Revolution of Necessity | Empowering the People: Alessandra Orofino
EPISODE FIVE

EMPOWERING THE PEOPLE

"There was a sense that anything could happen, and that we needed to take advantage of it. "

—Alessandra Orofino

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Alessandra Orofino: Essentially what we're seeing is a crisis in the model of Democracy, in the model of economics that we're applying. I mean people are not happy because the world really is a fucked up place.

 

David Madden: Silicon Valley likes to say that it's making the world a better place, but that's mostly bullshit.

 

The problems that most famous tech companies are solving, aren't real “problems”. But in other countries - developing countries - there are entrepreneurs who are building things that are actually changing people's lives, in very practical ways.

 

That's what this podcast is about. I'm David Madden and you’re listening to the Revolution of Necessity. On this podcast, we share the stories of tech entrepreneurs in developing countries.  These are people who are innovating in places where technology could genuinely make the world a better place.

 

This podcast is supported by Omidyar Network. Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm set up by the guy who created eBay, Pierre Omidyar, and his wife Pam.

 

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Today we’re talking about civic tech: how can technology be used to make governments more responsive and to make it easier for citizens to get involved.

 

On this episode, we talk to a young Brazilian woman at the forefront of using technology to mobilize citizens to improve their lives.

 

Alessandra Orofino is the co-founder of Nossas, a Brazilian nonprofit that provides online tools and campaigning know-how to help people take action on the issues that most affect them. I've been lucky enough to know Alessandra for almost a decade. She was one of the first employees of Purpose, the New York digital strategy agency that my good friend Jeremy Heimans and I co-founded.

 

Alessandra’s gone on to do amazing things and we're going to hear about them today.

Alessandra, welcome to the Revolution of Necessity.

Alessandra Orofino: Thank you David, so good to be here.

David Madden: Alessandra, you grew up right here in Rio which is a city of both staggering wealth and staggering poverty. Can you tell me how your childhood experiences shaped your understanding of the city and its inequality?

Alessandra Orofino: I was born in 1989 and that was just a few months after we had our first direct elections for President in Brazil, after a very long dictatorship. So there was a sense of hope and renewal I think in the country as a whole, and I was born right here in Rio in a, in a neighborhood called Tijuka, which is a bit of a neighborhood in a, in a crossroads. My mom was definitely a child of the south zone, which is the, the rich area of Rio, and my dad was definitely a child of the north zone, the poorest area in the city.  

David Madden: Can you describe that neighborhood for us a little bit Alessandra? Like...

Alessandra Orofino: What it looks like?

 

David Madden: Yeah, what it was like.

 

Alessandra Orofino: It was, at its origins, a blue collar neighborhood. White blue collar workers in the 30's and the 40's would live in a neighborhood like the one that my grandmother lived in. They have nice houses with yards and trees. It looks like a legit neighborhood, but! there was, there were years of disinvestment, like the state just stopped investing in those areas, so the public infrastructure tends to be very very poor. Uhm, potholes everywhere, the sidewalks barely exist anymore because as security risks increased and people became really scared especially in the 80s and 90s in Rio, people started building fences and walls that would eat up the spaces in the sidewalk, so you can barely walk in those neighborhoods today. Garbage collection is, is, is not very good. So, those are the things that give away the facts that you are in fact in a poor neighborhood, not in the, in the wealthy areas of the city.

 

David Madden: Your dad's brother, your uncle, was actually killed in your grandmother's neighborhood right?

Alessandra Orofino: Yeah, he was killed right by the house. I, I was in the house so I remember that day quite vividly. I think I was 7 or 8. My uncle, who was maybe 20-something, early 20s at the time, huhh, had just bought a motorcycle. So he had his first job as a bank clerk at Banco Do Brazil, the Brazilian national bank, and he bought a motorcycle in installments and he was very proud of that motorcycle. And then one day he, he went to work riding his motorcycle and allegedly someone was sort of escaping some sort of conflict. When running, came to him and held him at gunpoint and asked for the motorcycle and he didn't stop. And we don't know if he just wanted to, you know, if he just didn't want to give the motorcycle away or if he just got scared and, and didn't stop, uhm, he just kept riding the motorcycle and then they shot him in the back and he fell on the sidewalk and all the neighbors saw him. My grandmother saw him when, when he was still on, on the sidewalk and it was a very, very traumatic moment.

