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Dublin, July 2000

Luiz Inácio Gaiger1

In the last few years, the revival of economic practices sustained in associativism is
an easily verifiable fact in Brazil and other nations. Either they signify a revitalization of
solidarity traditions, whose characteristic trait have softened by the time, or the creation of
a genuine and innovative form of solidarism, these enterprises have been deserving the
attention of divers scholars, activists and social agents, among them, more precisely, the
organizations associated to Third-Sector.

The role these organizations perform - or may perform in medium term - in
solidary economic undertakings growth and conformation, is the theme under debate in
this paper. To give the reflection its due concreteness, characterizing the empirical reality
that serves it as starting point, the text initially synthesizes solidary economy main traces in
Brazil, based on regional studies and, particularly, in a national ambit data survey2. Next, it
describes solidary economy panorama in Rio Grande do Sul (RS), a region with some of
the most consolidated experiences in the country and a reasonable interaction rate between
new popular solidarism and Third-Sector organizations. Besides, it is the main focus of the
surveys that sustain the considerations presented here3.

Next, this text studies some of the main solidary undertakings support
organizations in RS, which actuation develop in methodological level, technical
qualification, financing and formation. The organizations’ objectives, results, methodology,
target group and influence rate are considered. We do not intend, with this, delineate
Third-Sector conformation process in RS, neither determine the solidary economy
importance nowadays, but do examine facts related to the arrival that organizations,
qualified as of Third-Sector (although they rarely denominate themselves like this) have
been brought to the increase of solidary work and rent generation practices.

Data analysis will let perceive, progressively, some rather general order aspects,
such as rebounding impasses and tensions, typical of this field, not only in RS. Particularly,
it will be evident the coexistence of two Third-Sector action models: one oriented to the
Doctor in Sociology, teacher of Universidade Federal do Rio dos Sinos - UNISINOS (São Leopoldo,
Brazil), linked to the Documentation and Research Center and to the Social Science Post Graduation
Program (e-mail:
It is a research set up under the auspices of Researches and Studies Inter University Net
UNITRABALHO, under the author coordination, involving ten states and all Brazil’s big regions.
These researches habe been realised during the last five years (vide Gaiger et al., 1999), elapsing of a
partership among Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos - UNISINOS, Cáritas Brasileira - Regional RS
Production, Industry and Commerce Municipal Office of Porto Alegre. This text derives of this group work
and have counted on the colaboration of Alberi Petersen (SMIC), Daniela de Oliveira (IC-UNISINOS),
Fernando Lara (IC-CNPq), Marinês Besson (Cáritas-RS) e Raquel Kirsch (IC-FAPERGS).
multiplication of melting links between individuals and group, supported on a project and
engagement mystic; the other one turned to association and promotion of reciprocal
interests, founded in increasingly dense contractual links development. They are not
incompatible and monolithic practice systems but underneath conceptual schemes, which
preponderant tenor determines an action manner endowed of proper limits and benefits.
Each of them, in its particular way, represents a tradition and work line that, although, in
their general meaning, may flow together to the exercise of a solidary praxis, amalgam
branch between Third-Sector organizations and popular solidarism.

This analysis line is justified, foremost, because solidary economy growth in Brazil
is due, mostly, to an enormous and continuous action of those organizations. Abandoning
a rule formerly restricted to philanthropy and assistance actions, they have gained
notoriety when assumed a propelling function to new actors and new social choices4.
These action have not been evaluated until here (to tell the truth, they have not been even
reasonably described) and it is time for beginning to do it, even in an inconclusive way, at
least to reach some propositions.

A second reason is that popular experiences communicate values sets and
practices, equally shared by the organizations that support them and are constitutive of
Third-Sector identity today: cooperation, confidence, gratuity, participation, human
promotion, distributivism, ecological sustainment, etc. There are continuity lines, in a way
that solidary undertakings and organizations could have be constituted by reciprocal
relations; as in a mirror game, so they forged their identities, missions and social
legitimacy. These relationships may intensify and popular solidarism promotion will be a
Third-Sector natural vocation.

Deeper and decisive reason, although, is that the so acclaimed Third-Sector’s
newness and innovator potential is justified only if it performs a innovator constructor role
of development ways. This means to scape from the logic of the actors that have
historically been occupied in development (that is to say, the other sectors) breaking the
separation between economic life (Second Sector) and social life (First Sector) and
suscitating protagonists that contain this possibility. Popular economic solidarism elapses,
mostly, from contradictions and insufficiencies derived of State and Private initiative,
marking an emancipatory arrangement desire of both historical entities. There is an origin
kinship with Third-Sector, also structural correspondences that guarantee a common
horizon hypothesis. Theoretically, these evidences suggest the convenience of distinguish
and, at the same time, articulate Solidary Popular Economy and Third-Sector concepts.

In this analysis context, Third-Sector actions produce still unlimited effects in favor
of solidary undertakings, in spite of its pioneer action in divers fronts. These work lines
ripening may turn them in a reference basis to extent actions, particularly the formulation
of great abrangence ray and impact power public politics. Although with different nature
and role, solidary undertakings and Third-Sector organizations, depending on their
interactions, have the possibility of constituting a fundamental direction for a new practice
beginning, conducting to a new vision of economy, society and State relations.
In the dispute game between the competent discourses, Third Sector concept, although (or due to) it’s
lack of clearness, have conferred a new visibility and detach to, now its, organizations.

The presence of associational and self administrated experiences, oriented on
participation and equity principles, is an indelible mark in Brazil’s social scenery (Cáritas,
1995; Silveira, 1995) This popular solidarism express itself in the ideas and practice of an
increasing number of economic undertakings, made possible by workers oppressed for a lack
of subsistence alternatives or moved by their convictions power. In these undertakings there
are a combination between productive and social character activities, centered in mutual help
and reciprocity values.

Behind this boom is the work market structural crisis, with the aggravation of a
national retrieve politics, which have imposed fragmentation and social exclusion processes in
the last two decades, with an unsuspected virulence and dramatic effects: an enormous
contingent, jettisoned from work market and abandoned by recoiling social politics, found
themselves compelled to create their own surviving and work opportunities. In another side,
there is the positive mobilization action of social movements, unionized parcel and
numberless citizen entities, resolute to promote mutual help and economic cooperation
practices. Since a long time, in countryside and suburbs, thousands of small communitary
initiatives, have been proliferated (Cáritas, 1995; Gaiger, 1996), coming upon them, in great
part, the organizing and economic resolutions that are disseminating among more recent
experiences today.

In a real diversity of forms, undertakings organize in various forms today, like
informal associations or production groups, with a continuously familiar and communitary
characteristic, or workers cooperatives and small and medium size business. In front-line,
there are today self administrated business linked to ANTEAG5, service rendering6 and
production cooperatives and hundreds of farmer and cattle raising groups and cooperatives,
established in agrarian reform settlements, guided by MST7. Studies and estimations indicate
a revitalization of old experiences, as rural production and consumption cooperatives, side by
side with new segments expansion (work cooperatives) and with a group of local enterprises,
in countryside and urban zones.

One remarkable fact is cooperativism renew in various economic sectors.
Contraposing politic conservadorism and traditional business profile, new workers
cooperatives have arisen in consumption, production, marketing and service rendering
segments. Such enterprises have been engendered independent structures from official
cooperative system, tightening its prevailing power relations. Engaged in this movement there
are more important unionism sectors, intending to formulate propositions, stimulate authentic
National Workers Association of Self Administration and Shareholder Participation Business; in 1999 it
congregated 52 business and 15.000 workers.
A sector with one of the most expressive growth rate. Data from Cooperative Organizations of Brazil
indicate that, in a general estimate, cooperatives number increased 43,7% in 90-98 period and 29,9% in
the last four years. Among them, work cooperatives had an increment of 112%. To this it must be added
an unknown number, probably greater, of non affiliated cooperatives.
Rural Workers Landless Movement, founded in 1985 and action capacity in whole national territory
cooperatives development and struggle for the conquest or the route correction of disparate
or fraudulent made cooperatives. This change of direction in unionism marks a new
orientation in left side thought, at the same time that reassures, with a new language,
worker’s movement historical values.

