How social impact start-ups are solving Covid-19 challenges in Brazil

Professor Monteiro’s case study, “Digital transformation in Latin America: leap forward and social impact”presents several examples of how digital transformation has enabled disruptive educational technologies (edtech), financial technologies and health technologies to solve socio-environmental problems in Latin America.


By integrating technology to expand audiences and improve quality, online education bypasses the traditional classroom methods used in the developed world. Edtech offers solutions to the region’s education challenges and is also gaining global recognition. It has the potential to reach people in remote areas without resources like schools and teachers at all stages of education.

An example is Agenda Edu. A social impact company, the cross-platform communication and engagement management works as a nexus uniting schools, students and tutors. The start-up is one of Top 100 most innovative edtechs in Latin America.

During the pandemic, Agenda Edu has helped Brazilian schools and educators maintain the link with students and families to ensure the continuity of the educational journey. Google searches for the startup increased by 266% over the period. The start-up co-founded the “digital education movement“, offering free solutions to public and private schools. He has also organized online events to help educators and families adapt to the new reality. He promotes the use of technology in education as a means to reduce social exclusion.In the post-pandemic scenario, there is a need to rethink the orientation of education.


Fintech, in this case, is a facilitator of financial inclusion and a tool in the fight against poverty. Because the informal sector uses cash in daily transactions, it is a vector of contamination in times of pandemic. Those with limited access to financial services – the underbanked – depend on cash or checks, which makes them vulnerable to theft and fraud. For example, banks charge high fees for cash deposits, check cashing, money orders, and wire transfers. Fintech, on the other hand, offers the underbanked a ticket to financial inclusion and access to financial tools and services at a reasonable cost.

One of the fintechs created to alleviate poverty is a Brazil-based peer-to-peer lender IOUU. Its mission is to revolutionize and reinvent the credit industry by connecting small businesses to investors. Nano-entrepreneurs, micro-entrepreneurs and SMEs need the fast, low-interest loans available on the platform. Loan interest rates are up to eight times lower than traditional banks. Investors benefit from a return above that of the established market.

Faced with the challenges of Covid-19, IOUU has launched a new campaign, offering more favorable conditions to small entrepreneurs looking for financing. The platform has also enabled small businesses to enter into transactions with their customers, thereby strengthening local consumption and industry.


Health has always been one of the most important challenges in Brazil. eHealth start-ups contribute to the creation of sustainable health systems. Faced with the shortcomings of traditional health care in terms of access and quality, especially for the most disadvantaged, the social impact start-up Dr Consulta was launched in 2011.

Originally, the platform offered high-quality primary health services through a network of medical centers in working-class neighborhoods. He switched to telemedicine in the pandemic.

The Need for Social Impact Businesses

The Brazilian public sector provided support during the crisis. He strengthened the Bolsa Familia (a social protection network capable of reaching the poorest), relaxed labor laws to maintain jobs and provided emergency assistance to informal workers and SMEs. But social impact start-ups, with their agility, are essential to deal with the effects of Covid-19 on vulnerable populations. Their post-pandemic role certainly remains fundamental in terms of recovery, the resumption of economic activity and the creation of new paths.

Brazil’s growing trend of investing in impact businesses has been $131 million between 2016 and 2017. However, entrepreneurs still struggle to secure funds and resources. The pandemic is a wake-up call that gives us the opportunity to think about what kind of business we want. It is up to us to heed the warning of UN Secretary General António Guterres“We can return to the world as it was before or decisively deal with the issues that make us all unnecessarily vulnerable to crisis.”

Fabien-Salum is Professor of Strategy and Innovation Management at Fundação Dom Cabral. He is also the coordinator of the Strategic Reference Center sponsored by Grant Thornton Brazil.

Karina Coleta is visiting professor and associate researcher at the Fundação Dom Cabral.

Philip Monteiro is Senior Affiliate Professor of Strategy at INSEAD. He is also Academic Director of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index. He is the program director of INSEAD partner program with the Fundação Dom Cabral, Advanced Management Program (PGA).

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