 

David Madden: What about you Alessandra? So you were at the house, just around the corner when your, your uncle was killed. How did you process this?

 

Alessandra Orofino: Yeah, I mean at the time, I don't think I processed it much. I mean, I didn't make that much sense out of it because I was so young but I think as the years went by I started realizing just how much of your life is shaped by where you are. In a city so segregated like Rio, the place where you were born can have a definitive impact on who you are and what opportunities are available to you and even whether or not you get to live. Homicide rates in the north zone of Rio are almost twice as, as high as, as homicide rates in, in other areas. We're talking about a city where, uhm, where, where you have Switzerland and, and, and Ghana in the same city.

 

David Madden: Do you think that the fact that you were the product of this marriage of the sort of North and South of Rio, gave you a sense of perspective and understanding of the city that many others don't have?

 

Alessandra Orofino: I think, I think it did in a way. Of course my perspective is still limited because my experience is that of someone that was born, huh, with a relative high level of comfort and access and opportunity. I went to a private school, I went to college abroad. I mean, I had every, every opportunity handed to me in, in, in, in many ways.Uhm, as I grew up, it became very real to me that if my grandmother, my paternal grandmother, had raised her kids in the same neighborhood where my mother was raised, the possibility of her losing her child would be dramatically decreased. And that is not a small, that’s not a small difference, that is completely unfair that your zip code would have that much influence in your life and, I just had to come with, you know, with terms of the fact that I live in a city where that is the case, your zip code really changes who you are even if you are a 20-minute cab ride from each other.

 

David Madden: Yeah.

 

Alessandra Orofino: And that’s all it takes in Rio.

David Madden: Alessandra is lucky to go to a french private school in Rio. She’s interested in politics and, after graduating, she wins a full scholarship to go to  Science Po, the prestigious university in Paris for the french elite.

Alessandra Orofino: It was awful and it, and it was a big disappointment too because I really had this fantasy that Sciences Po would be this really amazing place were I would learn everything about politics and how governments worked and how we could change them and how we could make a difference and do better. And then, I got there and it was not like that at all. It was not a place that was concerned with changing how things were done. It was a place that was concerned with keeping them exactly the same and educating the daughters and sons of the French elite in such a way that they would maintain the status quo. And at the end of the year, I said “you know what? I don't care. I don't care that I have a scholarship. I, I don't care. I just want to go back to Brazil and I will, I will make my own path”

David Madden: Alessandra drops out of Science Po and returns to Rio. She gets a job with a small child rights NGO and there, working on a campaign to outlaw physical punishment, she gets a taste of what it’s like to effect change from the outside.

Alessandra Orofino: "Não bata, eduque" Don't beat, uhm, educate. I guess that would be translation of the campaign's name. And we won, it was a victory. The bill was approved, yeah.

 

David Madden: Tell us how that felt.

 

Alessandra Orofino: It was amazing, I mean, I never knew up until that point, I mean I kind of knew abstractly but I had never experimented with, sort of, people power. I never knew that people could influence policy in that way, you know? In, in my mind, and I think that's what drew me towards Sciences Po, if you wanted to influence policy, you needed to be a, either a bureaucrat, someone who worked for government, or you be an elected official, uhm, and that was it. There was really no other path in my mind other than just, you know, working inside of government. And that was the first experience of working with a group of NGOs. It wasn’t just the NGO that I was working for, there was a big coalition. It was mostly traditional advocacy but I had never seen advocacy being done in that, in that way before, so it was very enlightening, I really loved it and I and I saw “Well, there's something here, I mean, there is a way for you to influence policy and have a real impact in the lives of many people without necessarily having to be inside of government”.

David Madden: Around this time, Alessandra gets caught up in an important election.

 

In 2008 lots of people in Rio are excited about a veteran anti-dictatorship campaigner who is running for mayor against the established party Stalwart. But all the hopes of the campaign volunteers quickly turn to bitterness when their candidate loses by a slim margin, just one percentage point.