Another worthy innovation are micro credit institutions and another financing
modalities for small formal or informal entrepreneurs. They work by short term loans,
progressive and renewable, on the strength of solidary agreements or extra monetary
guarantees. Such organisms are multiplying in Brazil, by the action of civil society, public
power and, continuously, by partnerships with multi lateral organisms (Silveira, Amaral &
Mello, 1997: CESE, 1998).8

In the last years, the multiplication of enterprises and protagonists is a common fact
for the divers country regional realities. Adding to entities with a long time vocation in this
performance field, new ONGs appear, arising social movements and institutions just aliens to
this field, as universities and business foundations. We notice, hence, a wide range of entities
and agents, which presence avoids the dual scheme State / private initiative and configures in
Third-Sector own space. The proposals convergence and the agents interaction have been
arranging the fortification of partnership and collaboration practice, forming progressively, a
partnership culture. Formations nets, cooperative federations, exchange systems and diverse
unions are organized among undertakings.

Following an international tendency, the interest on associative undertakings, as
others organizations that integrate the so called solidary popular economy, grows
perceptively in the country. By this term we name a phenomenon with the following

a) They are economic alternatives where those individuals that ordinarily live from their work
force selling9 gather and where those social categories put alongside of conventional State
and market wealth generation and distribution take shelter. Such practices express a
reapropriation of worker experience, reconverted by auto administration and socialization
principles or, mostly, are anchored in popular sectors familiar economy, of which they are
an extension and where they find, foremost, their essence and functional aspect 10. Setting
against capital economy, where work and direct producers are separated, solidary popular
economy would be en route of becoming a work economy, established in common
property and reciprocity relations.

b) By these last characteristics, solidary popular economy does not embrace but a portion of
popular economy, because of the coexistence of different values and the most divers
arrangements - formal, informal, illegal - fated to assure survival. Besides, popular
economy, being dictated by necessity logic, of generating consumer income, hardly
cogitates to obtain some accumulation margin. Solidary undertakings, although, search to
Among the most known cases, are the Woman’s Bank Net, PROGER, CEAPE net and Portosol.
In R. Antunes’ expression (1995) the “class that lives by its own work”
To J. Coraggio (1997:36) is from its “domestic units, its nets and apparatus ad hoc” conjunct that may
derive an economic subsystem, “relatively autonomous and autarchic, strategically oriented by its
members enlarged reproduction”.
make of cooperation a lever to sustain its performance and to qualify them as
contemporary economy agents. They concern about the efficiency and benefactions
realizations for guaranteeing their financial feasibility. They yearn to exceed survival level
and manage growth strategies.

Popular Solidary Solidary
Economy Economy

Picture 1

c) This popular economic practices are inserted in the wide solidary or alternative economy
phenomenon, which encircles a multitude of social segments, agents and institutions
(Laville, 1994; Razeto, 1997; Mance, 2000). Solidary economy aligns as a global critic
movement to capitalist economic system, although of accentuated tendency to start
concrete enterprises, directed at integral human development, namely: individual, social
and ecological(Laraña, 1996). It includes cooperative banks, service and goods
reciprocity, commerce nets and, above all, uncountable people associations, freely
gathered to the objective of developing economic activities, creating work positions and
experimenting solidary relations, in their midst and in society. Flowing together from
different concrete situations whence they arise, where they base their private identities,
such enterprises visualize a unity perspective in the horizon that motivates them to
collaboration practices and values infusion, such as justice, equity, autonomy and

Their characteristics and determinant lines are not given, though, but they occur as
possible ways. Understanding this arising reality involves, so, recognize its ambivalence
and contradictions, and so, to question the concept itself.11 In the presence of the facts, it
suggests rather an analysis angle, a reflection line, at the same time that it evokes a
possibility, an historical management, whereby organizations, leaderships and the most
vary agents clash.

Considering this, studies repeat to indicate indiciuns that, in determined
circumstances, associative enterprises achieve in consolidate and reach a commutation
level that habilitate them to an internal growth process (Tiriba, 1997; Gaiger et al., 1999).
For instance, we should not lose sight that its usual use recovers an initiative conjunct with distinct

motivations, origins a natures, which do not contain, themselves, spontaneously confluent tendencies,
which would overflow, by a natural approximation force, in a new social totality.
Assuming a proper economic rationality and planning their investments, they conciliate
and mutually reinforce the work cooperation and rent. Benefiting of a greater stability,
they assume the rule of work and rent generation agents with an economic effect, apart
from contribute to the formation of groups and individuals with action capacity, in a
multiplying bond process with a high irradiation power.

A decisive influence factor for the associative undertakings success is the adequate
exploration of cooperative work possibilities. In this undertakings required rationality, in a
way to superate the detached economic optimization x social gains, (or else, commutation
x benefits socialization), productivity and efficiency have recourse of associated work
dividends, of their capacity in aggregate extra rent factors, since turned on behalf of own
producers (Gaiger, 1999b). The model character of this experiences, which are
denominated as solidary economic undertakings (Gaiger, 1999 a) put them as background
in the analysis about the arriving that Third-Sector Organizations bring or may offer to this
field development.

Solidary economy in Rio Grande do Sul

Solidary economy characteristics, when focalized in a relatively circumscribed social
space ambit, may be understood in the light of interactive circles that settle among divers
acting agents in that universe. In Rio Grande do Sul case, was under different fomentation
programs and agencies arising and evolution, that associational experiences have forming a
proper feature segment explicative of its concerning trajectory and development possibilities.
Without disregarding the spontaneous and germ stage character of many initiatives, it must
be recognized that the formation of popular solidary economy in Rio Grande do Sul elapsed
from this uncountable mediations and, accordingly, from the sometimes decisive influence of
these external manifestations.12 For this reason, the former explicative logic, where have
directly sketched the resulting schedule of uncountable action work lines, will give place now
to an upstream exam, where the show will permit to understand, in their effects, the solidary
undertaking profile and power in Rio Grande do Sul13.

The cooperatives affiliated to official cooperative system14 form the more traditional
and numerically significative segment in RS. Attesting their notable expansion in the last
years, 261 new cooperatives have been registrated only in 1997. Comparing with the country,
the State concentration is higher than the national average. Because of its formator
cooperativist role in Rio Grande do Sul and its present diversity, this segments presents
extremely heterogeneous nowadays, being unknown and controversy the quantity of
cooperatives with authentic solidary characteristics15. In them we count 507 rent generation
It is worthy to be aware of the social movements spontaneous tendency reading predominance, that does
not know how much deliberated intentional acts there are background, occupied in producing an auto
refutable discourse.
The approach will be necessarily brief. About associativism history in RS see J. Schneider (1994; 1999).
For a more comprehensive and detailed vision of solidary popular economy in the region, see the work
Sarria Icaza (2000), presented in this conference.
Cooperativist system in Brazil is composed by State Organizations and one Federal Organization, which
is entrusted with, official and exclusively, the singular cooperatives representation.
By this reason, I will not detach forward Third Sector organizations turned to this segment.
related cooperatives, with almost 750.000 affiliated. Among them, predominate farming and
cattle raising, basic sector model until the eighties. Work cooperatives, though, have been
jumping the gun in the last years, attracting excluded urban contingents, from market or
informal economy, with new 282 registered cooperatives in 1998.

The oldest fomentation front to rent generation experiences, of associative and
communitary character, started in the eighties, by Cáritas Brasileira, regional RS. Cáritas
acts in all Rio Grande do Sul regions, have supported, in its 14 years of work, more than a
thousand of small undertakings, trough credit, technical support and, above all, a
methodology seeking to form a critical conscience, socially engaged. The vision that inspires
Cáritas’ work is centered in social justice values and solidarity, having the fomentation of
communitary projects as a way of improving life conditions and promoting the directs of
those sectors put aside of society.

