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Banco Palmas

Fortaleza
Brazil

 

Banco Palmas, Brazil's first community bank, has been conceived, created and managed by the Residents' Association in the neighbourhood of Palmeiras, on the outskirts of Fortaleza, a city in north-eastern Brazil. The main objective behind its creation was to foster economic and social development in the area, and it was based on a very simple idea: preventing resources and wealth from leaving the neighbourhood for other more affluent areas in the city and encouraging local production and consumption based on the logic of a solidarity-structured economy.

Its own “credit card” and the local social currency (the “Palmas”), which circulate in the neighbourhood alongside the country's official currency, strengthen its internal economy and have been the key tools in making the project carried out by Banco Palmas something much more extensive than traditional microloan policies. Today, as well as the small shops in the neighbourhood which initially joined the project, it is also possible to see the sign “We accept Palmas” on public transport, and at service stations and butane gas distributors.

The Local Socio-Economic Forum (FECOL) acts as the Bank's “social auditor.” The Forum consists of traders, producers, consumers and representatives of various community organizations and public institutions (e.g. schools, daycare centres, health centres, etc.). The FECOL not only discusses issues related to the bank and economic and financial inclusion, but also issues that are of interest to the neighbourhood such as violence, litter and cultural activities, among others.

The idea behind all of the Bank's projects has been defined as the concept of Prosumators, in which the residents are simultaneously producers, consumers and agents for changing their conditions. The effort required therefore involves organizing and coordinating the economy and democracy in a counter-hegemonic manner.

Banco Palmas now belongs to several Brazilian and international networks and forums, and devotes much of its efforts to fostering links between civil society and local governments to create and strengthen community banks.