Alessandra Orofino: All of the, sort of the young people that had volunteered to, to work on that campaign and dedicated time and energy and dreams, felt betrayed. Their attitude was like “Ok. So we lost, so fuck it. I just hope they, you know, they do terrible things and we prove them wrong and we prove that we should have won". And, it's an understandable sentiment but it's also quite disempowering to think that, because you lost an election, there's literally nothing you can do for the next four years so all you can do is wait around for the next election, that's just very sad. So that to me was really a wake-up call and, and, and just noticing that was this vacuum. There were, there weren't that many people organizations, collectives, groups offering young people in particular things that they could do in-between electoral cycles. What can you do when you're not voting? which is most of your time. There was not much of that being done, at the time in Rio.

David Madden: Alessandra has now seen first hand the power of advocacy campaigns, as well as the energy of engaged citizens.

 

With all that brewing in the back of her mind, she heads to  Columbia University in New York, where, needing to earn some extra cash, she ends up on the doorstep of Purpose, the social movement building company that Jeremy and I co-founded.

Alessandra Orofino: So I started looking for a job. What I did was that I made a list of all the people that I liked or admired and, and the organizations that I liked or admired and I sort of stalked the founders a little bit. I literally knocked on Purpose door, uhm, Purpose's door, and, and I said "Hey, I'm Alessandra. I'm a young Brazilian woman and I, umh, go to Columbia and I'm looking for an internship and I don’t need to be paid a lot, I just need to be paid something, huh, and I wanna work and I can work really hard and this is what I do and please hire me”.

 

David Madden: The Purpose team loves Alessandra’s tenacity. She’s hired!

 

Alessandra Orofino: It was three employees, iIt was two desks and a filthy office which I tried to clean up. It was so much fun though because we were, we were figuring out what the company was going to be.

David Madden: Jeremy and I had co-founded Avaaz.org and Getup.org, two organizations that use technology to mobilize people. Purpose was created to further develop this work of using tech to build movements. 

 

Alessandra Orofino: But the idea was to create new movements, to have a place where movement entrepreneurs could come in with a great idea and that place would provide them with the resources, both methodology and technology, and, and experience that they needed to really turn that idea into something that people could rally around. The idea was to make it easy and to make it cheap to coordinate people because, you know, it used to be that coordinating large amounts of people would require a lot of money. I think there was this hope at Purpose at the time that we would apply this learnings that have been so useful, uhm, in, in other areas but the issues that had historically been underserved in terms of resources and time and money, uhm, so we could help them scale too.

David Madden: Alessandra works on campaigns like ‘All Out’ which linked LGBTQ organizations with allies all over the world to put pressure on governments, like Uganda, where being gay was a crime and a punishable offense.

 

On and off since that Rio mayor election in 2008, Alessandra has been talking with an old school friend,

Miguel Lago, about ways to engage Brazilians in important issues outside of elections.

 

Alessandra Orofino: In, at the time, Rio was very optimistic. There was a sense that anything could happen in the next four years and that there was this window of opportunity for the city that was incredible and that we needed to take advantage of it and we knew we were going to have another election the year after and then the Olympics four years later. And the vision was, we do not want to have another election like the one in 2008 where immediately after the election, people feel disempowered, and we said, that is particularly crucial in the next four years because those are going to be the four years leading up to the Olympics and the city is going to change dramatically. There's going to be a lot of investment. There's private money, there's public money, there's oil money, all of that is coming into the city and if people do not organize and if they do not advocate for the things that they want to see in the city then it's going to change in the way that doesn't really, uhm, take into account the dreams, the aspirations of the people who live here.

 

David Madden: Using their connections, Alessandra and Miguel raise some money to test their idea and, with a bit of help from the Purpose team, “My Rio” or in Portuguese “Meu Rio” is born.

 

You've done a bit of work now, you and Miguel are really ready to throw yourselves into this, but, it's really just the two of you.

Alessandra Orofino: Yeah.

David Madden: I mean, tell us how do you go about building this movement?

