Complementary currencies as a tool to promote education during pandemic times

Published in
5 min readJul 7, 2021


Image: Educar+

Educar+ is a NGO located in the Final Feliz favela in Anchieta, North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. Their mission is to expand the perspective of the world of children and adolescents through education and culture, thus contributing to their social and human development.

Founded in 2017 by Ana Caroline dos Santos, a pedagogy student and local resident, Educar+ evolved from a children’s book collection campaign to a Cultural Center that promotes after-school activities such as audiovisual, literacy and integrated reading classes.

As for today, Educar+ assists around 70 children and teenagers from Rio de Janeiro.

Educar+ meets MUDA

In 2020 Educar+ started a partnership with Muda, a community from the Cambiatus ecosystem that has its own complementary currency (MUDA).

Cambiatus is an open source platform facilitating the creation of Complementary Currencies and Collaborative Businesses using blockchain technology.

A child from Educar+ using Cambiatus webapp. Image: Educar+

The partnership involved many efforts, especially from Flávia G. Macêdo, who is a Community Builder at Muda and a volunteer at Educar+. Flavia was researching ways to do fundraising for Educar+ and how to keep fostering the project in the pandemic context, which was very challenging.

The first boost

That’s when Shuttleworth Foundation entered to contribute with the project with a flash grant.

Every year a Shuttleworth fellow gets the chance to choose a social change agent to receive a grant, no strings attached, in support of their work. Karla Córdoba-Brenes, Cambiatus co-founder and Shuttleworth fellow, always chooses female leaders form Central and South America and had the intention to select someone from Muda to receive the grant. After all, the community was very active during the pandemic, experimenting other economies based on happiness and abundance and providing great insights to the Cambiatus platform.

Karla was very pleased to choose Flavia to receive the grant, especially knowing she had the intention to use the funds to support the work of Educar+ and exploring ways to connect with the Muda community.

Crowdfunding with a twist

The second action from the partnership was to structure a crowdfunding campaign with Muda. In this effort, Ana Carolina and Flavia held many live streams with interesting invitees to share the story behind Educar+ and engage their network to help the fundraising.

Another interesting innovation was the cashback in social currencies. During the Educar+ crowdfunding, every 1 Real (Brazilian Currency) donated could be claimed for MUDAs, an effort to engage the community to support the project and raise more funds.

It was a win-win situation for the donors because they would help the project and, at the same time, they would be rewarded in MUDAs. This way, they could use the social currency inside the platform to buy any goods or services offered by the Muda network.

The crowdfunding campaign raised R$7.000 (seven thousand reais) and helped engage a broader community into Educar+ purpose.

The flash grant and the crowfunding campaign generated the necessary resources to maintain the Educar+ staff, allowing them to keep working and implementing the game Nós.Juntos (we.together).

Image: Educar+

The game Nós.juntos

Implementing self-directed education in the pandemic context was very challenging. That is where the game Nós.Juntos (we.together) came in.

It was a methodology adaptation to the COVID-19 social isolation context. Through the pillars of interaction in a learning community and collaborative gamification, they created individual and gamified knowledge trails associated with a playful narrative, with challenges and rewards.

In the platform, Educar+ proposed objectives and actions specifically designed for the partnership, rewarding students’ engagement to their educational challenges.

During six months, ten kids participated in weekly individual challenges, in themes that would range from self-knowledge, citizenship, futurism and environmental responsibility. According to their engagement, they would claim and earn MUDAs, which granted them access to products and services from the Muda community marketplace, including some exclusive pre-selected items available locally at Educar+.

The aim was to encourage autonomy in the learning process, providing space for children and adolescents to understand their aspirations, seek content to learn while engaging in their community.

Flávia G. Macêdo, a key leader in this process, shared her thoughts about the partnership:

“The partnership between Cambiatus, Muda and Educar+ gave us a tool to start breaking a really strong favela paradigm, financial scarcity. And to open an abundance flow through kid’s engagement in their own learning goals and aspirations and to expand it throughout the favela is really symbolic. When we started rewarding kids with a complementary currency for their time spent studying, we did not only added financial motivation — which we would not normally have access to before — to the equation, but we provided them access to a monetary system in which they can really have choices and interactions, allowing them to experiment themselves into countless possibilities of trades and social connections to other Muda’s members. It fulfilled our goal to help them expand their horizon, and it spread the message to their peers that education is something we incentivize and recognize, no exam needed. In a world full of “I can’t” it was good to say “Yes, you can and it’s yours to do whatever you want”. Though breaking their rooted limiting beliefs is still a work in progress. I believe that in the long term, once we manage to integrate their families and friends inside Muda’s marketplace, it could be a game-changer for the confidence and self-esteem of the whole community.

At this moment, the game Nós Juntos is going through a review and it will restart soon. We’re happy to see such a great initiative that uses social currencies to promote education taking form and maturing. Count on us to support the project!

Pura vida :)

Images: Educar+

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