Fundo Vale and Inter-American Development Bank supported event organized by Conexus and CERTI Foundation; aim was to strengthen community businesses by connecting them to innovation ecosystems 

Photo: Paulo Cabral / Conexsus 

Conexsus and the CERTI Foundation, with support from Fundo Vale and Bid Lab, brought together around 50 people in Manaus, the state capital of Amazonas, on June 3 and 4 for a workshop called “Innovation and Community Business: How Can We Bring These Ecosystems Closer Together and Connect Them?” The aim of the event was to find new strategies to strengthen community-based bioeconomy businesses in the Amazon Rainforest, Cerrado Savanna and Caatinga Shrublands. 

“Conexsus is an institution that was born with the purpose of activating the social and environmental impact business ecosystem, especially community-based businesses formed by cooperatives and associations. In our view, activating this group of businesses could potentially have major economic benefits for the communities and territories in which they operate, but it depends on making a series of connections with other types of stakeholders, including the innovation ecosystem,” says Pedro Frizo, the leader of Conexsus’ Regional Community Businesses and Ecosystems Center. 

The integration of traditional knowledge with innovative solutions is seen as essential for the sustainable prosperity of regions, ensuring that community businesses become protagonists in conserving forests and improving the quality of life of local people. 

“Innovation is often seen as something that is complex. However, it is not always disruptive or highly technological. Innovation may be based on a new business model or a more efficient process, for example. In the case of CERTI and Conexsus, we continually discuss which kinds of innovations are relevant to transforming the bioeconomy in the Amazon, and we also realized that we needed to broaden this discussion with those who are involved and who make up the bioeconomy in Brazil. This is how this workshop arose, based on one guiding question: how can we bring together and connect these very different worlds of startups or innovation ecosystems and community business ecosystems?” explains André Noronha, project coordinator at the CERTI Foundation’s Green Economy Center. 

The workshop included a series of activities focused on identifying challenges and opportunities. In addition, barriers that make it difficult to bring the two ecosystems closer together were discussed. From this dialogue, ideas and guidelines emerged to promote more effective integration. 

“Fundo Vale has been looking a lot at the topic of the bioeconomy and how to expand the scale of social and biological diversity businesses in the Amazon so that it can become a significant economy for the biome. In this process, we have identified that connecting innovation, academic production and what is being done in research institutions with the needs and real demands of community businesses is fundamental to this vision of scale,” says Márcia Soares, Fundo Vale’s Amazon and partnerships manager.