By Luciana de Alencar and Lindenberg Junior | Translation by Lilian Carvalho Moreira
*English Edition: Jennifer Parker

At some point in your life, you may have heard about Third Sector, social responsibility, non-profit organizations or social assistance. However, have you ever stopped to think and analyze the importance of these aforementioned institutions in the modern society? And how they can affect your daily life?

What is the third sector? It is a phenomenon of the last three decades and mobilizes private resources to public purposes. The third sector is an action of civil society constituted by various kinds of non-profit organizations.

One main type is the non-profit organizations with public purposes, known in Brazil as ONGs (nongovernmental organizations). In addition, an important remark is that every nonprofit is part of the Third Sector, but not all the Third Sector is constituted by nonprofit.

Among these new terminologies, the most current one certainly is the social responsibility. This is the right term when it comes to fulfillment of duties and obligations of either individuals or companies relating to society in general. The most recent manifestation of this is corporate social responsibility, also known as responsible business.

The market outline has changed in the last two decades and companies had to adapt themselves to the new market requirements. As time went, by companies were requested to stop focusing only on sales and start also focusing on actions that would benefit the entire society. Nowadays, these companies are financing more and more social projects with these characteristics. However, this kind of operation can not be confounded with philanthropy, since it has better business performance and profit.

On the other hand, the social assistance is understood as a citizen right and a state duty. It is planned with basic objectives, technically, to guarantee family protection, maternity, childhood, adolescence and elderly. These goals operate in an integrated way and aim the combat the social inequality, as well as provisions of conditions to take care of social contingencies and the “universalization” of social rights. It can be done by either, public or private initiatives.

The co-responsibility of the citizens should not be only a characteristic of the Brazilian society but also in the international scope, in respect to the human democracy and rights, to the environment, the equality of gender and in the fight against the poverty and the social exclusion, for these are interests of all the humanity.

According to data from the 1988 consensus, the Brazilian Association of Nonprofit Organizations (ABONG – Associação Brasileira de Organizações Não-governamentais), it is estimated that there are currently over 250 thousand organizations in the third sector, circulating values correspondents to 1.5% of the Brazilian GDP. It is expected that in the future they will circulate values of up to 5% of the GDP, matching European countries average.

Inside this context, it is important to know which non-profit are in fact, involved in concrete social causes, considering that in many moments the image of serious institutions is endangered, because of the lack of seriousness of so many others. However, it is shown by good examples that the benefits provided by the actions of social relevance are unquestioned. Our commitment here is exactly to show the figure of some of these institutions and to give a brief explanation of its works, give information on contacts and promote the transparency on such an important subject.

This and other not-so-commercial, but very important in the generation of a more just and more human world-wide society, subjects always had room in the pages of Soul Brasil, in its trajectory since its first edition, on July 2002. This guideline project of Soul Brasil, that starts in this edition, is not opinionative, it is of organizational and informative character to especially generate a bigger conscience on the social responsibility that compete to each one of us, and to the commercial companies in the search of something beyond the profit.

NGO’s in Brazil

Brazil, with its immense territory, and its diverse social problems, create and recreate forms to supply the inefficiency of a bureaucratic state. The affirmation of a new responsible and participative outline of Brazilian society express itself in the search of new forms of joint between organizations of the Third Sector, governmental institutions and companies.

The NGOs in Brazil went through many changes in the last 20 years and currently the search of sustainability is one of its major challenges. A problem to be faced and that affects directly the image of the nonprofit is the existence of fraudulent institutions created for money laundry or to get fiscal exemption. However, there are Brazilian nonprofits well-reputed worldwide, serious institutions that work with intention to help the community and to make the difference, not only in statistical data, but also in the qualitative scope.

Among many serious organizations, we start mention four in this issue that work with different perspectives and groups:

* Instituição do Homem Novo (IHN ) – The institution of the New Man develops a work of rehabilitation of prisoners in semi-freedom in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Its goal is to build close and citizenship reform, seeking the transformation of the participants. His web-site is www.ihn.org.br.

* Organização Mundial para Educação Pré-Escolar – The World Organization for Pre- School Education is a philanthropic entity without racial, philosophical or religious discrimination. From the national level, consists of federations that operate in state and areas that are formed by regional or municipal associations. Their action has been marked to agency, mobilizing political and civilians in defense of children’s rights. His website is www.omep.org.br.

* Network Feminista de Saude e Direito – Social Feminist Network for Health, Social and Reproductive Rights is an movement for women rights completing eighteen years now in 2008. It brings together today 266 different agencies among women’s groups, non-governmental organizations, centers of research, trade unions / professional and advice of women’s rights, as well as health professionals and feminist activists, who develop policy and research work in the areas of health and women’s sexual and reproductive rights. His website is www.redesaude.org.br.

* Organization of Permaculture and Art (OPA ), created in 2004 by multicultural artists and educators of diverse backgrounds, is in the process of establishing a center in the historic Pelourinho district of Salvador to demonstrate innovative urban permaculture models and function as a multi-purpose art space. Programs include Circo Agua Viva, a project of environmental education through circus arts and educational theater with underprivileged children and at-risk youth in Salvador, and ECO-Surfista environmental program combining surf and Permaculture nearby on the Bahian coast. www.opabrazil.org

More recent studies have demonstrated the importance of the spontaneous and autonomous organization of civil society groups, movements and non-profit organizations for effective democracy, promoting development and citizenship. Lastly, a phrase here that really matches with the new era that we are living: “Growing at all costs without measuring important consequences, is not cool. Today the new capitalism requires growing business with ecological and social responsibilities to achieve survive the trends of the new consumer market demands.

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