The so denominated PACs - Communitary Alternative Projects, comprehend divers
activities sectors, from agricultural production to service rendering. Indirectly, they reach
more than 40.000 people. Besides attenuate the lack of work opportunities, this communitary
projects have as a goal to propitiate the experimentation of new economic practices, serving,
so, as a basis for implementation of more wide-ranging alternatives. Along its work, Cáritas
have coined concepts and methodological instruments with a large traffic in solidary economy
field today. Furthermore, it inspired similar actions in other organizations, such as Mini
Projects Fund, guided to social and communitary initiatives, specially those linked to pastoral

In another area the Rural Workers Landless Movement, of long and vast implantation
in Rio Grande do Sul, have been promoting the creation of collective production systems in
rural settlements. Under coordination of Settlements Central Cooperative in RS, there were
17 farmer and cattle raising cooperatives in 1998, besides uncountable semi collective
production groups and informal settled agriculturists unions, involving about 3.500
individuals. About the settlement organization process, there is registration of stimulant
results in social, economic and educational plans (Vela, 1995), although serious difficulties
persist because of material needs, technical unfitness and collectivist visions, banked by MST
administration, questionable and sometimes not suitable with the facts (Navarro, 1995).
Anyway, associativism, while adapts in a flexible way to each family and community reality,
have been showing a secure way to assure the prosperity of settled agriculturists and small
producers in general.

Still in rural space, it is proper to remind an associativism slope whose forgetfulness
lets occult its possible meaning for solidary economy. It deals about the numberless small
agricultural production support associations, disseminated in the whole state and registered,
means EMATER16, united to Agriculture State Office. They comprehend, superficially, goods
production socializing forms (machines joint ownership, divided structure storage, united
shopping) or collective work (apiculture, swine culture). Although restrict to its finalities and
acting spaces, besides not provided of expression and representation instances, this
organizations, as it seems, have preserved the associative culture in Rio Grande do Sul

Technical Support and Rural Extension Enterprise, Statepublic power organ.
countryside and, probably, are constituting alternative spaces to official structures, if not
sustaining various solidary enterprises that appear more clearly in other segments17.

If Public Power action presents discontinued and pulverized in rural zone, in urban
zones they concentrate in some municipal enterprises. In the capital of RS, Porto Alegre,
Production, Industry and Commerce Office - SMIC develops fomentation actions to low rent
groups in order that they organize in solidarity. Work lines are guided to urban garbage
recycling associations and enterprising groups in handicraft, clothing and service rendering
branches. Besides technical-management formation and intermmediation, in order to seek
resources providing, municipal power offers an incubation period to some groups, where
adequate installations serve to working and consolidation of new productive undertakings.
The Selective Collection program, attached to recycling collective hangars, considered as
municipal politics spearhead, involves 8 units today, benefiting about 250 associates. Similar
programs were implanted in other municipal districts, performing about 45 undertakings and,
also, have subsidized one of the work lines in implantation by present State government.

Solidary popular economy, in RS, expands and diversifies, acquiring a higher impact
and composing a plural scene about conceptions, objectives and work methods. Besides
public power and the already mentioned organizations, agencies, such as Maurício Sirotsky
Sobrinho Foundation - FMSS, linked to RBS Communication Group act in this field. FMSS
sustains rent generation projects since 1996, by financing, necessities diagnosis and assistance
indication. Among financing requirements are the solidary character of the proposal, its social
and communitary impact and its economic viability. In 1998, 29 projects received financing.

In small individual undertakings support segment, effectuated by mutual confidence
and reciprocity practices introduction, emerges in RS the pioneer action of Small
Undertakings Support Center - CEAPE Ana Terra. Founded in 1987, CEAPE makes its
actions possible by partnerships with public institutions, benefaction foundations and diverse
micro and small undertakings associations, besides searching resources in fomentation state
banks18. It offers business formation courses, technical counseling and divers credit lines to
small enterprises. In 1998, it celebrated 2.615 credit contracts and rendered courses and
technical counseling for about 4.000 people. Soon, it intends to augment its services, trough
attendance stations in RS countryside.

A reference initiative in credit area is Communitary Credit Institution Porto Alegre
Solidarity - Portosol, inaugurated in 1996. Its clientele is formed by micro and small
entrepreneurs from capital and metropolitan region municipal districts, as marketers, sewers,
taxi drivers, restaurant owners, shoemakers, etc. Besides conventionally practiced avails it
accepts as loan guarantee the participation in a solidary group, whose members contract
equal values financing and are mutually considered responsible by individual debts. The
operation volume reaches 200 monthly credits, with an average value of R$ 1.500,00. More

Divers mini projects financed by Cáritas have origin in agriculturists groups with this former
experience. Visibly, this is the background that turns the MST collectivist proposals not so strange to
settlers, although their basic reference is familiar agriculture.
As partners, we detach SEBRAE-RS (Micro and Small Undertakings Brazilian Support Service) and
SENAI-RS (Industry Support National Service); as riches font, Economic and Social Developing National
Bank - BNDES, by its Popular Productive Credit.
than 70% of the clients renews credit, amplifying it in a progressive way; for qualifying they
avoid overdue payments, much lower here than in conventional financier system. The
distinctive bank feature, which assimilates it to internationally consecrated experiences,
resides in the relationship with the clientele, personalized in communitary credit agent. He is
responsible for reach the client, evaluate the business solvability, calculate the payment
conditions and monitorate the financing activities, establishing a relationship based in
transparency and confidence.

General state panorama revels multiform fomentation programs and undertakings set,
incorporating differentiated adhesion grades to economic solidarism and possessing in their
midst quite diverse connection levels. The constant arising of new groups and the prosecution
expansion to entities and public organs show, symptomatically, an amplification in the
contingent attracted by associative proposals. In despite of, judging from total amount, the
share range of main programs and its social penetration in different segments is modest, being
not provided, in some cases, by this point of view, of any reasonable social impact. Even so,
it is important to recognize the high relative growth of this field, considering its global
budding stage and its imperceptible or non defined presence few years ago.

Popular solidary economy in RS Is not configured as an integrated and systemic field.
It is a motive of attention the non articulated and diffused state of most undertakings, as the
existing hiatus among various segments. Proposals proliferate searching to supply these gaps,
but without being able to embrace the whole field, not only because of its multiple center
character, but because of the lack of forces with sufficient agglutination power. It is hopeful
that there will be a general concern nowadays, such as there will be a progressive
convergence of proposals among intermediary institutions, putting in perspective the creation
of wider partnership systems, interchange, support an qualification nets, such as exchange an
popularization of methodological and operational solutions that each segment have
incorporated to its patrimony

Making a general diagnosis, it would be appropriate to talk about social and
economic increment format experimentation process and undertakings support and
sustainment mechanisms. A modelar experiences age, which maturation, although, does not
seem to go, at all, in a way of eliminating its singularities, resulting in an intellectually
discontinued and plural web. It is in this context that we can estimate the strategical rule of
Third-Sector organizations.


For this evaluation, it is worthy to adopt the principles and work method of some
programs. Considering them more slowly, in its peculiarities and trajectories, we will have a
more precise notion of politics and actions history that, being associated to popular solidary
economy today, constitute prisms and languages by which the field itself is interpreted and
oriented. It will be important to perceive that this initiatives have developed, until this
moment, by parallel ways: there were and there is contact between segments and its
respective organizations, besides accurate cooperation, but there was and there are not an
organic articulation and an effective group work. Each segment carries a proper experiences
legate, as understood lessons that must be socialized for the projection of solidary popular
economy as a multiple centered expression field and, however, dotted of confluent propelling
lines. In this aspect, by the way, as we will study farther, solidary economy have the vocation
to assume Third-Sector proper characteristics, such as enterprises plurality and horizontal
articulation predominance.

From mentioned organizations and programs the following will be analyzed in more
details: Cáritas-RS, Mini Projects Fund, CEAPE Ana Terra and Portosol. As we will see,
either they constitute national reference cases, in its respective acting areas, or they are
illustrative examples of very common work lines in the country. Even when their action does
not happen directly on associative undertakings, they respond to the same population needs
and they have similar finalities, what permits useful comparisons. Besides, they admit a
service philosophy and solidarity promotion with different tones and worthily attention
affinities. Finally, this various organizations acting suggests that the transformation of model
experiences to wide range politics could not simply derive from the universalization of a
single model, but conjugate different answers possibilities, for vary rights and citizenship
demands, distinct and equally legitimate.


