Not long ago Dan and I were sat down on the couch in our São Paulo apartment catching up on some Fun for Louis (one of our favourite Youtube channels) when we learned that Louis Cole himself was coming to Brazil with his good friend Dave Erasmus to facilitate an important conversation about the current issues going on around the country.
In fact, not only were they visiting Brazil, they were about to spend one month on a round the world, whirlwind journey to Dubai, Ethiopia, India, China, Korea, Japan and Iceland, where they were going to top it all off by meeting with the president. They called it The Solvey Project.
What Is The Solvey Project?
The Solvey Project is an initiative to uncover and dig into the current issues going on around the world and find passionate problems solvers to back who have big dreams and ideas to provide solutions to these issues.
Dave and Louis spent one month travelling to the most populated countries around the world, out to find seven problem solvers. In each country they set up a ‘Solvey jam session’ where they invited everyone who wanted to voice their opinions and ideas about the current issues happening in their country to sit down and have a good old chat.
The day after their world tour was up, they opened the opportunity for those who could not attend the events and those who were serious about turning their solution into something real to submit an online video application. In this video application process, problem solvers are also given the option to choose how much funding would be needed to get the idea off the ground.
To encourage awareness about this project and allow others to learn about the issues happening in each country on a deeper level, Dave and Louis spent their days engaging with local communities and facilitating Solvey jam sessions whilst filming everything for Louis’ popular Youtube channel.
Our Solvey Experience
The Solvey jam session was being held at Santa Tere Hostel in Rio de Janeiro on April 25th 2016.
Checking in at the hostel the day before the event, we were able to spend some time getting to know Dave and learning about his background in social entrepreneurship which was really interesting. It’s one thing to watch someone’s life on Youtube but it’s another to actually connect with them on a personal level. On top of this, discovering that we had a mutual relationship with someone also reminded us of how small and connected the world really is.
The next day I was invited to join Dave, his brother, Nathan, his sister-in-law, Liv and Louis in attending a public school which was currently being occupied by the students.
Basically, at this moment their are over 80 public schools in Rio de Janeiro that are closed and being occupied by students. The reasons vary but this particular one was due to the teachers going on strike as a result of not being paid by the government properly. This obviously meant that the students had nobody to teach them, forcing the school to close. There is a lot of anger surrounding this issue at the moment as the 2016 Olympics near closer due to the fact that the money that should be getting spent on schools and education is being redirected elsewhere.
You’ll learn a lot more about this in a vlog I’ll be publishing soon but basically, a group of students have decided to take matters into their own hands with the help of some volunteers, including social entrepreneur, Anderson França. Staying at the school whilst turning it into a cleaner, healthier learning environment, the students are currently planning to make this the first ‘hybrid school’ where they’ll receive funding from other companies to keep it going, rather than solely relying on the government.
This was a truly eye-opening and unexpected experience for all of us and an issue that was brought up again that night in our Solvey jam session, where a majority of our conversation was based around the issues that stem from lack of education in Brazil.
The Solvey Brazil Conversation
All up, there were around 15 of us who attended the conversation at the hostel that night. Most attendees were Brazilian with the exception of Dave, Nathan, Louis, a random French guy who just happened to be there at the time and me.
Even though 5 of us were gringos and didn’t have a true understanding of what it’s like to grow up and live in Brazil, I think it gave the conversation balance as we were able to chime in on issues that we’ve noticed as ‘outsiders’, that perhaps born and raised Brazilians may be immune to.
Some of the issues that kept on popping up were lack of education, equal rights, sexism, danger levels, increasing unemployment and unsustainable living. I don’t think any of us realised how much a lot of these issues affected us all until we started sharing personal stories and talking about things we normally keep to ourselves.
When the issue of sexism was brought into the spotlight, the females around the table were really able to open up and and connect with each other. One moment that really triggered emotions around the table was when Liv pointed out the difference between living in Brazil as a male and living in Brazil as a female. She quoted, “guys, how many of you have to text your friend to tell them you made it home safely?”, and there was silence. She then turned it around and said, “ok, girls, how many of you have to text your friend to tell them you made it home safely?”, and every female at the table raised their hand.
Straight away this put everything into perspective.
The fear that women experience on a daily basis in Brazil doesn’t come from a place of false insecurity. It stems from the fact that every women knows someone who has been sexually, physically, verbally or emotionally harassed. In fact, the majority of women in Brazil have actually experienced this personally.
It soon dawned on me that all of these issues that we spoke about were interrelated and that the solution to all of it stems back to education.
How did this Solvey conversation change my perception of Brazil?
Before this conversation I was under the impression that everyone was used to these issues happening in their country and had just learned to accept them.
When I saw women walking alone at night I thought that they had just come to terms with the fact that they may not arrive home safely.
When approached by someone living on the street I thought that my peers had been conditioned to ignore and think nothing of them.
When I saw people throw their trash into the middle of the road I began to think that no-one respected their environment.
Then I attended the Solvey jam session and met a small group of people who challenged my beliefs. They shared the same feelings about these issues as I did and wanted a positive change for their country more than anything.
