Benefitting more than 10,000 people since its foundation in 2016, the Planet Institute plays a key role in offering the local population free courses, cinema screenings and libraries in regions that lack such resources.

“Education does not transform the world. Education changes people. People change the world.”

The above phrase from Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and philosopher considered one of the main thinkers of world pedagogy, reflects the main role of Planet Institute: empowering citizens to transform coexistence, making neighbourhoods and cities developed by Planet Smart City rich places for exchanging, learning and socioeconomic improvement.

To this end, the institute aims to generate positive social impact among residents of cities built by Planet, as well as the surrounding population. Its activities seek to create a harmonious city and an urban environment full of personal development opportunities for citizens.

How does it work?

Founded in 2016, Planet Institute is a non-profit institution which has already been part of the lives of over 10,000 people, including children, youth and adults. The activities are all free. The institute’s programme is developed around four key areas: education, art and culture, social inclusion and collaborative economy, and sports.

At our smart cities in Brazil, the institute provides free spaces open to the population, such as the library, cinema, sewing workshop and Library of Things, as well as free courses in digital empowerment, English, entrepreneurship and handicrafts. It also holds events, such as on Social Action Day in July 2019, when we brought together around 300 people at Smart City Laguna, offering a morning of free services including hairdressing, a health tent with physical evaluations, glycemia and pressure gauging, a handicraft workshop, and recreational games for children and adolescents.

All these spaces and activities are free and open to the residents of the smart cities, as well as those living in surrounding areas, with the goal of developing a sense of collaboration and belonging.

The library, for example, encourages reading, facilitates access to education and stimulates creativity. Currently, the Smart City Laguna library has more than 200 registered readers and a collection of more than 1,200 paradidactic, research, informative, fiction and educational books. Books can be easily borrowed with free library cards available in the Innovation Hub.

Laguna’s cinema has special cinema seats and screens HD films and Netflix series weekly, every Saturday. The facility can also be booked by groups or schools via telephone or email. Since 2017, the cinema has received more than 600 spectators who have watched films of various genres: action, adventure, children, documentary, animation, comedy, among others.

Every semester, new classes in digital empowerment, English, entrepreneurship and handicraft courses, new classes are opened. In Laguna, the Planet Institute is equipped with a technology laboratory with ten computers connected to the internet, offering training for young people in the region of São Gonçalo do Amarante, Ceará, Brazil. The courses have a modular format and address various themes for audiences with diverse knowledge and interests. In all, the Planet Institute has trained more than 400 people in Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte since its foundation.

The library, cinema and courses are great instruments for social inclusion, since the population of the surrounding region would not have access to these types of free services if it were not for Smart City Laguna. The region of São Gonçalo do Amarante offers no free English courses, no free cinema or film screenings, and the nearest public library is 25 kilometres away.
Supporting women’s entrepreneurship

The Planet Institute training centre is part of the Ela Pode programme by Rede Mulher Empreendedora Institute and is supported by Google. With a focus on training women from Smart City Laguna and Smart City Natal, in addition to residents of the surrounding region, the programme aims to promote qualifications and opportunities for economic development in the region.

Training takes place in partnership with NGOs, associations, municipal offices and schools, and women from the age of 16 can participate. The Planet Institute programme has already trained 225 women through Ela Pode between 2019 and 2020. One of them was Maria Monteiro, a resident of Massaranduba, a neighbourhood near Smart City Natal.

Maria found an opportunity to start over and gain a source of income after taking a Planet Institute handicraft course. Growing requests for accessories made with carnauba straw and fuxico have meant that the artisan now contributes to supporting her family.

With no fixed work since 2014, she ended up dedicating herself to these activities in a non-professional way. As she learned the new art, she shared her work on social networks and that’s when the first orders began to appear. Besides the bags, Maria has also produced sousplats and carpets, using techniques learned in the course. Looking ahead, she wants to continue participating in Smart City Natal workshops. Attentive to her future as an artisan of regional products, she soon intends to participate in the Planet Institute’s English course to help her communicate better with tourists.

People at the core of everything

All over the world, cities are becoming increasingly developed. With the help of technology, we can see countless changes in the services provided and the way they impact people’s daily lives. Inclusive smart cities, like the ones we have developed, are those that offer not only efficiency in services provided, but a higher quality of life for people. How? By putting people at the heart of everything.

From the moment each inhabitant actively participates in the social construction, maintenance and development of the city, a feeling of belonging is generated, as each inhabitant is responsible for the efficient functioning of the city. The same principle is true with the local residents who participate in our activities: they help to care for and protect the city, also increasing security within our projects.

The collaborative economy seeks to share ideas and services in order to develop social inclusion and make people more involved in the city’s activities. The Planet Institute also plays a fundamental role in achieving this.

A simple school visit to Planet’s inclusive smart cities can awaken dreams in children. The Innovation Hub, an important social innovation tool led by Planet Institute, is a place to discover new worlds and access spaces such as a library or a movie theatre, which many don’t have access to.

Exploring the new shows us that we are able to go beyond what our reality shows us. When a child reads a book in our library or watches a film in our cinema, they realise that they are able to dream out loud, that it is possible to be whatever they want, and that the world can be much better. May we never lose the enthusiasm of a child who believes they are the superhero of their own story.

Every night I go to sleep with new dreams and wake up planning ways to realise them. For me, dreaming is the basis of one’s happiness. Many times, people lose this ability or grow up thinking they have no right to dream. I want the Planet Institute to help people dream, and most importantly, I want it to provide the means for people to realise their dreams.

Susanna Marchionni
Brazil CEO and President of Planet Institute