Cáritas Brasileira, by its regional section, began its support program for Alternative
Communitary Programs in 198619. The program have been instituted as a way to give an
evangelic and liberator answer to social segments alongside society. They have wished to
deepen the Church commitment with the most disfavored people, estimulating beneficiary
participation and initiative in a way that, slowly, the groups become autonomous and could
develop by their own forces. They have wanted, hence, to break the assistencialism and adopt
a new methodology, which could give to impoverished the chance of becoming their own
liberation sujects. Projects should have a practical finality - of economic production or
service rendering - and educational aspect, that could develop the communitary spirit and
critical conscience. They should be alternatives, that is to say, they should contain new
production, commercialize, education forms “generating a new relationship model between
capital and work” (Cáritas-RS, 1993, p. 12). With the progressive enlargement of this action
horizons the PACs would be, at the same time, signal and acting forces in a new society20

This line action have not been planted in an uniform way, neither without bring
unexpected challenges. Besides the establishment of assistencialist culture, Cáritas’ agents
have a distinct formation and variable material work conditions from one diocese to another.
Higher diversity, however, is in the target group side, with their necessities and expectancies.
Trough the parish and catholic communities net, Cáritas have been suscitating and following
Cáritas is a citizen entity, assistencial and philanthropic, linked to CNBB trough its line 6 - Social
Pastoral. Besides a Presidency and a National Secretariat, it disposes of Regional (or State) Sections and
diocesan teams. Such teams, in RS, are implanted in all dioceses.
A perspective shared by social movements studies, where, as Kowarik (1998, p. 323) reminds “the
dominant interpretative posture was pushing them, hoping the appearance of an amalgam between various
struggle forms and its transference to a situation where subaltern layers would have a higher presence in
the alteration process of the politic regime that have accelerated during the eighties”.
projects in urban and rural zones, mainly in the suburbs or small agricultural production
regions. Until this moment, almost 700 PACs have been supported, with resources and
counseling to uncountable activities kind: dwelling construction, health stations, handicraft
and domestic industries, direct commerce, agricultural production, animal and bird breeding,
production cooperatives, etc.

Perceiving the difficulty in assist so diverse public and necessities, Cáritas unfold its
work in two fronts: social projects, for attend destitute people, and economic developing
projects, for groups with better economic conditions and higher perspectives. The attendance
of both begins with any counseling way of the group in question by diocese teams; it
continues with a riches lawsuit project presentation21, which approval imposes mutual
commitments and requires the work continuity by Cáritas Diocesana, besides of the presence
of other collaborators and partner institutions. The project must assure the undertaking
cooperative character, assure its viability and convince of its improving rule for the
community and of popular organization advance.

Cáritas Regional acts by promoting formation and qualification meetings for the
diocese agents and groups leaderships. It also produces subsidies for undertaking technical
qualification (accounting, planning, etc.). Finally, it does an unique work of communitary
group agglutination, by meetings, forum and collective market, at the same time that it
reaches the articulation among agents, other Third-Sector organizations and public power

In the last years, Cáritas tried to center its efforts in those more promising projects,
considering its intrisecal characteristics and the attendance counseling structure that they
dispose. It attempt to, further, canalize the aid to formerly organized groups, economically
experimented and with possibilities of find technical support and connect relations with other
entities and popular movements. Besides being alternatives, meaning different and innovator,
because moved by solidarity and justice values, PACs should be alternatives because they are
practicable, dotted of administration autonomy and auto sustaining mechanisms.

It remains, although, that his work answer to the most precarious social sectors,
particularly in the suburbs. The Church, there, assumes the rule of purveyor, in front of the
State’s absence or of its social politics inefficiency. To suscitate lasting solidarity forms and
autonomy wishes, we count on the fact that, in those environments, mutual recognizement
and interests convergence can only be fed on daily acquaintanceship, neighbor bonds, rooted
cultures and life conditions partition. Among the degradated and anonymous urban scene and
with more reason in rural environment, when used to familiar agriculturists of catholic
tradition, Cáritas see in its communitary bonds the fertile soil for the solidarity development.

Cáritas have in its favor the secular experience of Catholic Church, this institution
capacity to adopt a meridian position and a reception and dialogue attitude, at the same time
that it preserves its autonomy and auto determination in front of quarrels that victimize the
Approval criteria are different for both projects, it should be observed the diocese’s priorities (agro
ecology, agro industry, etc.) It is required a material and financial counterpart. from beneficiaries and the
devolution of a percentage of the conceded value (until 60% for social projects; from 60 to 100% for
economic projects).
organizations indissoluble linked to the realization of particular interests. With this it have
persevered in a proper personality actuation form, contrary to small caliber injunctions or to
the pressure for immediate results, prodigal in alliances with other sectors from popular field,
efficient in cart other supports to its work project.

At this, Cáritas constitutes in a pioneer agent and propelling force of popular solidary
economy, occupying a reference rule today. From its contribution, it is worth to detach:

a) The conception of solidary economic undertakings itself, in its requirements
(communitary insertion, objectives partition, social commitment) in its values (equity,
justice, participation), functions (socialization, auto administration, democracy) and
finalities (integral human development, ecological sustainment). This language is
disseminated nowadays and, although it acquires proper nuances in other segments (such
as auto administration business) it translates the heart of economic solidarism.

b) The vanguard rule, in the transition of a model turned only to momentary demands
attendance to a model of continuous promotion and sustainment of economic
experiences. One of the basic mechanisms effect was the progressive alteration in projects
evaluation and in credit politics. Offering a closer preliminary counseling to the groups,
gradually claiming a greater solidity and solvency in the proposals, respecting its culture
and real payment conditions, the financial politics have quit the donation system and have
adopted the subsidized credit form or, in some cases, integral refund22. This have imposed
a continuity perspective to the financed and a concern with its feasibility.

c) A counseling methodology of entrepreneurs groups, adapted to a long term work,
considering the credit support as an instrument to, among other things, an education and
promotional action that unfolds in various fronts, pedagogically associated. One of its
merits is in the feasibility study technology, where the motivating and relational aspects
can be understood and compared with the economic and financial sustainment elements.

d) A capacity of stimulate and sustain the creation and multiplication of links between
solidary undertakings and different solidarism agents. In despite of the general debility
which the economical intercooperation still presents, Cáritas dawns in local experiences
support and events promotion with the finality of institute, progressively, a solidary social
net. Its action have been decisive to the realization of big state meetings, such as national
and regional forums, markets and showrooms.

Cáritas’ action, of conjugate divers support forms, only gains it full sense in front of
the transcendent objectives that guide it: form integrally, critical conscience, imbued of
Christian values and deeply committed with social transformation. This project’s horizon, the
group germination methodology and engagement and fusion in common cause, form the
vertices that sustain Cáritas’ work.

After the evaluation of the proponents financial conditions, it is fixed a percentage value for
amortization, between 1 and 100%. The riches devolution is parceled and it may assume various forms
(cash, product-equivalence, etc.), composing a rotary fund, that banks 1/3 of new financing today.
Although, some questions appear, when we imagine the universalization of this
model. In a practical level, Cáritas agents themselves perceive the impossibility of a multiple
specialized counseling to offer safe responses to various kind of problems, besides guarantee
the indispensable pedagogic support. Multiply the advisers schedule, maintaining the same
counseling requirements, would inflate its structure, becoming it impracticable; provide
external counseling, as it have been done, brings the risk of introduce conflict focus and
jeopardize the pastoral methodology, cornerstone of this work, so much beloved by the

A second obstacle aggregates, about a possible mass production of the model, since it
departs from a specific essence: the communitary bonds net, fattened among base catholic
communities, where it establishes a constant group fusion. In this constant interaction
environment, it is destiled a particular language, sticked to a determined vision of social
reality and endowed of powerful effects, symbolic and practical. In despite of all
comprehensive pedagogy an the actors’ intentness, the objective logic of the facts, in this
segment, makes necessary be part of the people on the march to obtain the qualifications that
become someone recognized in the intense traffic of popular solidarism. In other words,
Cáritas work supposes the formation of a previous ideological identity in its beneficiaries,
forged in a particular social insertion mode, a problematical fact to its work model
generalization. How could it, in the absence of this communitarist activism, based on
Catholicism, maintain its aptness and efficiency?