And reflecting on this now, I truly believe that this small group that came together at a hilltop hostel in Rio de Janeiro represented the majority of Brazilians – it’s just that the majority of Brazilians don’t know where to start or who to look to for a change so they go about their every day lives hoping things will improve.
This is why that one hour Solvey jam session was so important for local people with ideas and solutions to attend. It was the first stepping stone towards making things happen. In fact, not only did Dave and Louis provide the first stepping stone, they’re also providing the second, third and final stepping stones to make these ideas and solutions become a reality, which is why this initiative will have such an impact…
Step one: The conversation – Getting the issues out in the open and voicing our ideas to solve them
Step two: The community – Solvey attendees have been given exclusive access to a private group so we can connect with other problem solvers and continue the conversation
Step three: We solidify our ideas and motivate ourselves to take action by creating a ‘social commitment’ through our online video application
Final step: If our idea/solution is chosen we will receive the necessary funding and support to make it a reality
What was our idea?
To finish this off you may be wondering why Dan and I attended the Solvey jam session and what we had to contribute to conversation.
Well to be honest, as we are travellers and consider ourselves as global citizens, our idea is more on a global scale, however, saying that, it does stem from an issue I feel quite confronted by in Brazil – the increasing rate of unemployment and people being forced onto the streets. This is a huge issue at the moment but what’s even worse is that a significant amount of the homeless community wind up addicted to crack cocaine and fall into trap which doesn’t seem to have a way out.
So I wanted to do something to help change this situation.
Unlike a lot of the Solvey attendees’ solutions, my ideas don’t have the capability of helping everyone in the country (or the world) but for those people that we can help, I believe my ideas can have a big impact on them.
Idea one (smaller scale, short-term):
Provide food/necessities for the homeless in each country we visit by donating 50% of the funds received from our eBook, Travel More: Starting in São Paulo, Brazil, we will document everything we do through shooting vlog style videos. These videos will then be shared regularly with our community of backers (those who purchase our eBook) via email. The supporters within this community will also receive stats of where their money went and who it helped.
In order for this to be effective we would need to come up with a new price point for our eBook and set up a whole new launch in order to raise awareness and get the eBook in front of more eyes. If we do decide to go ahead with this plan (which shouldn’t require a lot of money or time) the initiative is likely to go live on June 1st 2016. Stay tuned!
Idea two (larger scale, long-term):
As we always aim to keep the travel community involved in our projects I thought this would be the perfect way to give everyone’s travel more purpose and give back to local communities as we go.
As I mentioned above, we feel quite strongly about the issues of unemployment and homelessness in every country that we visit, especially here in Brazil. Only recently Dan and I were sat down eating a hotdog in São Paulo when a young teenage boy approached us asking if we would like to purchase a tea-towel. It was 10:30pm on a weeknight and he was wandering an empty street hoping someone would buy a tea-towel from him. We politely declined as we had no cash on us and he walked away with his head down until he approached the next uninterested person. I turned to Dan and said, “wouldn’t it be cool if next time that boy approaches us we could turn and say to him, no we don’t need a tea-towel but how would you like to come and work with us instead?”
This brought about a whole thought process of how we could provide jobs for those in need while we travel. Eventually I came up with an exciting idea that would allow travellers to support and connect with people in need all over the world, even when they are not travelling.
The idea is quite simple…
You know those colourful bracelets that we all like to buy as travel souvenirs? We want to create a global brand and online store that allows travellers to collect bracelets from every country they’ve been to and wear them all together on their wrists, not only as a reminder of their journey but also as a way to connect back to the local people they met along the way. Eventually, there will be an online collection of bracelets from every country, designed in colours that represent each one.
But here’s the twist…
If you decide to purchase a bracelet that represents Brazil, your bracelet will be made by a local in Brazil. If you decide to purchase one that represents Cambodia, it’ll be made by a local in Cambodia. Every bracelet that you purchase will help to provide jobs for local people in need all around the world.
In every country that we visit (which will eventually be all of them if Dan has his way), we’ll be on the search for a small group of local people in need who fancy getting creative with their hands. For every order that comes in, they will personally make the bracelets, package them and send them off to you with love.
So how is this any more effective than buying bracelets directly from the locals themselves while you travel?
Because by creating a global online store we will have the capacity to reach millions of people in every corner of the world, creating more workload and leading to more jobs.
If the local people were to set up a stall on the street, the only traffic they would receive would be the people walking by at the time. Taking it online opens up a world of opportunity and allows travellers to give back to local communities in places that they’ve been even if they’re not travelling there at the time.
Obviously the logistics of this would need some thought, which is where I’m at right now. So if you have any ideas about how we could run this or if you have any input at all, please don’t hesitate to scroll down and leave a comment for me! We’d love to see this idea become a reality and we’d love for the travel community to get involved in this project with us!
The Solvey Project Details
If you would like to submit an idea to help solve an issue currently happening around you, you can send a video application to Dave and Louis on Solvey.com. Applications close 15th May 2016.
To watch Louis’ vlog from Solvey Brazil, click here.
A big thank you to Dave and Louis for facilitating these conversations, supporting passionate problem solvers to turn their ideas into a reality and making a truly positive impact on the world.
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