Reinaldo Pamponet

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow since 2009
This description of Reinaldo Pamponet's work was prepared when Reinaldo Pamponet was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.


Reinaldo fosters the development of citizens as collaborators, entrepreneurs and knowledge producers. Through a methodology that creates new opportunities for cooperative learning, he is helping youth in Salvador and Sao Paulo create their own socially responsible enterprises, products and services through digital media.

The New Idea

Reinaldo fosters the development of citizens as collaborators, entrepreneurs and knowledge producers. Through a methodology that creates new opportunities for cooperative learning, he is helping youth in Salvador and Sao Paulo create their own socially responsible enterprises, products and services through digital media. Recognizing that economic empowerment is but one of the many necessary elements for full citizenship, Reinaldo created Eletrocooperativa in 2004 to promote the active participation of disenfranchised youth in sustainable, income-generating development projects. Through interactive workshops, the organization teaches students about their rights, values, roles and responsibilities as members of society. In addition to helping young people acquire basic entrepreneurial skills to develop viable business models, Electrocooperativa has also produced and sold audiovisual materials on topics related to other development issues in an effort to show participants the value of their cultural contribution to society. In order to disseminate this income generating and collective learning methodology, Reinaldo is now launching a virtual platform. The Digital Economic Emancipation Platform is structured as an open-source social business, financed through online thematic competitions sponsored by businesses. Youth throughout Brazil submit their audiovisual materials online to enter the competition, and the funds raised by Eletrocooperativa are then distributed amongst the participating young people, thus increasing their ability to live off of the production of socially conscious media. Reinaldo hopes to use this platform as a means of growing Electrocooperativa’s economic and social impact.

The Problem

Of Brazil’s nearly 35 million young people between the ages 16 and 24, more than 4.4 million are unemployed. Over the last ten years, the unemployment rate among youth has grown by 70 percent, due to the unanticipated and increasing demand of youth for formal work. Although young people are driving the demand for jobs and sustainable development, many suffer from some of the highest rates of unemployment, violence and criminality, all of which hinder the stability and development of Brazilian society.

While unemployment statistics remain bleak, young people continue to dream of a better life. According to a recent survey, 91 percent of Brazilian youth believe they will enjoy a quality of life equal or superior to that of their parents. The barriers standing in the way of their success, however, are still considerable, including limited access to public services and high-quality education.

While the advent of new technologies represents a positive opportunity for youth, it remains extremely challenging for young people in Brazil to access these technologies and find work. While web-based and audiovisual innovations have the potential to democratize the access to knowledge and its means of production, new communication technologies are only available to a small group of elites. As a result, historical inequalities continue to be perpetuated and the progress of young people in Brazil continues to be hindered.

The Strategy

Reinaldo founded Eletrocooperativa in 2004 to offer an innovative learning atmosphere to youth that better prepares them to be active members of society. The project began in Salvador: an impoverished northeastern region of Brazil. There, youth participated weekly in workshops, talks and other activities led by experts on themes related to sustainable development. The participants were then challenged to produce multimedia materials based on their experiences.

Electrocooperativa utilizes an interactive and practical learning environment to teach participants how to enter the working world and the digital era, while also instilling in them strong societal values that challenge consumerism and individualistic trends. The organization’s curriculum also stimulates young peoples’ sense of initiative and creativity, valuing intuition as well as autonomous and collaborative actions. Furthermore, youth receive a monthly stipend for their participation, allowing them to earn an income while also learning.

In 2006, Reinaldo expanded his efforts through the creation of the Production Factory to ensure Eletrocooperativa’s sustainability. The Production Factory operates as a micro-enterprise that develops multimedia products and services, and provides financial and educational resources for the youth trained by the organization, allowing young people to lead better lives and play an active role in determining their futures. Many of those trained by the organization, are developing cultural and entrepreneurial activities beyond Brazil’s borders.

Knowing that a sustainable economic model would allow him to increase Electrocooperativa’s social impact, Reinaldo opened a second Production Factory office in Sao Paulo. In 2009, he also launched the Digital Economic Emancipation Platform to make his methodology more accessible and easily disseminated throughout Brazil and beyond. This Platform showcases online thematic competitions and works, and gives young people a venue where they can disseminate their digital works online. At the end of each challenge, the investors are allowed to use those works for advertising and institutional purposes. From this project, 80 percent of the resources provided by the investing partners are given directly to the youth, and the remaining 20 percent are allocated to the maintenance of the platform, whose original development was funded by the Ministry of Culture of Brazil.

In order to disseminate the model and certify that the youth receiving resources fit the organization’s criteria, Eletrocooperativa established partnerships with networks of organizations and social initiatives such as Avina and Pontos de Cultura (a Ministry of Culture initiative operating throughout Brazil). The distribution of the funds is prioritized to vulnerable youth in the poorest regions of Brazil, allowing for an increased democratization of commercial uses of the internet.

The Person

Influenced by his parents, Reinaldo was always preoccupied with social issues and inequality especially in his home state of Bahia. From a young age, he was an innovative and entrepreneurial individual, and at the age of 23, Reinaldo moved to Sao Paulo to work at Microsoft, which was then opening its operations in Brazil. He remained with the company for seven years, where he experienced an intense but gratifying work environment. After rising through the ranks however, Reinaldo began to reconsider his career path and the type of leader he wanted to be.

After leaving Microsoft, Reinaldo redefined his personal values and questioned the function of corporate cultures. In a career shift, he created a music label with a few friends and strove to create new economic models through the digital music market. It was then that he discovered the far-reaching potential audiovisual technologies could have on development.

In 2004, Reinaldo founded Electrocooperativa to capitalize on the great opportunities afforded by new media technologies and foster his vision of a more equitable world. In addition, he strove to develop processes that would nurture new leaders and change the way Brazil develops its greatest resources: youth.