UnSchool Sao Paulo Fellows and team

UnSchool Sao Paulo Fellows and team

We had an extra early start on Tuesday, Day 3 to prepare for an intense and long field trip day. We stocked up on an energetic breakfast, we all herded onto an (un)school bus and embarked on a trip to visit “Villa Nova Esperança,” an organised community located an hour and a half outside of São Paulo.

UnSchool Fellowship Day 3

While the bus navigated São Paulo's traffic, we received a great introduction to the community from Miguel Chaves, who works for Coas Facado, one of the community partners.

Maximizing our time for knowledge transfer, while on the bus, Leyla engaged the fellows with a quick session on Research Strategies, diving into the types of research, ethics and approaches to exploring what she calls “curiosity in action.” After getting through the key research content, the conversation ended up turning into a bus-wide debate about empathy and gender!

As we all debussed, Miguel welcomed us and introduced us to some tools, helping the fellows understand their surroundings and tap into their curiosity about the community.

Once in Villa Esperanza, we toured the Innovation Center and community gardens, which employ several people from the community. One of the community members, Ignacio, took the fellows to Villa Esperanza’s sustainable garden, where recycled materials such as PET bottles and tires are used to build garden beds and hearty plants grow through the clay soil. We were all pleasantly surprised when the secret garden door swung open and revealed such a lush and vibrant place.

Over some hot cups of coffee, the community’s leader, Lia, greeted us with a fast paced story about how the community was formed. (An awesome fellow, Valentina, took on the role of translator as Lia did not speak English and some of our fellows and teammates do not speak Portuguese.) Lia was pretty badass; when she met us she pulled up on her motorbike, and (more importantly) had just come from a meeting with the state in which she was fighting for the community’s right to stay.  She also spoke to us about how important authentic leadership, purpose, and passion are for generating real and sustainable change.

Fellows Alex, Isabel, Natalia, Victor and community leader Lia having a deep chat 

Fellows Alex, Isabel, Natalia, Victor and community leader Lia having a deep chat 

One of our mentors, Mayra Fonseca, who was also in the community with us, then introduced a narrative-based research project. Fellows were asked to split into four groups, each group sitting with a community member for an in-depth discussion, which was a beautiful opportunity to understand a new reality from both perspectives.

Whilst all of this was going on, two of our team members, Regina and Leticia, spent several hours cooking up a storm (and dancing) in the kitchen of the resident community chef, Val.  They made a giant feast of local and traditional dishes for our group and community members to share.

After lunch, we visited the community’s innovation center, run by TeinPi. This center is a place where everyone in the community, from 7 year olds to 70 year olds,  can find the tools, guidance and support to create and build solutions that will solve their everyday problems or enhance their opportunities. We got to see some crazy wooden machines in action, such as a glass bottle crusher, a modular lamp, and even a PET string maker. We also noticed trompos were pretty big there.

The amazing community garden 

The amazing community garden 

Then, we packed back into the bus and journeyed back to São Paulo, landing at the Red Bull Station. A contrast indeed, the Red Bull Station is set up in an old abandoned building, which used to function as an electric station. Awesomely, the building now fosters emerging artists (in their recording and art studio) and supports 16 social innovators.

We took a brief tour through the station and when we reached the roof we couldn't resist the opportunity to snap another group shot!

Mayra Fonseca, our Mentor from Brasis, then continued with what she started in her morning session, as she talked to us about Brazilian culture and her approach as an anthropologist. She shared different lenses to approach culture and explored how words can tell your story.

Mayra explains her project to the group

Mayra explains her project to the group

Then our dynamic alumni-turned-co-host duo, Sara and Arturo, pulled the fellows together for a dynamic debrief session. After what was a beautiful yet intense day, fellows shared their key insights and explored how the experience has changed how they might try to be social innovators, moving forward. They spoke about how “exchanging” and genuinely interacting with communities, instead of pushing ideas onto a community is a much better approach.

Since we had a free night to reflect and regain energy, many of the fellows went off for dinner in groups and the team went back to their beds for a sleep, a very long sleep.

Fellows arrive at Red Bull Station, an old electrical station downtown

Fellows arrive at Red Bull Station, an old electrical station downtown

What will we get up to tomorrow!!!???