Fellow Since 2006
This profile was prepared when Gilberto Dimenstein was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Addressing the most serious shortcomings of formal primary and secondary education in Brazil, the Neighborhood as School (NAS) initiative supplements in-school learning with a broad array of community-based activities that nurture the creativity of children and youth, hone their skills in planning and executing group projects, and introduce them to the worlds of work and community service. Launched in 1997 as a pilot project in a socially diverse neighborhood of São Paulo, it includes more than a dozen separate undertakings that use the neighborhood’s facilities and mobilize volunteers and financial support from public, private, and citizen sector organizations working in the community. Each undertaking plays an important role in reducing race, class, and age divisions, as well as identifying and apprenticing future social entrepreneurs. They have engaged more than 700 youth in 130 separate ventures over the past 6 years, including a computer education program for senior citizens—in which youth assume the educator’s role—a year-long internship program at a local radio station, and an urban intervention program with an important wall art component.