Because of his ceaseless activity, Vilson Groh himself caught COVID-19 in October 2020, and thankfully fully recoververed. Currently 1746 families are supported R$200 (USD 40) per month and through mulitple food banks. As the pandemic continues to seriously disrupt daily life, hundreds more families have signed up for this essential support. Currently the institute seeks funds to support up to 500 additional families for a year.
This webpage is maintained by Eduardo da Veiga Beltrame