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We are a collaborative research project between the UK and Brazil, mapping out a research agenda and potential co-production sites for social and environmental innovation. The project is led by the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the University of Sheffield in the UK, with the research carried out in collaboration with two civil society organisations in Rio, DataLab and Preta lab, both working on social and digital innovations.

Brazil is a highly unequal society where income-poor and marginalised groups struggle to access government support. In response, grassroots social innovation initiatives are common, and Rio in particular has at times been dubbed as a cradle of social innovation. In the absence of government action, a strong civil society is serving as a cradle for social innovation and sustainability. While Social innovation and NGOs cannot make up for a state failing to provide basic needs and defence of human rights, in Rio’s favelas they are often the best available option to support people’s management of their daily lives.

Despite a dramatically different country profile, the UK too has witnessed a rise in inequality in the recent decades. The city of Sheffield sits at the industrial heart land in the North of England, boasting a vibrant history of steel manufacturing. As a result of structural changes in industrial production and automation the city these core industries have been subject to rapid decline. These changes combined with cuts to public financing have led to loss of employment opportunities and social deprivation. As a result, Sheffield has seen a rising demand in support services in the community and volunteer sectors, including food banks, job clubs, training initiatives and recycling and DIY spaces across the city.

The two locations will enable our project to bring together learning from both the contexts of the Global South and the North, and challenge the common narrative of developmentalism where the duality between the North and South is often presented through the relationship of the donor (North) and recipient (South) countries. The project therefore gives prominence to theories from both South and North, while orienting towards southern needs and impact in Brazil and other DAC countries.

Both the University of Sheffield (UoS) and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) are involved as partners in social innovation initiatives, including makerspaces, innovation labs, social enterprise courses and community hubs. The aim of the project is to map out and connect existing grassroots social innovation initiatives both in Rio and Sheffield, and produce a crowd-sourced interactive digital map and an augmented reality tool for both locations. The purpose of the map is to both enable and support the effective operation and networking between different initiatives and strengthen the social innovation ecosystems in the two locations.

To find out more about the project objectives, approaches, and partners, please take a look at out About Us page