The Mini Projects Fund

The Mini Projects Fund is a program administrated by ONGs since 1992, searching
to give support to popular movements and social pastoral. It supports small base groups,
popular organizations, pastoral activities and movements and articulation entities enterprises.
The fomentation lines include economic production (in a sustainable and ecological
development conception), popular education, organizing activities and civil or minority
defense actions. The economic projects execute 50% of Fund’s portfolio, and, in 1998, a
total of 101 proposals have been financiated.

The Fund’s creation have elapsed of a discussion among various ONGs and financing
international agencies, besides social movements and pastoral of the three Brazil south states.
In 1992, it initiated its acting, only in RS. In 1994 it expanded to the whole South region,
with the participation of ONGs in Santa Catarina and Paraná, and with the support of new
international agencies. The program general coordination belongs to CECA, an ecumenical
entity with acting in social pastoral and base movements23. From the Fund’s administration, in
RS, CAMP, a non governmental organization to popular movements, particularly urban trade
union struggles, participates equally24.
CECA- Evangelizing, Qualification and Counseling Ecumenical Center was founded more than twenty
years ago. It is a confessional ONG, one of the most know and one of the oldest in RS, reminiscent of the
big Church going to popular basis, elapsed in de seventies and eighties under the patronage of Liberation
CAMP- Multi Professional Counseling Center, was born in the eighties, at the time that arisen
uncountable counseling ONGs to social movements, of a clearly politic orientation and clear alignment
with left politic parties.
The Mini Projects Fund offers small financing, interest free, for equipment
purchasing, structure and activities financing. The demands come from divers regions, to be
analyzed by an assembly formed by administrator entities, delegates popular pastoral and
social movements. The projects selection evaluates the innovator character of the proposals,
its education dimension and solidary and democratic spirit which stimulate them, besides it
objectives clearness and the group administrative capacity. Furthermore, it is considered the
number of beneficiaries, the multiplying projects effect and, as a general delimitation
evaluation, its contribution to pastoral and social movements fortification. The Fund is
managed, so, as an instrument serving higher causes and objectives, as a topical support for
activities that are understood of being inserted in a wide and progressive social
transformation process.

By this reason, as by the program pulverization, of geographic and institutional point
of view, does not exist a following process of beneficiary groups. Once the selection is made,
there is an appointment for the resources repass to the different groups and for elucidation
about program principles and operational aspects. A second meeting, in the end of each year,
serves to the written report delivering and to a formation moment, where the results reached
by the groups and other common interests themes are discussed.

The Fund’s repercussion on economic solidarism experiences is modest, as its impact
on movmentalist pastoral web is weak (Doimo, 1995: 59) that intends to become dynamic.
Although, it awakes interests because of some characteristics and for being illustrative of a
very usual work formula among ONGs and international agencies25 (CESE, 1997). Besides,
its working crystallizes some of the problems already mentioned, about Cáritas’ work, since it
follows the same model, with maybe brighter colors.

The program finality is to suscitate the base groups effervescence and reinforce its
engagement by all exploited and oppressed cause. Without the mystic of the struggle for a
new society, the projects fomentation would be lacking of its major sense and would be
probably considered innocuous. The key that pedagogically establishes the connection among
this common horizon and the beneficiaries particular necessities consists in solidary
transference, by which the whole assisted group assumes the commitment of repass to the
community a parcel of what they have received, under monetary form or service rendering.
Solidarity, among other values, is promoted as a main beam of a big social construction.

Nevertheless, a performance Fund evaluation by the administrators verified being
unknown, by many beneficiary groups, the major program proposal, of sustain an “alternative
development project”. It was concluded that he major deficiency was in the weak group
counseling, what would also assure a better resources employment. Do it, however, would
implicate in a big onus to program structure, reducing the direct expense with financing and
bringing the dilemma of maintaining the fomentation level, or reduce them in favor of a more
efficient work.

The oldest and most known example is de CERIS Mini Projects Support Fund (Social Investigation and
Religious Statistic Center). Reaching the whole country, it financed more than 900 projects in 1979-89
period, with analogous criteria to RS program.
The problem suggests, at first, evaluate with prudence the exigency weight imposed
to the fomentation actions that render service in various fronts, according to its necessity of
using efficiently various instruments and being, hence, multiple specialized. It suggests,
furthermore, wonder about the rule of support organizations which institutional limitations
should be impelled to stipulate goals for its intervention. The “alternative project” notion,
because of its concentrated ideological charge, of imprecise contours but in the antagonic
sense of what there is, maybe turn the task difficult, because it removes alliances out of this
specter and impedes the visualizations of extent actions, for which the other actors
cooperation is indispensable, including those in some way participant of the present
establishment. Besides, when it is fastened an imaginary horizon, in the absence of
programmable goals and efficiency indicatives, the attempted actions validation tends to be a
common rule, since everything, in any way, contributes to the major cause and can not be
inhibited by pragmatic argument sieve.26

Another question that must be done is about the internal factors involved in the
engagement model, very clear in Mini Projects Fund. Besides the mentioned selection
criteria, the groups must be pre qualified, by means of the recommendation of people and
entities with flow in the pastoral environment and in the movements. Without this references,
the support is hardly obtained. It is equivalent to say that the aimed group is pre determined,
although it is intended to act, in a last instance, in the name of universal conquests. If this
does not cause species to the Fund administration, because it does not affect the congruence
between the ways and means that presents, the question acquires other contours when it is
thought as a general support principle to solidary undertakings, when there is a certain
chance of does not exist those presupposed. Does not the political project, which rocking the
movementalist actions, necessarily end in reducing the abrangence ray of these nature
programs and dismiss other individuals, considering the legitimization game that it imposes?
In a last analysis, would not it ignoring that the popular pastoral movement represents a
social universe parcel and that, in despite of its moving language, it is infested of
interssecioned internal entities, struggling in their midst by the legitimate representation and
the power recourses produced there?

The CEAPE Ana Terra

The Small Undertakings Support Center - CEAPE Ana Terra, founded in 1987, is a
rendering service organization, of private right and with no lucrative ends. Since its
beginning, it have counted on multiple lateral organisms support, such as UNICEF,
enterprises associations and State organs. Its history begins in 1986, with a support pilot
project for women groups from Porto Alegre’s boroughs. As main obstacles for the
sustainment of those low rent families, were diagnosed the lack of turnover capital and
administrative qualification. It was verified, also, that trough the woman, the resources reach
the family integrally and quickly. CEAPE Ana Terra was born as a pioneer micro credit
Although the conviction of it is really necessary to evaluate the results objectively has growth among the
Mini Projects Fund administrator, this concern seems to be reluctantly incorporated - as an imposition of
the financing agencies – by a big number of ONGs, which acting mode was based on long term objectives
and the interest free resources disponibility. Here there is a tension point with other Third Sector
organizations, of which we will have examples further.
concession institution, have been the first unity of CEAPE net, with thirteen centers in the
country nowadays.

The Center’s mission is the improvement of the small entrepreneurs life quality, by
credit establishment and business technical-administrative formation. The service is
considered as a way of combating poverty, by the creation or consolidation of work stations
in low rent layers and, equally, by its indirect effects, as the decrease in scholar abandon,
women valorization and citizenship promotion. Its major clientele is composed of familiar,
entrepreneurs jettisoned from conventional financier system, due to their business
precariousness and to the lack of real guarantees. The intention is not transform them in big
entrepreneurs, but become their undertakings viable and valorize their work. CEAPE have
quit of attending only female clientele and have reached to liquidate all paternalist posture,
eliminating the loans by subsided interest and the gratuity offer of courses and services.

For the credit concession, CEAPE avails of a Rotary Fund and uses the Oriented
Credit methodology, an union of financing with counseling and productive and administrative
qualification of the debtors. The granted credit for working capital have a 180 day delay,
renewable, generally with increasing values, while those reserved for fittings improvement
and equipment purchasing can be parceled in twelve months27. A process peculiarity is the
Credit Technician role, who is responsible for approaching to the client, study the business
viability and necessities and offer a line of credit opening. For this, is essential to the
technician establish a confidence and transparency relationship, maintaining a permanent
contact with its clientele, concentrated in some city zone.28 The resources are liberated in ten
days, existing also an ultra fast credit option for the portfolio clients. The value given to the
good relationship with the client extends to the debts collection.29 Comprehending many
levels before the judicial appeal, it reaches to conserve the client and counts on negotiation
mechanisms, when real difficulties are verified. In none hypothesis the doubt is amnestied.

