I've mentioned this question before, and what it has changed in my way of thinking when it comes to Sonvela (Arte) and what it is I want to achieve with this organisation. This journey started towards the end of 2010, with a simple idea of helping struggling social projects.
I had my own thoughts about how a charity should work, and what the focus needed to be. But you learn as you do, and these last 10 years have been a fantastic way to learn how to better organize, structure and implement my ideas.
In 2016 I was back in Rocinha, working for my friend's tourcompany. I enjoyed these tours a lot, because it presented an opportunity to talk about many of my own views when it comes to socioeconomical issues. One day I head out to Copacabana to pick up my guests.
The group for that day was from Sweden. They were young people staying at a hostel, and I thought they might just be doing the tour to have some fun and maybe enjoy a beer or two while in the favela. It turns out they were very interested in life in the community, and had some very good questions for me.
From the start, we had good conversations, and everyone in the group was interacting. Then came what is probably the best question I've ever had during a tour in all these years, one that I've been trying to answer it ever since. As we were enjoying a view point overlooking the most expensive neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro, one of the guests asked: So how do you get the money from there to here?
My response at that moment was that the favela tours was a way of doing it. Community Tourism provided an opportunity for micro and small businesses from favelas to earn an income. If they were not in the favela with me, they would probably be spending their money around the wealthiest parts of the city.
At the end of the tour I thanked my guests for their time, and I had a special thank you for the guest with the question. I went home directly after the tour, and wrote the question down. It became part of how I evaluated the Sonvela Arte project and everything that was achieved, and maybe more importantly, what was not.
Making a change
Early on, I looked at donations as a way to move money. With every donation, money exchanged hands from people who had a bit to spare to the people who needed it most. When working with donations (without any other form of funding) you have the issue of always depending on wether or not people decide to donate to support the cause.
An organisation, especially a small one, has the constant pressure of coming up with ideas on how to bring in the next donations. This also puts the projects that depend on the donations under pressure, making it harder to get to certain results that normally would be easier to obtain.
When we were in the middle of the Sonvela Arte project, we had to pause up to 4 or 5 times because of a lack of money. And this was a project that had been in all kinds of local and national media in Cape Verde within only a few months of existence.
As I explained in Shifting from Donating to Investing, the dependence I had created with this way of working frustrated me, because it was the exact same thing that I aimed on fighting against when we started Sonvela Arte.
Although we would later be able to get to a point of partial self-sustainability, I could still see the flaws in what I had created. Sonvela Arte was about the empowerment of certain neglected communities, and needed to create income for those involved. Definitely not an easy task, but the bar has to be raised.
I feel that it's time to raise the bar again.
Ever since the question from my Swedish guest, I've been evaluating Sonvela Arte and thinking about the future. I still believe Street Art was the way to go back in 2014 when we created the project. That does not mean that it will also be a part of future plans.
For the future I want to do problem solving on a higher level. That is why the question has played a part in my thinking ever since. Without knowing it, both Sonvela and Sonvela Arte were founded and created by me to solve problems. Now that I'm very conscious of this, and it's the central focus of practically all I do, the problem solving can really begin.
I wrote this article to share my journey and this process with you. I'm currently working on a 'new' Sonvela. I will be focusing on partnering up with tech & startup entrepreneurs/companies, and also micro businesses. If you are interested in joining me on this journey, consider investing in our people along side me today: