Interview with Paulo Castro, Instituto C&A executive director

“Private social investors are supporting projects that strengthen the capacity and the advocacy role of social organizations, in causes that express affinity with their mission as grantmakers.”

December 2013

WINGS: In Brazil there is a strong culture of operating foundations, rather than grantmaking ones, how did Instituto C&A come to the decision to support projects?

Paulo Castro: Instituto C&A’s decision to support projects dates all the way back to its founding. When Instituto C&A started operating in 1991, it already began working with a group of civil society organizations that worked with child and adolescent education – they were our first grantees. This gesture revealed the acknowledgment that civil society organizations are legitimate actors, given that they are closer to our target constituencies and of the issues we aspire to transform. In addition to this privileged perspective, we believe that it is the social investor’s role to value and boost the inherent expertise of these organizations in the pursuit of solutions to matters of public interest. Both education and civil society participation – through volunteering or the strengthening of civil society organizations – are the primary focus of Instituto C&A’s work and are structural elements of our mission  and institutional aspiration .

WINGS: In your opinion, what are the benefits of supporting projects instead of focusing on executing them? Did you face any particular issues?

PC: In addition to the aspects already mentioned, that civil society organizations possess specific knowledge that grantmakers do not have, and tend to be a better thermometer of reality, we believe that supporting civil society organizations and working in partnership with them are ways of strengthening the social fabric and foundations of democracy, as well as maximizing social impact. Instituto C&A’s concept of partnership relates to the “articulation of different players that, boosting their capabilities and preserving their identities, work together in favor of mutual causes.” The difficulties that come from the decision to support projects and civil society organizations, instead of directly executing them, are those common to civil societies in development, as the Brazilian one, which only began to truly experience democracy in the late 1980s. We face challenges in terms of building a culture of working collaboratively and of combining actors with different expertise, as well as in terms of developing capacity according to specific project needs.

WINGS: According to the GIFE Census, the amount invested by Brazilian foundations to support outside projects, rather than their own, increased from 19% to 29%. How do you perceive this growth?

PC: The increase by itself is already good news. In addition to more funds being invested to support projects developed by civil society organizations, we also want to see a growth in private social investment in general, besides what is considered tax-incentive donation. This would be a clear recognition of the importance of a strong and vibrant civil society for the development of a country and in favor of better income distribution. Another desired aspect related to greater investment in projects developed by civil society organizations, rather than internal projects, is that companies’ social activities are not to be influenced by business interests or the “service provider” logic in their relationship with civil society organizations. The grantmaker’s role is to be a catalyst in strengthening networks, social organizations and their leaders, because they are the main actors of social change.

WINGS: What grantmaking trends do you see both at Instituto C&A and other foundations in Brazil?

PC: A clear trend is the financing activities of civil society organization networks and movements, or projects that involve different sectors, bringing different perspectives to the table. Private social investors are also supporting projects focused on capacity building and the role of civil society organizations in advocacy, in causes aligned with the grantmakers’ mission. It is also important to mention a more recent trend – corporate foundation’s projects being coordinated by the sustainability department of mother companies. It will thus be important to define the roles and vocations of each player, so that grantees do not become a mere instrument for the grantmaker or civil society organizations become a shield for companies’ social or environmental problems.


[1] ”To promote the education of children and adolescents in communities where C&A does business, through alliances and strengthening of social organizations.”

[2] ”Ensure the right of children and adolescents to education, for a participative, fair and sustainable society.”

More WINGS interviews here.

One thought on “Interview with Paulo Castro, Instituto C&A executive director

  1. Pingback: A global take on grantmaking | Philanthropy In Focus

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