Marcelo Mario Caldano

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2003
Cooperativa Olga Cossettini


This profile was prepared when Marcelo Mario Caldano was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
Marcelo's plan relies on a new kind of currency to build and sustain schools, public institutions, and citizen sector organizations. Rather than paying cash to support their school, participating members contribute work hours–which are calibrated to an average wage–and work together to deliver services. In turn, classrooms get swept, electrical wiring gets installed, school lunches get prepared and served, administrative and clerical tasks are completed, curricula get written–and most importantly, children get an education. Private businesses also pay into the system through donations of equipment and services that families can then buy.

The economic crisis in Argentina has meant that cash is scarce and many institutions–like schools–lack funds to serve urgent public needs. Marcelo's idea not only provides the needed resources, but also initiates an important mindset shift: value is ascribed to the nonfinancial contributions of each member. The results are dramatic. In one community where 80 percent of the population is too poor to participate in the formal economic system, Marcelo's system has resulted in a self-sustaining school that serves one-third more students. The community is busy supporting the school and developing plans for other services as well. Having demonstrated the success of his approach, Marcelo is working to introduce the model in communities throughout the country and apply the concept to other areas of social need.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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