Alessandra Orofino: It's crazy. It takes, I, I don't know, I, I, I think I'm lucky. I was 21 (laugher). I didn’t know that… maybe I wouldn’t have believed in it. No, I mean, we had the team from Purpose, which was amazing.

David Madden: What, what do you mean by that Alessandra?

Alessandra Orofino: I mean, you know, when you're young, I'm still young, I don't consider myself old but I was very young and I think there was a naiveté that came from that. We didn't think about any of the considerations that I would have now if I wanted to move into a new space.

We talked to people that had been doing work in the city for many years and we really respected them but we didn’t feel that we needed to play by their rule book.

 

David Madden: With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics coming up, big changes are happening to Rio. To get ready for the upcoming games, developers are changing the city, and not always for the better. One of Meu Rio’s first big campaigns centres around a local elementary school that’s close to the city’s famous football stadium.

 

Alessandra Orofino: It was one of the best public schools in the state of Rio. It had a very strong teacher community, a very strong parent community, a very strong, strong student community and we heard that that school was going to be demolished to build a parking lot for the stadium.

David Madden: How did you hear about this?

Alessandra Orofino: One of the students told us. By the time we had some team and a young student, huh, sent us, huh, I think an email, and I remember the interns read it. And I remember on the interns reading that suggestion and, and they saying “Oh we should probably not, we should probably not get into that because there's so many groups that are already working on, on things related to the World Cup and it's probably going to be too complicated and there's kids involved and, you know, working with kids is always harder” I was like "Are you kidding? This is a campaign waiting to happen. They're going to demolish the school, with little kids, a good school, to build a parking lot? They're, they’re, they’re literally tearing down a school to put cars in it. It's just, it’s like, it doesn't get more symbolic than this”.

The governor was against us, the mayor was against us, and, we actually worked with the Secretary of Education who had not been consulted and we found that out and we interviewed her and we got her to essentially fight with the mayor for the school and we backed her up, and and, and we put up, and then we ended up putting a webcam in an apartment right in front of the school and we would monitor that school 24-hours a day.

 

David Madden: Parents and community members sign up as guardians of the school. Anytime a bulldozer rolls up to the building, a text is sent to an SMS chain notifying thousands of people to come and protect the school.

 

Alessandra Orofino: There was this big, huh, truck coming in and it was from the mayor's office and we didn’t know whether or not it was going to start doing any, any actual damage to the school but it was a big truck so it was kind of scary. So yeah, so we got a, an alert, I think was like 5 in the morning or, it was very early in the morning. We would call the elderly couple who had lent us their balcony, and we'd call them at 5 in the morning and say “Is this true?” And the elderly couple would just confirm “Yeah, there is a big truck. Come! quickly!” And we would send, immediately send an SMS message to thousands of people and they would show up, not all of them, obviously, but, enough that you would make a physical barrier and also make for a really good photo op, so the newspapers loved it.

David Madden: What was the end of the story Alessandra?

Alessandra Orofino: Finally, in 2013, there were big protests all over Brazil and I think all elected officials were looking for things that they knew would be co... crowd pleasers and that they could do really quickly to show that they were listening to the people. The Governor called us one day and said “Hey, I want to talk about that school again” and we said 'Hey, sanction the law that says that it has to remain in place. That particular parking lot, you're not going to concede it to the private company anymore and it's going to remain a public place and if you do all those things then we'll tell our members that you did them”. And at the time he really needed some positive attention. So, and we, by the time, had 150,000 registered members which was not insignificant, so he, he did all these things and then we told 150,000 people that he had done at least one good thing. So the school is still there and it's one of the best schools in the state still.

 

David Madden: That campaign, with its webcam and sms chain, used new tech tricks to tackle an old problem. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for the organization.

 

In addition to more common tools that allow people to create petitions or to directly email decision makers, the organization experiments with lots of different technology. For example, they recently created a Feminist Chat Bot

 

Alessandra Orofino: Her name is Beta.