A loan modality introduced in Brazil by CEAPE Ana Terra is the Solidary Warranty:
people with small business and credit need associate in confidence and mutually cosign their
credits. The process naturally selects the good debtors and increment personal bonds and
communitary practices. The successive credit offer aggregates a powerful stimulus to the
business and give to the financial support a formative pedagogical character30. The option
responds by an important piece of Ana Terra Center portfolio: in a total of 11.724 financed
undertakings until 1998, 3.787 were destined to Solidary Groups.

The undertaking counseling is rendered by programs that offer to the clients
techniques and solutions for the improving of productive and administrative processes in it
economic activity. For this, CEAPE uses CEFE methodology - Economic Competence by
Entrepreneurs Formation, based in games and group dynamics searching to solve problems.
The method tries to utilize and valorize the life experience of the group in the apprenticeship.
Loans while oscillate between R$ 200,00 and R$ 8.000,00; average is R$ 1.500,00.
Each technician can have a wallet with until 300 clients, that can be increased while the portfolio’s
medium delay enlarges. Clients number and its development rate are accounted by the Center personal
The overdue payment rate is 5%, considered high for the micro credit segment. A recent modification in
the collection politics was the substitution of third party services by a Client Relationship Service.
In 1998, more than 90% of the clients returned to take loans.
The courses are ministered by SEBRAE counselors, in CEAPE-RS seat and in its divers
attendance stations. In the Center evaluation, the results are extremely satisfactory, because
they have succeed in develop entrepreneurs characteristics in its clients behavior. Searching
the personal formation, in another side, the Centers National Federation - FENAPE offers
continually methodology qualification programs, administration and programs related to the
net philosophy and to the clientele profile, such as gender relations and adult education.

A new line of Oriented Credit with certain unprecedentedly, among this sector
institutions, consists in qualify and give financial support to small entrepreneurs begin their
business31. After attending a business creation basic course, clients are prepared to strive for
the credit, through an enterprise viability project; after, they count on CEAPE counseling in
their first steps.

Among the congenerous institutions, the CEAPE model shows to have a significant
range of action and to generate multiplying effects, once the Center’s net is progressively
increasing and, at the same time, they inspire similar organizations. In 1997, the net reached
more than 34.232 persons, versus 23.943 in the preceding year. In 1998, this total augmented
to 44.530. The number of granted credit has also increased, from 17.677 to 44.105, in 96-98
period. CEAPE Ana Terra presents a similar evolution: in twelve years of activity it have
supported the creation or the consolidation of 16.450 work stations, 4.018 of them only in

CEAPE net accomplishes, hence, an undeniable social function, since it attends a
market passed over segment and valorizes persons reaching by their economic and social
autonomy. Under the paternalism risks, CEAPE defends a independence inducing
methodology, by a friendly relationship with the client and a professional service offer. This
actuation mode is also characterized by its specialty in conjugate the credit and the
qualification, two incontrovertible fundamental needs of small entrepreneurs. In RS particular
case, this work line has developed a vanguard role, so in its general proposals as in specific
technologies introduction, such as personalized attendance, adapted to each client’s
conditions, and the Solidary Groups financing. One of this long experience most important
results is its demonstrative effect: investing in small entrepreneurs is a economic viable
alternative, besides of being an imperative in any developing proposal endowed of a minimum
social rationality32.

A question that could be easily formulated deals about the undertaking vision
characteristics that CEAPE net serves as a medium and reaches to insert in its clientele.
Clearly, the business enterprising and administrative techniques requirements, although
ethically imbued of attention and fundamental human values, are despoiled of any critical
meaning about the market logic and the capitalist accumulation imperatives that governs it. It
is intended to insert new economic actors in the market, equipping them with the same guns
of the others competitors. In another side, it is worthy to ask if, furthermore, the stress in the
business exit does not fade another social relations components and the citizenship sense,
getting rid of a holistic and integrative vision of human life.
The others existing credit offers, including in the Third Sector organizations examined here, demanding
previous business experience, usually six months.
CEAPE Ana Terra has received more than one prix for its acting, enjoying of national recognition
A second problem refers to the fact that this model works to potentially enterprising
individuals, without focusing the existence or the chance of crate associative lasting links
and, more extensively, bring to the first plan the communitary bonds that eventually involve
their clients. Solidarism, no doubt, is cultivated as a general value, linked to the mission and
the relationship methodology with the clientele, being, although, subordinated to the
undertakings’ individual ends. Even in the Solidary Groups case, where is usual the
renovation of confidence pacts for new loans, it is demanded that the reciprocal cosigner’s
agreement be firmed among entrepreneurs with independent business, each of them
following, initially, its own way33. Only by the circumstances power other actions are
promoted by solidarism, with some balance in collective mobilization and organization.

CEAPE action is not oriented by a globally critical accosting of economic system
neither is turned to social character enterprises . So it is far from movementalist environment,
typical of the engagement model and endowed, furthermore, of a historical transcendence
perspective. CEAPE attends demands, always when they fit in its action program, abstracting
any other creed mark and social insertion of its clients, that become individuals of increasing
contractual relations. As it acting mode has originated and growth by constant with the
undertaking entities web, including its Third-Sector organizations, it is enticing to interpret it
as a simple emanation of a class vision, serving to it hegemony desire. Although, the
examination of Portosol work line, a micro credit organization idealized by a anti bourgeois
character govern breaks this dual scheme and lets arise deep tensions, when is intended to
construct ways of solidarism promotion as an universal citizenship support.


Portosol objectives and operation system have been briefly described in section 2; in
its general lines, it is similar to other institutions specialized in micro credit (Silveira, Amaral e
Mello, 1997). The clientele is composed of small entrepreneurs from metropolitan Porto
Alegre region, whose patrimony is inferior to R$ 50.000,00 and that do not employ more
than ten persons by turns. It is necessary to be in the business for at least six months, with no
juridical formalization and since it is not an essentially rural activity. As in other similar
institutions, support is given based on the evaluation of volant credit agents, according to a
direct relationship method that reaches objective data survey and, at the same time, create a
confidence and transparency atmosphere. In a similar way, the doubts collection follows a
pedagogical way, with the intention of educate the client qualifying him/her to future loans,
that may consolidate his/her undertaking34.

Work premises are valorize beneficiaries proper initiative and autonomy, operate with
efficiency and establish lasting links with the clientele. For this, the service must work with
agility, flexibility and a minimum bureaucracy. In the three first operation years, were granted
more than 7.000 credits. Besides the personalized attendance, a decisive Portosol triumph is
the acceptance of guarantee distinct modalities to granted loans: warrantor or cosigner,
It must be noticed that the default rate of Solidary Groups is higher than the individuals.
From the solicitations recommended by credit agents, only 6% does not receive financing. The default
superior to 30 days corresponds to 3% of the active wallet, a rate considered positive to the sector.
dominion reserve of purchasing or alienated riches, the solidary cosigner’s agreement, in
CEAPE similar pattern and also mixed forms35.

Portosol was conceived after a meticulous study of other congener initiatives (Voigt,
1996), with the objective of incorporate the best solutions, already proved, of small
entrepreneurs fomentation. The institution major peculiarity is, although, its origin: it was
imagined by Porto Alegre Municipal public power possessing, despite, a juridical personality
and an administrative structure independent from state sphere36.It was the State, hence,
through consultation and partnerships with divers society segments, that have generated this
Third-Sector Organization. The fact represented, at that time, the expression of a uncommon
government political since in the country: configure a non State public sphere, with strategic
economic function for the local development, tightly linked to public power priorities. This
origin explains three Portosol characteristics:

First, the arriving capital of Portosol, proceeding from public power, multiple lateral
agencies and organisms, impose its preservation and progressive increment. Being an
autonomous institution, deprived of current budget resources, and having as objective assure
the viability of micro enterprises investing, the support to them was conceived under premise
of protecting the institution financial auto sufficiency. The non existence of transferable
interest free resources for the credit obligates to account, in financing taxes, all its operational
cost. The credit attractive depends on the institution operational efficiency37. On of the
consequences is the decisive role that the business viability study develops and the offer,
flexible, but realist, of credit options fitted to the debtor. The credit evaluation method and
relationship with the client is an important Portosol patrimony, by it became a crowded
technology repass font to other institutions.

