SIPA awards self-starter grants to first- or second-year students to deepen knowledge of Brazil and explore projects that advance social entrepreneurship and innovation in or related to Brazil. Fellows participate in dialogues with scholars and other thought leaders about innovation and public policy challenges in Brazil and elsewhere. The special support for Fellows fosters the development of a cohort of students who are focused on social entrepreneurship and innovation in Brazil.

Applications for the AY22 self-starter grants are now open. SIPA will award up to 15 self-starter grants of $1,000 to first- or second-year students to explore projects that would advance social entrepreneurship and innovation in or related to Brazil. Funding can be used to pay for research-related activities and travel, subject to current Columbia University COVID-19 guidelines. To apply, please submit to Eric Fillinger ([email protected]) a one-page proposal describing the problem to be studied and type of research and planning activities to be undertaken. Please also include a brief tentative budget, along with current resume. Deadline to apply is September 27, 2021.  For more information, please contact Eric Fillinger ([email protected]).  Winners will be announced in early October.

 Students selected as Lemann Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellows will be encouraged to attend a special workshop, “Achieving Social Impact: Brazil and Beyond.” The workshop, which will feature experts from SIPA and Brazil, will focus on designing and launching projects and organizations to achieve measurable social impact.

 Lemann Innovation Fellows must complete research activities before April 1, 2022 and submit one-page report and spending summary no later than April 15, 2022.

Recipients of Lemann Innovation Fellowships are invited but not required to apply for Brazil Challenge Grant awards; conversely, students who do not receive Lemann Innovation Fellowships may apply for Brazil Challenge Grant support.

Fellow Spotlight

Joao Melhado MPA '20
Lemann Social Innovator Joao Melhado’s research studied Sao Paulo’s on-street parking pricing policy and compared it to private garages in the same areas. He collected more than 650 prices using Google Street View images producing a report that verified Sao Paulo’s public rates for parking are very underpriced compared to private garages. Melhado research is summarized in his article in Veja Sao Paulo, he was interviewed on local public television, had his findings discussed on a podcast of Estadão (one of the three main newspapers of Brazil) and in a prominent automobile magazine, and saw his work cited by a municipal court in a case related to Sao Paulo's parking policy.

2020 fellows


Guilherme Barros MPA '20
This project examined whether public-private partnership strategies embarked on by the new government could yield positive outcomes for social entrepreneurs’ financial sustainability in the medium-long run, especially in regards to public sector contracts and funding from federal, state and local levels. The research identified that the current public-private partnership models in Brazil follow the traditional approaches performed in the past decades, prioritizing liquidation of assets or concessions to consolidated private sector companies, with little room for social entrepreneurship to arise. Further research should explore the perspective of legislators and potential changes in the current legislation that could allow more efficient arrangements between social entrepreneurs selling in the business to government model.

Drashti Brahmbhatt MIA '21
This project focused on how Afro-Brazilians claim power and fight for their own social inclusion when the government is unable and/or unwilling to. It researched new strategies, technology, and innovation Afro-Brazilians rely on to achieve their goal of self-reliance and self-pride. After preliminary desk research, a trip to Brazil was planned to visit a variety of federal universities to speak to Afro-Brazilian students on their experiences with racism on campus and how they levied social media to raise awareness of their experiences. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis prevented this trip from happening. Hopefully, in the near future, this travel can occur in order to examine non-statist ways of fighting for social inclusion so that other movements in the world can replicate their successes.

Morris McGinn MPA '20
This project had the goal of increasing the number of Brazilian students committed to development in Brazil at top-tier STEM graduate programs in the United States. During the course of the research, the Fellow spoke with experts in the Brazilian education space. With a better understanding of the feasibility of launching a STEM loan program, future efforts will entail work with a Brazil-based partner to understand if the program could truly bring down the costs for a loan grantee to a level that would give a Brazilian student confidence in their ability to pay back a loan after pursuing a U.S. master’s program. In the landscape of options available to students in STEM fields in Brazil, it seems that U.S. master’s programs are the bottom contenders – with domestic and European programs winning out with their affordability and already institutionalized presence in Brazil. The fellow is currently in discussions with a fellow student in Brazil to understand if it makes sense to move forward with the project.

Joao Melhado MPA '20
This project studied the Sao Paulo’s on-street parking pricing policy and compared it to private garages in the same areas by collecting more than 650 prices using Google Street View images. This research verified that Sao Paulo’s public rates for parking are very underpriced compared to private garages. This standardized underpricing policy represents a major loss of revenue for the municipal government, while also increasing inequality, pollution, traffic, and the risk of collisions. This data will be the basis of a report to be launched in the near future with the goal of influencing local officials and municipal governments to improve their on-street public parking policies, improving the city’s mobility overall.

Roshni Mukherji MPA '20
This project sought to assist Eu Ensino to design a 4-month long strategy and implementation plan to test its technology in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Eu Ensino is a Brazilian based for-profit social enterprise, in the early stage of operation. It leverages technology to increase the reach of techniques for social-emotional classroom management, sharing of best practices, and teacher training tracks. This fellow was directly affected by the Covid-19 crisis and will provide an update on project findings as soon as it becomes feasible.

