Enabling indigenous people to produce digital books and become creative entrepreneurs in Brazil

The non-governmental organization, Thydêwá joined forces with UNESCO's International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) in 2014 to implement a project entitled "Indigenous E-books – Cultural Entrepreneurship, Indigenous Creators and Digital Culture in Brazil." Thydêwá’s proposal is to empower indigenous groups by organizing workshops where they can strengthen their skills to become creative entrepreneurs. Ultimately, the project will lead to the creation of a start-up company and the production of e-books in four languages (Portuguese, Spanish, English and French).

 

Below, a conversation with Sebastián Gerlic (President of Thydêwá), Fernanda Martins (Journalist and Project Coordinator), Evandro and Laís (indigenous participants of the project).

 

Where did the idea of building a start-up company come from? And what was taught during the project in order to build it?

Sebástian Gerlic: It was the indigenous people themselves who called for help in creating this start-up. But to help them achieve this goal, we first had to teach them how a social enterprise works.

 

Fernanda Martins: So we offered 80 hours of workshops, where all 16 participants received training on subjects like digital culture, the creative industries, entrepreneurship and sustainability.

 

SG: During these workshops, we also discussed what kind of products and services they could offer and brainstormed ideas about how they could reinvest the profit from the sales.

 

How will the start-up empower the community?

SG: The start-up company, named “Da Terra Produções”, will be a social enterprise. The idea is to give indigenous young people autonomy to create and implement their own projects, which could then generate income and ultimately, benefit their communities. For example, through this social enterprise, and with the technical and entrepreneurial training that these young people received from our project, they’ll feel empowered and resourceful enough to say: “We’ll write the articles ourselves. We’ll take the photos ourselves. And you can buy them from us once they’re ready.”

 

We’ll write the articles ourselves. We’ll take the photos ourselves. And you can buy them from us once they’re ready.”

 

You mentioned technical training, Sebástian. What kind of technical skills did the participants develop?

SG: The project helped 16 young participants discover and develop talents in creative fields such as photography, writing, music and audiovisual production. It was great to see how each one of them developed a particular set of skills.

Evandro: I have improved my graphic design skills, for example.

Laís: As for me, I have developed my journalistic skills.

Why did you choose digital books? How does this medium differ from hard copy books, for example?

SG: With digital books, we’re able to reach more people at a lower cost, all the while protecting the environment, since we’re not using paper. Also, e-books can be infinitely distributed, so in that sense, they have a large-scale potential. This is why the Portuguese version will be free. We want this potential to be realized to the fullest. Furthermore, digital is the reality of our target audience, which is comprised of children aged 6 to 12 years old.

Lais: With the e-book, more people can learn about our culture and history and consequently understand our actions. The stories we tell have a meaning behind them; lessons for life, like the importance of peaceful intercultural coexistence and how no culture is better than another.

How were the e-books elaborated?

SG: During the workshops we worked with different types of narratives to show how stories could be told, precisely to open people's hearts and to enhance their talents. We wanted to stimulate their creativity in a pedagogical process, expecting ideas and stories to emerge. The e-books are a result of this process. Today we have several young indigenous peoples willing to carry out new projects and tell their stories.

How much will the e-books cost?

SG: Around USD 3,99 per book. The idea is to invest the income from the sales of these two first editions in the production and promotion of the next books. Then repeat the process until there are eight books.

What is your plan to promote the book?

FM: The first step was getting in touch with digital book editors in order to understand the market and the product. We did that and from these exchanges, we learned several invaluable lessons: from knowing which keywords to use when uploading a book to realizing how important it is to organize partnerships with schools as well as with influential people inside our target audience. The books will be available in the main e-book stores (Amazon, Google Play Store and Apple Store) and the plan is to have them launched on the 1st of June.

A total of 16 indigenous people participated in the project, and almost half of them (6) were young women. Why?

SG: Our project aims at equipping young indigenous people with the skills to develop themselves, both socially as well as financially, through the creative industries. That’s because as a group, these indigenous youth lack the guidance and the opportunities to explore their creative potential to the fullest. And women all over the world go through the same experience: as a group, they are frequently – and unfortunately - denied of the many opportunities offered by the creative industries. So, selecting six young women to be a part of this project was an effort that we intentionally put forth in order to promote gender equality.