David Madden: Beta…

Alessandra Orofino: Yes, and Beta monitors the bills that are being discussed in the Brazilian congress that affect women's rights and, and women's health. Once you've talked to Beta once, Beta can talk to you anytime so she can send you an alert right on your Facebook inbox. And, and that has a conversion rate that is incredible, it's much higher than e-mail. And, and they can take action directly in their inbox, in their inbox too. We created a way for them to send an e-mail to their legislator for instance, without having to leave their Facebook inbox. So they never have to leave that interface, which is particularly relevant to a younger demographic that doesn't really use e-mail anymore.

David Madden:: Right.

Alessandra Orofino: And it's also very relevant to a poor demographic because Brazil has many data packages that are Facebook and WhatsApp only so people don't... they can’t really use any any other parts of the Internet.

 

David Madden: They’ve also found other powerful ways of using existing tech platforms.

Alessandra Orofino: We're really big on WhatsApp now. We have a specific project that uses WhatsApp to essentially create collaborative reports of police violence. So, because WhatsApp is encrypted and because WhatsApp is already on everyone's phones -In Brazil it's the number one used application by far, more than Facebook, more than anything else- so people send us video of police violence and create cases, official cases with the authorities, correction agencies and the public prosecutors.

David Madden: So you're pulling together different, different sources.

Alessandra Orofino: Different sources. And we pull them together so we can create really strong cases because we noticed that one of the alleged reasons why police violence cases often don't go anywhere is because they will say to each individual person who has filed a case that they don't have enough proof. So we create combined cases and then we feed the user back with an official, a official protocol number so they can actually follow up on the case without ever having to come to a police station. They can remain anonymous but it's an official case.

David Madden: Has that been successful?

Alessandra Orofino: Yes! We had one very big victory. Last year, when the military police in Rio invaded the houses of, huh, dozens of families in Complexo do Alemão, which is a big, big slum in Rio, and they were using people's roofs as military bases. Of course people were very scared because that made their house a target and they couldn't live a normal life with a bunch of policemen sitting on their roof and that is completely illegal, you can't do that. And for months the slum dwellers were complaining about this and the police was essentially denying it all and saying it was all lies and they were never doing that. And, and then we started getting videos. So many videos of the police, uhm, forces coming in and out of people's homes and sitting on the roof and with very heavy weaponry and people arguing with them and saying “Please don't do this. This is where I raise my children” and they say “No, sorry, you just have to accept this”. We not only created a case with the public Ministério Público, which we won, and the police actually had to withdraw and take everyone out of people's homes after three months of occupation, but we also put it on the press. We made it real. They were denying it and all of a sudden it was real. So yeah, we had over 200 cases opened in the past year alone with that and quite a few victories, already.

David Madden: So Alessandra, I have to ask, you, you know, you’ve, you’ve, you've been pushing back on a lot of stuff...

Alessandra Orofino: Yeah.

David Madden: ...that’s been happening in the city, drawing attention to, to, to some of the bad things that it may be going unnoticed and generally forcing city officials to do a better job, what's been the response to this work?

Alessandra Orofino: It really depends. The people who work in the administrations that are more technical workers tend to really like us because we shift the power balance in their favor. The response from elected officials is usually not very good. They say they want to be partners but what they mean is “You have to say ‘Amen’ to whatever it is that I do”.

David Madden: Right.

Alessandra Orofino: And the minute you criticize one thing you’ve immediately seen as the opposition. When we mess with other kinds of interests, like the military police, uhm, then it can get a little bit more scary. Last year we had death threats for instance, it was very, very hard. Uhm, it was mostly aimed to Miguel and I because we are the people who are responsible for the organization, uhm, legally. But some of our team members were also targeted. But it's kind of scary. I mean we have pictures of us being shared in WhatsApp groups with thousands of policemen in them. And, and there was this one big piece of fake news that was produced against us. It was a story that ran viral inside of policemen groups, and it was entirely fake obviously, and it said that we were funding a party in a particular slum in Rio, to celebrate the death of a policeman. Obviously that's never, that's just completely ludicrous, but people really believed it and we started getting all kinds of threats.

 

David Madden: As a result of the threats, Alessandra has to move house. It was a scary time. But it also highlights how important their work is, that Alessandra and her team are doing.

