A social entrepreneur with cutting edge business skills
Forty thousand people can generate an enormous amount of trash, particularly when it piles up as it did in Paranaiba, Brazil. Bruno Cardozo had seen many unsettling conditions in his young life—corruption, political struggle, unemployment, sharp social contrasts, children without access to quality education, and young people without opportunities who were struggling to make their voices heard. He’d seen people lose interest and quit trying, but when the government quit trying as well, Bruno’s frustration reached a critical mass. The horror of accumulated trash wasn’t the only problem. The city council had cut funds, depriving workers of jobs, causing further conflicts, particularly at COOREPA, a recycling cooperative offered with the assistance of his university’s extension program.
After finally moving past his family’s hardships, Bruno had been able to attend the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, majoring in business and public administration. He was active in several organizations that had social causes and global issues as a common core, but he was especially focused on process management, problem solving, and conflict resolution in the operation of the COOREPA recycling program.
Bruno often says that his life didn’t start until he entered college, but the trash crisis would also serve as a major turning point in his future. His university extension team met for an intense brainstorming session that launched a dynamic new campaign named Eu Reciclo (I Recycle.) Bruno collected evidence of working conditions at the coop, participated in dialogs with government officials aimed at addressing challenges and injustices, and made presentations not only on campus but throughout the city, stressing the benefits to urban life as well as to the environment of separating recyclable waste. Though the city has yet to implement the Brazilian National Solid Waste Policy, Bruno is still in touch with a civic advisor to find ways to create “a more rightful society.” Bruno’s leadership helped reduce unemployment of waste-pickers and empowered the coop through self-management and by professionalizing its administration and production processes in an alternative economic system. His outreach campaign keeps him busy and offers innovative public education on the environment in the form of seminars, workshops, and collaborative competitions in public schools in the area. Named ReciclAçao, his program is now fully funded by the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture.
As a result of turning frustration into action, Bruno learned resilience, the ability to collaborate, and to adapt. He discovered he could “put on a good performance” even though facing difficult situations. He learned to value integrity in the sharing of information, to meet his commitments and how to empower others to promote change. “I am pretty confident,” he says, “that I have actually built my real ability to devise innovative solutions to complex challenges.”
He set about doing just that and became president of the university’s Undergraduate Administration Institute as well as a volunteer coordinator for the Social Entrepreneurship and Popular Education Institute. After participating in a leadership program with the Estudar Foundation, Bruno was selected as its ambassador, gaining access to an “extraordinary” network of entrepreneurs and development experiences, according to his advisor. Bruno has also been working as a fellow of RAPS, the greatest political network in Brazil, collaborating to create new systems and methodologies that increase democracy in government.
As another of Bruno’s advisors said, “there is no such thing as ‘enough’ for him when it comes to making change happen.” Bruno agrees. “I have seen a lack of opportunities for emerging social entrepreneurs, resulting in the death of their plans, dreams and social impact regarding the environment, education and economic development,” he says. There are two projects to which he gives “countless hours,” the first as founder and CEO of Vai dar Liga! which is essentially a steering committee for HubSocial, a regional organization aimed at attracting projects and initiatives that have social impact by offering participants a portfolio of entrepreneurial mentoring, business training, presentations, courses, workshops, support in administrative structure, networking inclusion, and development opportunities.
International cooperation became Bruno’s second consuming passion because he sees social struggles at the community, country, and global level as being interconnected. He was accepted into World Merit’s Fellowship Program, a global organization of over 70,000, supporting such global issues as peace, human rights, and gender equality. As of this writing, Bruno is a World Merit Country Council President. Through World Merit, he connected with Imagina Na Copa, one of the largest projects in Brazil aimed at promoting social impact, an award-winning concept with Google Business Groups and was selected as its “first generation ambassador.”
He believes that small sums can be leveraged to launch these great ideas, using “sustainable microfinance systems powered by market mix elements, partnership, and crowdfunding tools”—along with the dedication to make the world a better place. Bruno states, “I can confidently assert that social conflicts and challenges can be overcome.”