Discover a free university, grounding Brazilian youth in regenerative & transformative education

We sat down with Gabriela Cilento Conti Montenegro, manager, creator, tutor & mastermind behind Collab Jovem. We find out how she made  this free, sustainable, transformative educational facility helps youth to appropriate who they are in the world, giving them a deeper sense of self and grounding, laying the foundation to transform themselves and their communities. She tells us why these kinds of facilities are so important as we push for change within our world and we discover some of the challenges that these organisations can face. 

'Collab Jovem connects educational content on sustainability and regeneration in a hybrid and self-directed learning journey that aims to facilitate the Design of the Life Project for Transition of each young person and promote socioeconomic and cultural diversity among young people from 14 years old.' 

Why did you start Youth Collab?

"I had a dream to bring together the regenerative organisations foundation of my sustainable training: Gaia Education and the Transition Towns Movement. Today I put myself in service where I live, through my talents in a designer form of regenerative cultures and self-directed learning architect. I am very grateful for what I have learnt, how I have learnt, and from who I have learnt, and I would like to give this back to these organisations within the principles of REconomy in Network caring for one another.

I had a dream to pass it on to the audience that I love to work with, which is the youth. The idea was to walk the talk in diversity and empower young people with different cultures and socio-economic realities to find themselves as change makers for the planetary transition during their life journeys, just being who they are and putting themselves into action in the world, small actions to take care of yourself, the other, your community and the Planet. 

When I joined the Transition Towns Movement Hub in Brazil in 2020, I saw the opportunity to start Youth Collab, I took this dream to the Transition Towns circle and to the Brazilian hub, and we dreamed together; Collab became a priority of the circle and one of the hub participants, Angélica Buonfiglioli accepted co-coordinate this project with me. Then we took the project idea to Sally Bogale, Co-Chief Executive of Gaia Education and Manu Koja from Gaia education Brasil; they also loved and supported the idea, and from there, it was natural to sew with the other organisations."


What is the main aim?

"The main aim is for young people to experience a free university, learning in a sustainable manner, in regenerative educational territories, based on their interests and needs. At Collab Youth, there is no single learning track, but they all add up to a minimum of 40 hours. We honour local knowledge of building learning communities, we mobilise the educators of the organisations involved and ask them to carry out a head, heart, and hands experience for one young person or for all community involved, as the young people decide what they want to learn. The pedagogical(teaching) proposal is simple, and the organisation and support of the camp are complex but very real and meaningful. 

The educators offer knowledge linked to UNESCO's four stages of learning (which here we have given another name to adjust the language to the local understanding):

Young people commit to participation and, with the support of tutors, they choose what they want and what they need to learn during the hybrid, collective and individual learning journey. Simple, isn't it? The hybrid learning journey lasts six months - a total of 46 hours and will take place like this:
Month 1: It will be presential at the Espaço Flor das Águas, at a holiday camp which will take place from 25th to 29th July, including 40 hours of experiences, workshops, art workshops, soirées and conversation rounds, with various options for the young person to choose which they want to participate in.

Months 2 to 6: Online meetings, in a total of 6 hours divided into five synchronous virtual meetings. The first meeting, lasting 2 hours, will be for the choice of the tutor who will guide the young person in designing his/her life project for the transition. The other four meetings are for individual tutoring, which will take place once a month, each lasting 1 hour.

Another main aim is that the young person can design his/her life project for the transition in a natural way, based on his/her talents and on the potentials and challenges of the territory where he/she lives. And that the young person does this design (dreaming, planning, realising, monitoring, adjusting the route and celebrating) with the support of an active support network (staff, educators, parents, family, friends), a tutor experienced in designing self-directed learning pathways."


Where did the inspiration come from?

"From the experiences of community building lived in Gaia's programmes, from my experience as an organizing team of Gaia Jovem & from the training of Cidades em Transição which I completed. Nowadays, I'm a trainer mainly with DPV - Life Project Design, an unfolding of Gaia Jovem and Transition on the perspective of self-directed learning."


Why is it so important that we empower young people to be agents of change?

"Because they possess the strength of youth, they are extremely sensitive to the pains of themselves, of others and of the world. They are connected to all forms of life as they experience that the World is true, so they are highly committed when they find truth in something. They need people who listen to them and lead them in an interested, loving way, without judgments and without seeking to impose their way of learning and what to learn. When we support a field so that young people can choose their path, they appropriate who they are and their internal strength to be agents of change by what makes each one of them get out of bed on a rainy Sunday morning at 6 o'clock in the morning with joy and surrender."


What challenges did you face when creating Collab Youth?

"Creating something new with so many actors requires patience and care; we brought together many strong and powerful people! Making sure the team was as aligned as possible with the pedagogical proposal and trusting in what is different was a challenge of a lot of collaborating, listening and firmness.

However, the biggest challenge was and still is the fundraising to make the project viable - 
24 young people signed up, 17 of whom need sponsorship!
With one-off donations from partner organisations and recurring donations from investors in transformative education, the initiative has already managed to sponsor 14 young people, let's celebrate! Now, there are only three young people left to be sponsored, and we can think of multiplying the transformation, opening new classes for 2023.

You can contribute to these sponsorships by supporting the crowdfunding campaign on Benfeitoria - Collab Jovem and, if you can, share this campaign so that more investors in transformative education can support young people who are discovering their role in the world."

Click below to learn more about the initiative and campaign:  Benfeitoria - Collab Jovem 


What are some of your proudest moments during the project?

"When we saw the educators, who often did not even know each other because they worked in different organisations, giving themselves in trust and love, putting themselves at the service of welcoming how many young people and staff arrived in their workshops.

When we receive feedback from parents about how their children are feeling after the immersion, and they tell us that small invitations made during the immersion, such as meditation, sustainable food and freedom from animal suffering, have become a habit.

When a young person like Maciel Angeli, who loves cooking, starts to adhere to the recipes in the Youth Collab community of practice.

When following the tutoring, we see them being who they are in action, some in a short time acting as change makers, like Julia Uemura:

"Yesterday I did a picnic here at my college to talk about climate change. I was moving this with a group for a while, and it finally worked out!!! I guided a meditation at the beginning, we discussed a lot about impact careers, sustainable X regenerative and social action. I realized how much I carry transition around, I love it too much!!! and how much I learned to connect spirituality and leadership for a better world! much realization post-Youth Collab, thank you gentee, I carry Transition where ever I go!!! 

                        -  Julia Uemura, 20 years old.


The first stage of  Youth Collab - 'Water Flower 2022' an intentional community in the city of Cunha, countryside of São Paulo is complete. 

Picture and video credits: Julio Stotz. Instagram @juliostotz
Follow the project's instagram: 

Have you heard of similar initiatives in your community or country? Do you have a similar dream to Gabriela's to create a safe space for learning, collaboration and action?
Comment below; we'd love to hear your stories! 


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