Second, Portosol has the commitment of seal an action directive with impact power,
by a high specialized technology, so it opted by build its first financing lines, and after
enlarges its acting aim. The necessity of assure the credit return, particularly, inhibited the
openness of financing lines that comprehend higher risks or demand specific instruments. Due
to this, Portosol, until recently got rid of the financing for beginning economic activities and
postpone for a second stage the Associative Credit, reserved to cooperatives and production
groups. In its four years of existence, as CEAPE, the support to individual undertakings
predominated, even in the Solidary Groups case, where the financed business are

The fact of have begun, recently, the support to collective undertakings38 does not
change a deep characteristic of this work model: the conjoined clients mobilization and the
In the first working year, have not occurred overdue payments higher than 30 days to financed clients
based on solidary guarantees. This financing area corresponded to a little more than 10% of the institution
credit wallet, tending to increase in the following years.
Porto Alegre Municipal public power, since 1988, is governed by a left group, leaded by the Workers’
Party (PT). Portosol was created during the second petista administration. In the next election, in 2000,
there are great chances that PT will be elected to its fourth mandate.
Credit tax oscillates according to the balance point between financing volume and the agency fixed costs
structure. On the other hand, there is no additional taxes, a common practice in the sector.
Meanwhile, only two economic associations, formed by horticulture products marketers, has received
creation of lasting partnerships, perhaps with extra economic motivations, can only come
from the individual interests confluence, depending in their reciprocity. In other words,
solidarism appears as a possible origination of the auto determination of individuals moved by
their own interests, not as a requirement to its realization or as a dimension of them. There is
no impeachment to an organized demand, integrated to the movementist circuit, but the fact
is, irrelevant . It is followed the principle of do not intend to modify individuals and groups to
give them resources. To Portosol, respect the auto determination of those who gather it,
promote them as citizens, differently of the engagement model, consists in respond to all
pertinent demand of its institutional mission, abstracting all the other individuals
qualifications, including their adhesion grade to the continuous solidary practices exercise.
These are referred to the contractual link, realization guarantee of mutual interests and not to
a collective mobilization process. According to their conception, shared with CEAPE, the
public character of a service is accomplished while it is able to universalize.

Third, as Portosol was conceived as a part of a public politics conjunct, integrating
various projects, it was given to it a decisive role of acting with micro credit. When
accomplishing this mission, translated in mechanisms that combine pragmatism and invention,
it would be serving to na alternative developing model. Qualification and another functions
would be guaranteed by a programs net, which would be responsible for, specially, prepare
the popular demand to public riches access. Portosol innovator character and the fear of,
when exercising various roles, the corresponding criteria and performances would struggle,
have additionally fortified this conviction39.The micro credit mystification hypothesis, as a
propelling instrument for popular economy, does not seem to be sustained. In Portosol case,
credit have sense from specialized institutions articulation strategy, integrated to State system
or, preferentially, autonomous of State sphere.

Curiously, hence, Portosol structure and fund have shown inactive capacity, being
visible the apathy of divers State apparatus that could canalize the wide not attended social
demand. The same register serves to the citizen organizations acting attached to popular
sectors, the same that have conducted to power the political front at the head of government
na which represents its movmentist sustainment base. What seems to explain this situation,
that obviously reduces the micro credit impact on popular undertakings, is not the Portosol
incapacity of inserting in a wide fomentation action. The fact is due, first, to the discontinuity
in Portosol complementary developing politics implementation, elapsing of this, basically,
from divergence and disputes, in government heart, about the State role and the relations
character that must be promoted with the non State sphere. In this context, such politics
increment have been subordinated to sector visions and interests, in State system.

In spite of these facts, there are convincing signals that Portosol credit offer, for
associative groups, could be in an advanced stage, establishing a riches flow of extreme
importance to solidary economic undertakings. About the groups qualification and formation
method, Third-Sector organizations that act in this area demonstrate experience and adequate
solutions. An incisive politics, with this characteristics, would bring the fair recognition to the
The question posed to Portosol administration was the following: how claim the contracts accomplish,
being the institution, at the same time, involved in the formation of another human and material factors
indispensable to the undertaking viabilization and, consequently, acting simultaneously as creditor and
pioneer character and to the accumulated patrimony of one and others. In what concerns to
Portosol, it would assure, in a bruising form, the solidary character of this its institutional
mission and the doubtless value of the riches democratization and the economic agents
formation in low rent layers.


The problem is avoid that the anxiety in universalize private collective identities
conduct its bearers to reduce the public sphere universalist aim to its subjective and
internal values and criteria, morally excluding other fields and individuals (Cf.
Doimo, 1995:182)

“ What we know is that the revolutionary dream about the society big
transformation cede field to the engineering of the interests representation system,
searching for a major social integration possibilities openness by the enlargement of
the citizenship rights.”(Idem, p.218)

Brazil goes by a favorable moment to these initiatives. It depends, in a great part, on
the capacity of unite efforts and clip the focus differences, among the solidarism support and
popular enterprising modalities, the chances of each solidary popular economy program and
segment are small. The experiences summoned described show the permanence of a duty
“make the articulation culture that have been forming, still in a diffuse form, more concrete
and effective, what means to construct a politics and institutional intervention field that
consolidates a solidary and popular economy platform” (Silveira, Amaral & Mello, 1997:90)

In the next years action agenda, one of the main items is implant extent programs, of
proved impact power, local and regional. Actions, hence, that influence the labor cost
occupation rate, rent distribution and life quality40. This supposes make flow together the
progressing initiatives, absorbing its better solutions and potencializing them in an strategy
ambit guided to large population contingents. Briefly, it means to develop from local
exemplary experiences to mass programs. This task, considering the historical conditions that
represent it, is destined to prosper according to the exploration of the possibilities of solidary
popular economy and Third-Sector. Its success depends on the consolidation of both fields,
of its respective identities and its reciprocal links. Our final consideration reach to demarcate
these thesis.

It is useful begin by a conceptual elucidation. The expression Third-Sector, far from
being an unmistakable concept, is employed to mention a few clear borders phenomenon,
detaching what would be its basic characteristics and, by an hypothesis, its structuring lines.
As the scholars recognize (Mellor, 1991; Fischer & Falconer, 1998: Lisboa, 1999), it involves
the most diverse organizations and initiatives, with different social origins and links,
Usually, the checking of the results produced by the programs is limited to account the number of
beneficiaries of the contracts realized and estimate some indirect effects (Cf. CESE, 1997: 93). In the last
years, the preoccupation of realizing impact studies have increased. Such studies were made by some
CEAPE net centers and are under planning in Portosol and Mini Projects Fund.
sometimes with ambiguous or hardly conciliating interests. despite its heterogeneous
appearance, it is favorable to vary meanings and interpretations, the Third-Sector notion
would be expressing some general contemporary society tendencies, which major effect is the
formation of a new and wide practice field, a third polo, distinct of private sector, with profit
intention, and of State (Fernandes, 1994). This field, in a big growth today, would congregate
the organizations endowed of, at least, the following characteristics: a) they do not make par
of the State system, being, hence, non governmental; b) they are auto administrated,
possessing a large institutional autonomy margin; c) they involve volunteers, in any of its
activities level; d) they do not have profit finalities, being moved by benefactor and acting in
behalf of public interests cause.41

This definition, certainly, includes solidary popular economy fomentation
organizations described before, also pointing out, that the studies cases correspond, in Brazil,
to the general profile of the entities that act in this field. But it does not include, in our
opinion, the solidary economy as it is, because it is established, primary, in a productive
undertaking conjunct that reaches objectives to themselves, among them the economic
benefaction. Because of its finalities in serving to the members of a community, giving
primacy to the persons, such undertakings respond to social necessities and accomplish a
common interest function. They do not do it, although, in a philanthropic basis, but with the
decisive investment, in work, of those who find a surviving alternative in them. To meet with
success in innovator economic practices establishment, out of profit logic and capitalist
accumulation, solidary economy, in its apparatus net, is not dispensed of acting in market and
generating excess.42

Refuting a current habit, of classify everything in Third-Sector43, the facts examined
until here conduct to visualize solidary popular economy as a proper contours and
characteristics phenomenon, intersessioned with those of Third-Sector:

a) First, popular economy is a preferential intervention field of Third-Sector organizations,
particularly of its social economic projects. In Brazil, as we have already studied, the
present economic solidarism boom elapses, in great part, of the persistence work of
institutions and agencies alongside State and with no relation with market.

b) Solidary undertaking, in its place, tend to create or consolidate numberless mediation and
representation instances, such as associative unions, cooperative federations, interchange
nets and support and fomentation organizations. It is worthy to remember, for example,
ANTEAG- National Workers Association of Self Administration and Shareholder
Participation Business and ADS - Solidary Development Agency, created recently by
unionism initiative. Solidary economy expands and multiplies Third-Sector organization.

