In the fall of 2019, six community leaders of real-life, hands-on social impact walked through the front doors of Avenues São Paulo to join the Fellowship Program. They were the first to come onboard, the pioneers. And thanks to their contribution, the Fellowship is set on becoming a long-term and prosperous endeavor, expanding the learning experience far beyond school walls. And vice-versa, for, as the saying goes, what goes around, comes around. “It’s a symbiotic relationship between NGOs and Avenues in which we support each other in whatever way necessary, be it fundraising or social media”, is how associate division head and teacher for Small World, Julie Hutchinson, phrased it. “And because it’s not a one-way street, each party is both giving and receiving. There’s no way to anticipate what will happen; things naturally evolve”. And that pretty much sums it up.
Hutchinson is one of five volunteer teachers who mediated the 6 hour-long monthly sessions that were held throughout a 9 month stretch. The other volunteers instructors are Sylvia Guimarães (director of Community Engagement), Carol Miranda (science and design thinking primary division teacher), Colin Hill (primary division teacher), Rachel Brill (associate division head and teacher for secondary division), and Eduardo Nascimento (Community Engagement intern). Guest speakers were invited to the sessions and each fellow shared their own experiences through peer-coaching – like challenges faced and solutions found in their own communities –, while group visits were made to each of the participant organizations and associations, which also involved Avenues’ students and parents. “We want our students to take a deeper look at what’s happening around the world, and at how those outside the school are solving real-world problems. Learning by experience”, adds Miranda.
The range of subjects covered in the sessions extends over issues relevant to the third sector, like working on your institution’s presentation, setting goals, forming new alliances, and consolidating personal leadership. And evidence that the effort is bearing fruit is the mutual spontaneous aid that sprung among fellows. “A consequence of empowerment, encouragement, motivation, and networking”, according to Hutchinson, is “a growth in confidence”, something all leaders displayed. “Now, as we move into year two, some things have become clearer. We want our valuable 1st year fellows to stay with us but in a different role, as mentors, and to really focus on leaders forming leaders. It’s time to break the donation/aid cycle”, Miranda concludes. To further support and unburden the financial strain of these organizations in times of social isolation and confinement, a crowdfunding campaign organized by Avenues was set in motion. And let the new year begin.
The initiative promotes integration of several NGO leadership from the area around Avenues São Paulo through a yearlong program designed to facilitate networking and learning through shared experiences.