David Madden: One of the criticisms that sometimes’ made of this type of campaigning is that it's, it’s, it’s lazy. You know, it's just clicktivism. It's people just clicking on links. Can you tell us a little bit, Alessandra, about the relationship between the digital tools, the online component and the offline component?

Alessandra Orofino: Well, first of all, you know, if you look at a city like Rio where inequalities are so rampant, you can't really stress enough how important it is for it to come up with ways for people to engage in politics that are not time-consuming. Being time-consuming is actually quite elitist because people who work really hard and take two buses to go back to wherever they live and are three hours away and have kids, and, and, and, you know, they don't have time. So, if you can give them something to do that they can do in five minutes that's a win for Democracy. That's not a loss. I think we should come up with more innovative interesting ways for people to have real influence through a click! And if we can do that, we’ve won, we’ve done an amazing thing.

For the people who do have more time to dedicate you also want to give them something to do, and that can be really powerful because oftentimes people with time are the ones that are feeling less valued, they may be very young, or they may be unemployed, and, all of a sudden you're crafting a new role for them. You're teaching them how to be community leaders. You're giving them very specific things that they can do to advance a common cause and really apply the time that they have in a good way. And I think as organizers our goal is to come up with interesting, relatively straightforward things that people can do and then as they do them they will teach us about what they should do next. They would come up with interesting ideas. They would think about new tactics.

David Madden: So Alessandra, when you started you were really just focused on Rio.

Alessandra Orofino: Yeah.

David Madden: Huh...now, when did you start thinking “This could be, this could be bigger than Rio, this could be really powerful in other places in Brazil”.

Alessandra Orofino: Well, I think the first insight came in 2013, because we had big protests all over Brazil and they were very urban in nature, they were primarily about public transportation which is a very urban issue, uhm, but the way they’re organized, you know, they were very focused on, on, on cities, uhm, and they spread across the country, so there was clearly an appetite for organizing and mobilizing that went far beyond Rio. You know, Rio was living through a very particular moment with the Olympics coming up and the mega-events but there was a bigger narrative that was applicable to, to Brazil as a whole and to other cities. And then in 2014, we started getting official requests from people in other cities.

David Madden: You mean other citizens, activists?

Alessandra Orofino: Citizens. Yeah, activists would just, you know, e-mail us, send us messages saying “I want to do this in my city, what do I do?' And, you know, because by that time we had already documented much of what we were doing, we had technology that was robust enough that it could scale. It just felt like a waste not to teach other people how to do this. We never said that we were going to become a big organization that had branches everywhere. That was never the model. We said “We just want to teach other leaders to do this so they can create their own organizations and they can be affiliated with us”

 

David Madden: Which is exactly what Meu Rio does.

Starting in 2014, with money from a Google social impact award and founders like Omidyar, Alessandra begins to expand to new cities.

 

In some places the organization hires staff, while in others, it train local leaders who then operate largely independently.

 

My Rio becomes “Our Cities”  - Nossas Cidades in Portuguese or just Nossas for short -.

 

While the organization gets some money from its members, philanthropic funding has actually been critical to enable Nossas to scale and to test and develop new projects .

 

Today, the Nossas network covers 12 cities across Brazil.

Alessandra Orofino: That kind of thing needs funding that is more strategic in nature and that is also at a, at a different level, at a different scale.  So if you want to move into another city, you need to invest first. If you want to, you know, if you want to experiment with an entirely different model of organizing you need to experiment first. I'll give you an example, a very recent one: we created a, a campaign initially with some of the organizations that are now part of the network that are affiliated with us, created a campaign that was essentially trying to map out therapists that wanted to provide free mental health services, and, and we would match them with women that have been victims of sexual violence and that could not afford mental health services. And we did that after a, a horrendous case of gang-rape, uhm, in Rio, which caught the national eye and started a debate about the public services available to women who are victims of violence and mental health was one of the services that were most lacking in the public sphere.