I thank Domingos Armani (UNISINOS) for the indications to this synthesis.
What does not mean to obtain capitalist profit, if we restrict it, in politics economy expressions, to the
surplus value extraction and private accumulation.
A habit initiated in Brazil, probably, by R. Fernandes’ work (1994). The proper attempt of remake this
sector history, projecting it on other ages realities, highly different, only shows that, between State and
Private Sector there always have numberless social lives forms, despoiled of any historical and,
accordingly, conceptual unity. Still today, for the major part of the named Third Sector organizations, this
classification seems strange.
c) Associative undertakings, turned to rent and work generation, as a rule, accomplish a
sequence of functions, in health, education, communitary insertion, minorities defense,
environmental preservation, etc. They act, hence, in analogous way to Third-Sector
organizations. Solidary economy competes with private sector in work stations creation,
and in social services offer with the State. Furthermore, it rejects the separation between
economic and social, conciliates cooperation and work efficiency and establishes the
foundations to a solidary socioeconomy: “a economy turned to the social, which basis is
the conscience that we are all interconnected and, so, we must do of our interpersonal,
commercial, productive and social relations something that result in benefaction, welfare
and happiness for both parts.” (Arruda, 1998:13).

Solidary Economic Third-Sector
Economy Projects

Picture 2

d) Solidary economy shares with Third-Sector, or at least with a great part of its
organizations, a conjunct of values and practices: in one side, values as altruism,
individualism and competition rejection, human rights, social justice, etc. In another side,
proximity practices, confidence, concrete local insertion, mutual aid, citizenship defense,
among others. There is a deep affinity, that makes possible the organic integration between
the fields.

e) This possibility is equally sustained, and in a decisive way, in the deep similarity between
its respective structures and working logic. So Third-Sector organizations as solidary
economy realizations excel by their autonomy and for establishing horizontal connections -
and not pyramidal Their acting is not centered, forming a plural field where biggest
affinities generate tighter articulations and those, new identities, in a continuous melting
and constructive process. In this point of view, they form an aside reality, endowed of
structural and systemic similarities, such as communicating vessels that distinguish them
from First and Second Sector.

So, it is worth to say, Third-Sector and solidary economy assume the same polarity,
in the interior of a triangular historical configuration. About this, there is a convergence point
among scholars, in rejecting the dichotomy State x market, or public x private. Coraggio
(1977) distinguishes three economic subsystems: entrepreneur, public and popular economy;
Franco (1996) describes three spheres, in social arrangement: market, State and civil society;
Nyssens (1996) proposes the visualization of three polos: capitalist, public and relational. The
consensus is in the three last element characterization: relational polo, civil society and
popular economy constitute initiatives conjuncts and associative life processes, where
predominate human factors and reciprocity relations, guided by a non State and non
mercantile rationality. In the same way, this third vertex is seen as a synergy font of the
society living forces, which dynamism redefines the other polos roles and opens new ways to
the society.

This models and projections (Picture 3), being theoretic, serve to give understanding
to accentuated discontinued processes. In Brazil’s economy solidary case, particularly in Rio
Grande do Sul, advance in this direction requires the equation of at least some questions:

First deals about the social place where solidary economy agents and dynamic forces
must concentrate. To some ones, it is the State that must accomplish this role, calling to it the
organizations aligned with its strategic vision and its action program. Naturally, in this
conception, there is no place to entities as Portosol; the articulations choices depends on the
functionality grade - in the limit, of subservience - identified in the other partners.
Alternatively, the gravity center can be placed on non State public sphere, endowing it of
mechanisms capable of attracting divers actors, from different nuances, whose interaction
results in long term commitments with development programs and directives. This vision,
predominating in Porto Alegre municipal government, leading up to Portosol creation.

Solidary economy features, specially in its plural vocation and multiple centric
conformation, as its bonds with Third-Sector, defend decisively in second hypothesis favor.
An argument could be still adduced: in Brazil, is necessary to recuperate the specific
functions and the politic institutional sphere prerogatives, in certain way reverting the
excessive public life politicization. Namely, State is naturally a dispute field, a politic dispute
object, which momentary resolution is shaped in government’s programs. To the political
interests raised to the State system command, by the democratic representation mechanisms,
due to act legitimately on all sectors. Although, it is exercised, besides, the processes
conduction, counting on the State purveyor capacity,44 they end for subdue public politics, as
civil society respective organizations, to the game of government politics, know by its
instability, instability and discontinuity. Better if victorious party programs valorize the
solidary popular economy, since they do not take the way of becoming it epicenter, but
searching to feed a dynamic fluxes system, necessarily inter departmental.

This understanding helps to accept each solidary economy segment, with its
respective fomentation programs, as ways to attend specific situations. Walking to more
inclusive actions does not mean invalidate this differences, but introduce connection ways and
new services, which formation and experimentation support a progressive scale change. So, it
is secondary if organizations act in various fronts or if they dedicate to only one service. It fit
It must not be forgotten that State is the main Third Sector financier, by its direct, by fiscal renounce
and other mechanisms allowed to private enterprises, since they canalize resources to social programs. In
Brazil, unionist associations and ONGs are occupying the space of other institutions that traditionally
promote professional formation courses with State resources. In RS, the piece that fit to them of Worker
Aid Fund, main budget font to this finality, have increased from 15 to 50%, only between 1997 and 1999.
It is not exaggeration affirm that social organizations are a State sector subproduct, or they institutionalize
in a strait dependence on it.
to the system supply all needs; it fits to each organization, according to its institutional
peculiarities, establish proper lines, trying to guide them to a high demonstrative power
actions, able to mobilize expressive public resources, for guarantee its multiplication and


Private State
Sector Sector


Picture 3

This perspective obligates, although, to visualize solidary economy beyond the
experiences particularities that, until this moment, made it a concrete reality. Public space can
not be a simple extension of organized groups our powerful sectors, or it would be
condemned to reproduce selective distribution mechanisms of public goods, destitute of
universal rules and effectively democratic principles. In this logic, since there is no regulatory
criteria, as Doimo stresses “what counts is this: those who are more organized and make
more pressure are the ones who gain public funds pieces”(1995: 60). If politics and
institutional sphere is dispute field of ideological visions and interests, it will always be tragic
the vision that, sustaining in State system or enjoying of a privilege position, public sphere is
a simple extension of interest groups.

In reality, it is to restrain an auto projection spontaneous tendency, by social reality, in
its totality, acquires colors and sense that it have in particular field. In this way, it is important
to have in mind that the main conjunct of experiences and economic solidarism fomentation,
generated in the eighties, adapts in movementist nets. Such nets, although its universalizing
appeal, are restrict to a determined representations and relations circle. The requirements for
the attendance of the demands that manifest in them, as its decision processes efficacy, can
not be conducted, for no good reason, to citizenship treatment. To suppose that the
mobilization and stress capacity are popular web natural qualities, would be endowed of
elevated internal cohesion, would only exclude those already excluded. Because, as Domo
affirms, the only way of contour this race “among divers segmented groups concomitantly
mobilized, is institute regulatory politics that pass through the interests groups, reaching
potential beneficiaries” (1995: 60). If there is hegemony to be conquered in public space, it
must serve to oxygenate political and administrative apparatus, conquering new institutional
devices and construct viable proposals to whole society.


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