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New Program for Northeast Brazil

For the past 10 years, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has invested in a local development strategy to mitigate poverty in the Brazilian Northeast by ways of supporting the leadership, and the articulation of young people and institutions. As these projects matured and with the revision of the Foundation’s mission last year to focus on helping young people succeed, the Foundation’s Latin American team has developed a new program for Northeast Brazil.  The program, which was initiated in September 2008, will promote racial equity and social inclusion in the Northeast and will seek to develop sustainability by focusing on assets and leadership from local citizens.

“In a country where nearly half the population is black or brown, we are compelled to take action that lifts up those who are most vulnerable,” said Sterling Speirn, the Foundation’s president and chief executive officer. “More than 70 percent of all deprived people in Brazil are black. The rate of homicide among blacks is twice that of whites.” The Kellogg Foundation will be somewhat distinctive in its attention to racial equity because very few financial resources are currently directed to this issue.

“Our change strategy is grounded on two pillars: the first is a leadership development program and the second is the creation of a mechanism to sustain the work in the future” said Andrés Thompson, program director for Northeast Brazil. “Our attention to leadership will include: identifying barriers, actions, and innovative ideas; getting acquainted with key actors; providing support and establishing partnerships; and supporting the action of local agents in the Northeast.” 

This work is intended to establish dialogues and agreements with different segments of the society, including non-governmental organizations and social movements, public agencies, policy makers, businesses, and private funders. According to Gail McClure, vice president for the Foundation’s international programs, “The idea is to collectively contemplate the challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of the actions in the Northeast, in a cooperative and co-responsible fashion, guaranteeing equal rights to all Brazilians.”

In order to reach grassroots institutions, most grants will be made through funding mechanisms that are focused on racial equity and social inclusion. The purpose is to find out how these structures work and, after five years, to establish in Brazil a permanent mechanism to support actions that focus on racial equity in the Northeast operated and apportioned by Brazilians and local institutions. The Foundation proposes to help create such a mechanism as a legacy of their work in Brazil and as a sustainability strategy for racial equity and social inclusion in the Northeast.  To this end, the Foundation is seeking to develop partnerships and leadership in order to further mobilize resources for this cause.

Kellogg is refocusing its energy and geographic focus and has sharpened its commitment to young people in the future. All existing work and grants will be honored as new work gets underway. A regional office for Kellogg’s work in Latin America will be established in Mexico in 2009.  

“Since the early 1940s, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has been part of the fabric of social progress in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Speirn. “More than 60 years later, we remain dedicated to helping communities deal with poverty, development, racism, and democracy. The strategy we crafted in 2000 has evolved successfully for almost a decade in Northeast Brazil. With this new focus on racial equity and social inclusion, the Foundation intends to continue its commitment to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve.”

The Kellogg Foundation will encourage structures and processes to help sustain work on racial equity and social inclusion. In fact, within the next five years, the Foundation also expects to play a key role in helping form a critical mass of people and institutions that are committed to racial equity and social inclusion, including public agencies, private funders, and others.

For more information, contact Mr. Rui Mesquita, program associate for Northeast Brazil at +55 (11) 4191-2233 or rui.mesquita@wkkf.org.

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