 

The idea was to do one push. We're going to map hundreds of therapists, we're going to map hundreds of victims, we're going to match them together and at least we're going to use this moment as a moment where we, we solve this issue for some women, not for all of them obviously. But we also showed that it's possible, we also showed that, that there was a demand for mental health and that people were willing to organize and help out. And we did that. And it was so successful that we said “Let's just invest in turning this into an operation on its own so we can continue to create this matching service and we can expand this offering to more and more women”. And that required an entirely different staff. I mean, I couldn't... but in order to maintain that work over time I needed people and I was only able to do that because I had philanthropic funding too.

David Madden: Has the model been as effective in other cities as it has in Rio?

Alessandra Orofino: Not in all of them. We found that it depends mostly on two things: first of all, the actual political environment in that city. I mean if the city is too small, or if the city doesn't have a legislative environment that allows for any kind of scrutiny or no existing civil society network that you can tap into, it's really hard to grow. And then the second factor is the quality of the talent, and when I say quality I don't mean that some people are better than others I just mean that we need people who are campaigners at heart, who believe in this theory of change really deeply but who who have the resilience to try again and again and fail but not give up.

We also need people that have a non-cynical, but also non-naive view of politics. People who won't be easily seduced by the first politician that comes to them and promises them the world. Like people who will stay away, you know, away from electoral politics and have the strength to say “At least for this part of my life, I'm not in the electoral game” But they may be, they need to be people who deeply believe that they can do things from outside of the political partisan system and they really are willing to dedicate years of their lives to doing that.

David Madden: These have been, these last few years have been pretty pretty dark days for politics in Brazil and, and, and frankly, globally.

Alessandra Orofino: Yes. 

David Madden: Uhm, you're a deeply optimistic person Alessandra. Where do you… where do you draw your optimism and hope from?

Alessandra Orofino:(Laughs) Well, I know that I'm not alone, so that's the first thing. I think even the fact that there are so many people saying “Oh these are really dark years, these are really hard years” is a good sign, and there's so many people that recognize that we're going through a hard time. And even though I think oftentimes it seems like the tide is turning in favor of conservatism and, and hatreds and, and fear of others, I still believe that essentially what we're seeing is a crisis in the model of Democracy, in the model of economics that we're applying. I mean people are not happy because the world really is a fucked up place. And as they recognize that this model of decision-making and of creating and sharing value isn't working for them, it is natural that they would turn primarily to the people who are presenting easy solutions and are creating scapegoats.

Part of that process of actually turning towards populist leaders, conservative leaders, hateful leaders, begins over the recognition that this system isn't working and we can turn that into energy that can be channeled for good, not just for bad. I just think that the bad guys have been doing a better job than us. They're really good at what they do, and, and, and we have to get better at what we do. We need to rediscover our popular origins and you can't do that unless you are close to the issues.

David Madden: Alessandra, thank you so much for joining us today on the Revolution of Necessity. It's been so good to catch up with you and to hear about all the awesome stuff that, that Nossas is doing.

Alessandra Orofino: Thank you David. This was my pleasure, really amazing talking to you.

David Madden: Thanks for listening to the Revolution of Necessity. If you enjoy this podcast please click subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes.

 

It would also be great if you could help us out by telling your friends and colleagues about it and rating us on StitcherApple Podcast, Soundcloud or whatever your favorite podcast platform is.

We’d also love to hear from you. We’re on FacebookTwitterMediumInstagram,  all the links are on revolutionofnecessity.com or go old school and email me: David AT revolution of necessity dot com.

 

Thanks again to Omidyar Network for supporting this podcast and organizations like Nossas. To learn more about what Omidyar network does, check them out at omidyar.com.

 

This episode was produced by Julia Alsop with production assistance from  Ellie Lightfoot and editing help from Sarah Barret. Our engineer is William Smith. Music by Coyote Mustache. Special thanks to Alcateia Audiovisual Studios in Rio.

 

We’ll have another tech story that matters very soon.
 

David Madden: Is there a song that gets everyone fired up?

Alessandra Orofino: We have a beat that we sing a lot. It's, it’s kind of like Brazilian funky music which is very popular in the peripheries and slums of Brazil.

David Madden: Okay.

Alessandra Orofino: It's something like chum cha chum chum chum cha chum cha... and we sing it a lot to sort of rally up. 

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