Dan Poniachik MPA '20
This project sought to understand how behavioral economics could help innovations in social activism through the participatory lab Nossas, based in Rio de Janeiro, that has done successful civic engagement campaigns around education, gender equality and public services in Brazil. Following a visit to Nossas, it was agreed that the Fellow will provide insights on their Bonde project, which is a website builder for social impact campaigns. Campaigns around public health in the recent emergency have been built with this website with incredible success. 

Gaurav Pundir MPA '21
This research sought to explore the feasibility of developing a tech-platform through which corporations and philanthropies could distribute scholarships and grants in an efficient manner to low-income students, pre-screened through a standardized test and seeking admissions to the private for-profit universities in Brazil. The possibility of amending the federal tax code to incentivize such contributions was also analyzed. Owing to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the research was conducted through interviews with experts from the stakeholder groups. The research suggested that the tech-platform was viable, however, the regulatory space currently needs a comprehensive makeover starting with amending the provisions relating to tax breaks to corporates for such contributions. Further, engaging the tech-startups active in the space of providing loans to the students could be leveraged as a future partner in establishing such a platform.

Jennifer Rae MPA '20
This project aimed to propose innovative public private partnership (PPP) models for different stakeholders and contexts in Brazil, balancing interests and needs to ensure the sustainability of the agreements and the quality of the service to the population. Research found that partnership with the private sector becomes even more essential for Brazil to obtain necessary resources – not only financial resources, but also planning, technology and management – for the expansion of sanitation.

2019 Fellows


Guilherme Barros MPA '20
This project researched the potential to develop the first Social Impact Bonds (SIB) in Brazil in partnership with the Department of Social Services in São Paulo. The SIB was designed to contribute to reducing homelessness and drug crisis in the city through the ongoing "Redenção" program. While the proposal was developed and approved by the leadership the Department of Social Services in March 2019, in the following month the Secretary resigned and left the city government, drastically impacting the approval process of the SIB. In May 2019, SMADS was still going through restructuring and as of June 2019, there was no opportunity to present the proposal to the new leadership.

Arthur Carneiro MIA '19
This project assessed the impact of microfinance initiatives in Brazil and worked to develop creative ways to reduce the cost of providing microfinance. It sought to measure the impact of Fintech in microfinance in Brazil. The project found that the direct credit institution (SCD) and peer-to-peer credit institution (SEP) FinTechs are still very much in its infancy and will need more time to scale up its lending capacity. A possible solution found for the lack of capital available for small businesses is the development of a mini-bond market. Mini-bonds are medium to long term debt instruments created in a reaction to restraints in traditional bank lending.

Rodrigo Ferreira MPA '19
The goal of this research is to design an open online database of financial instruments available to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to promote the development of innovative projects in Brazil. This study sought to (1) gather data on available financial instruments from the public financial institutions in Brazil to support SMEs' innovation projects and (2) develop an open and easily accessible online database where SMEs could find all the required information on how to apply and access these funding opportunities. Contact information was obtained for twenty-four funding agencies that offer financial instruments to support innovation projects support to SMEs, a proposal for the conceptual design of the database was developed, and interviews were conducted with staff at three national offices to obtain required data.  Work continues to create the actual database.

Fernando Haddad Moura MPA '20
The research sought to discover if it is viable for the new political movements in Brazil (and/or some candidates with similar platforms) to join forces and use a single framework to develop their campaigns in a more efficient manner and at lower costs, innovating the way in which campaigning is done. After conducting extensive research, a list of recommendations for both movements and candidates was developed. Research also indicated that it is viable for candidates to join forces and share a campaign structure with professional and experienced campaign consultants that can work for 5-10 candidates during the campaign period.

Alexander Rustler MPA-DP '19
The research assessed the financial and practical feasibility of building public water fountains in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, with possible replicable solutions for other Brazilian/global cities. Ultimately, the initial study shows that environmental issues are not on top of Brazilian citizens’ agendas. Overarching domestic political and economic worries have replaced the emergence of environmental concerns among the urban Brazilian population in recent years. The study yields the preliminary conclusion that the reception of water fountains in Brazilian cities for the reduction of disposable water bottles is limited and requires broader public acceptance for subsequent policy steps.

Márcia Sanzovo SIPA B-School '19
The goal of this qualitative research was to compare incubators’ and accelerators’ structures and strategies in the U.S. and Brazil and provide recommendations for improving Brazilian programs so they can foster the creation of innovative and sustainable ventures, especially in the social entrepreneurship realm. Research found that the incubation and acceleration programs in Brazil support entrepreneurs in a similar way to the United States – through training, mentorship, community, service and investment opportunities. Research also found that Brazilian incubators and accelerators can engage in cross-sector partnerships to enhance their results, and that the active participation of successful entrepreneurs, including from Brazilian unicorn startups, combined with private and nonprofit sector investments, is essential to strengthen the Brazilian entrepreneurial ecosystem.