Ashoka: From economic inequality to community wealth: Lessons from Brazil. Tune in May 24.

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In many democracies, growing wealth inequality is increasingly showing up as a destabilizing force. What happens when we shift a sole focus on individual prosperity and broaden our lens to community wealth?

To walk us through what this shift looks like, we’ll speak with Ashoka Fellow Joaquim de Melo, founder of Banco Palmas, Brazil’s first community bank that opened its doors 25 years ago. We’ll hear about how they pioneered an alternative currency (which is now also a digital currency) to build and retain community wealth in Fortaleza, and how they have since grown into a national movement of 150 community banks, which mobilizes and redistributes 1.5 billion reais (nearly 300 million USD) yearly in local economies.


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This conversation will last 30 minutes and will be in Portuguese with simultaneous translation to English. Bring your questions!



Through the “Banco Palmas” (a People’s Bank), Joaquim is pioneering a community-based economic system by identifying and developing the assets of his community.

The New Idea

After years of working on projects to improve life in the favelas, Joaquim began innovating within the finance sector and has developed a new banking model that works both socially and financially. The key is that both the power and the support come from the community; everything is locally-based.… Read More

The Problem

According to DIEESE (Inter Trade Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies), the unemployment rate in Brazil in 2002 exceeded 20 percent, and living conditions of unskilled workers created an opening for entrepreneurship. The IBGE (Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics)… Read More

The Strategy

In this context, Joaquim has designed a system, rooted in the community bank, which allows people to produce and consume within their own community. His methodology has already been implemented in “Conjunto Palmeiras,” a community of 30,000 in Fortaleza. Despite its extreme poverty, R$1.2 million… Read More

The Person

Joaquim Melo had a very poor childhood in a housing project called Cidade Nova in the city of Belém (Pará). In 1978, he decided to join the parish seminary, because he dreamed of being a priest. However, six years later, as a follower of liberation theology, he felt very unsatisfied with seminary… Read More



Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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