Revista VEJA by Carolina Almeida

For Edgard Gouveia Jr., director of the Elos Institute, todays’s entrepreneurial youth promotes significant changes by acting from their local reality.

Edgard Gouveia Júnior, aged 46, Brazilian urban specialist and executive director of the Elos Institute NGO, who has won international attention for his approach to grassroots development and research on global change through play. Essential part of his work is the young ones’ engagement. Along with them, the architect, who was born in Santos (SP), sets up projects in Brazil and many other countries. One of these is the ‘Oasis”, which consists in creating solutions and engaging spaces designed to exchange experiences in needy areas. The quality of his activity alongside the youth has given him recognition from the prestigious Harvard University, in the US. About the workshop given at the University in the beginning of the month, The Harvard Gazette complimented him on “his playfull approach to grassroots development and research on change through play.”

Gouveia Jr., believes that modern young people have a different, and more efficient way of promoting changes. The dream leaves the scene with a great revolution and a confrontational attitude – which have marked previous generations – and the desire to transform close reality and the value given to cooperation. He says that the lonely hero figure does not exist for this modern generation: what they want is to work as team.

Young people today believe what Gouveia Jr. calls “cooperative micro-revolutions”, which characteristics are short-term work, done at their free time; complete freedom to find solutions, preferably ideas that demand no money; and joy, close to friends when possible. By combining these three principles, says the specialist, these young ones are capable of tracing a way of change that is not considered a burden – but a leisure time instead.

How can young people today contribute to change the world?

Young modern people are agile and want more concrete results. The transformation they look for has to be consistent, here and now. As they have their feet on the ground, they are not guided by the dream of promoting great social, political and economical revolutions. Their focus is the world around them. We call those changes “micro-revolutions”. Young ones are not motivated by conflict. On the contrary. They want to trace an alternative way, without using strength, fight or conflict. What they like best and know how to do is teamwork.

Is that what you call “Warriors without weapons”?

What I call a “warrior without weapons” is the young person who commits themselves to contribute to transform the world – for real and right now – without using weapons and violence. This young one really develops a transformative capacity, but that means doing it with people.

What do you mean “with people”? Bringing people together toward a common goal?

Yes. What I stand up for and see about the young is that they do not want to be lonely heros. They have the initiative and the ability to invite their friends, neighbors, and peers for their projects. It’s a desire to share their tasks.

How do you define the role of youth today?

I usually describe their ability to promote changes through three basic advantages: speed, spontaneity, and joy. They are joyful and efficient, besides being thrifty at what they do – which does not mean that they get no results.

Not every young people are so enthusiastic. What can we do so that a greater number of them are more active?

As many people do not volunteer, the society, specially young activists, have to develop the ability to make invitations that counteract the main “inhibitors” of natural impulse to collaborate. I call them “inhibitors” the fear of suffering, failing and losing freedom. Fear of suffering is not just about oneself, but also about the fear of making someone who they love suffer as well. There is also the fear of losing freedom or autonomy, that arises when the young one thinks: “If I get into it, then I won’t be able leave it” or “it won’t be nice to leave it”. There are those who just want to get involved if they can offer something at the extent, deadline, and manner they have planned by themselves. Finally, there’s the fear of failing, that is, of devoting, believing so much in something, and in the end, not having the expected results.

Then, how can we eliminate those “inhibitors” of natural change?

It’s simple. The offer has to be fast. We all live under much pressure and the struggle to cope with just some daily tasks. Supporting a second, or third cause sounds like madness to many young people. But if you call them to do something significant, at their lunchtime, then they are in. If it’s free, that’s even better. When they have more freedom to act the way they want to, then the invitation gets more interesting. When adding fun and their friends’ participation, the attendance increases. If we are able to add speed, autonomy and a meaning, most part of mankind will be willing contribute.

Do you have any examples of theses micro-revolutions?

One of these is the ‘Oasis Game’ Santa Catarina [when Itajaí River flood took place]. I also highlight the flash mobs – calls for flash-acts made on the Internet which bring together hundreds of people. And our most recent project, “Play the call”, that aims to engage 2 billion people over the next four years through “getting your hands dirty” in order to reverse the biosphere degradation process.

Do you consider the “final balance” of these small changes in society positive?

It is positive, anyway. Even small, these micro-revolutions change people’s lives for the better  – and many times, permanently. I also see they are pointing a way, showing a tendency. I believe this “wave” is coming, insinuating and rising.   My viewpoint is that something beautiful is coming soon if we work – or even better, play well.

How do you see Brazilian young ones, specifically?

There are so many profiles, I can’t see a clear pattern yet. There is the young one – who I like to see and follow – who has been more socially engaged, creative, that finds new and innovative solutions which harmonize with their view of the world. They are silent, they are more interested in doing than showing off, or marketing themselves, and they know how to balance real world transformation with personal welfare. They do not react like it’s a burden, even when they show full dedication. They are bonding agents, and like calling others, exchanging information, cooperating.

What tips would you like to give these young people?

Whatever you may do, whatever your “call” may be in this world, don’t fight for that. Don’t sacrifice yourself. Make fun of it. Add happiness and allow all your friends to participate too. The world we are dreaming of building starts here and right now. Not only ahead of us.

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