Marta Porto

Ashoka Fellow
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Marta Porto was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Marta understands that hearing a message is not the same as understanding it. This is why she has developed an alternative to the common approach of targeting mass audiences solely through mass media; recognizing that such strategies often fail to reach those who most need information about pressing social issues such as tuberculosis or human right’s abuses. In 2004 Marta founded XBrasil: The country’s first cause-oriented communication company operating as a social business. She has turned the idea of a communications/PR firm on its head and has shown that people’s attitudes and behaviors can change if you begin to understand the needs of many different micro-audiences in a grassroots way, then use an array of media tools to reach them via hundreds of partners and organizations. Marta doesn’t take clients; instead, she chooses causes. To prepare for a campaign, XBrasil undertakes a three-step process to acquire a deep understanding of a key social issue such as AIDS, TB or human rights through in depth conversations and research with thousands of micro-audiences from youth in Rio slums to isolated and poor farmers.

XBrasil works with a large network of producers, graphic designers, distributors, and artists, some of whom cooperate without charging XBrasil, and they develop a wide variety of media tools to reach this wide variety of audiences with different levels of understanding about the social issue. Films, spots on community radio, text information to be sent by cell phone, podcasts, complete mini packages with DVDs, talking points, frequently asked questions and answers and telephone hotlines are all prepared. These partnerships and Marta’s dissemination strategy have allowed her to create campaigns that cost 90 percent less than commercial, while still ensuring a return on investment for her organization. Marta has carried out 30 campaigns since 2004.

In a typical campaign, XBrasil develops partnerships with 35 TV stations, 1,000 community radio stations, 125 movie theater chains, 42 partner citizen organizations (COs) and 200 schools. In addition, the information is sent individually to thousands of small town mayors, clinics, schools, public health officials, and others so that they can become, in spite of having no local budgets, the reference points for high-quality information free of charge. They can get the materials to the people who will benefit the most, answer many of their questions and direct other questions and concerns to a national hotline, which also tells them where to go for testing, treatment, and how to change simple behaviors that have a major social impact.

The social impact of her approach was validated by a major study undertaken by the Global Fund in 2007, after her TB and AIDS prevention campaign.

Marta is now disseminating this approach to COs and other institutions by training their staff to help them develop their own campaigns without depending on XBrasil. She has trained 10 replicators using her toolkit and is in the process of systematizing the training modules to scale her model and reach an increasing amount of diverse audiences. Marta is also constantly creating new projects: Her newest venture is Lenses, a program aiming to give universal access to audiovisual cause-marketing content through social media. She is thus headed to spread XBrasil’s methodological paradigm shift throughout Brazil and Latin America.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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