Cantagalo, Rio de Janeiro

The x-factor for Brazil’s favelas

Cantagalo, Rio de Janeiro

Cantagalo, Rio de Janeiro

STAR Global is a unique, hands-on learning experience for students interested in international business and consulting. Its format uses the expertise and cultural background of each team member to help a client company address a business challenge.

As part of the 2015 projects, I am working with a team of students to consult for Favela Xperience, a tourism company in Brazil. The company’s owner, Gabriel Abreu, grew up in the favelas – very poor areas within the beautiful tourism region – and started his company to impact the quality of life and change his community for the better.

Members of Team Favela X-Factor

Members of Team Favela X-Factor

Led by Justin Reyes (MBA ’16) and faculty advisor Lynne Gerber, our student team – which we’ve dubbed “Team Favela X-Factor” – will make recommendations on how to grow tourism in Rio’s favelas, with a specific focus on Pavão -Pavãozinho and Cantagalo. The key issues we will address include determining which customers Favela Xperience should target and how the company can help improve the community.

STAR Global teams use the “TEAM FOCUS” problem-solving methodology – developed by STAR Global director Paul Friga – to address the client’s business challenge. Charles Collins (UNC ’16) serves as our TEAM FOCUS officer and advises us on how to implement the consulting methodologies.

The “TEAM FOCUS” approach divides the phases of the project into five stages: Frame, organize, collect, understand and synthesize. In the frame stage, information is shared and discussed to provide direction for the project. To diagnose key issues, our team gathered information about the history and culture of the favelas, as well as the area’s security and crime reduction efforts.

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Volunteers help children in Rio’s favelas learn English.

After meeting with Gabriel, we decided to focus our recommendations on how to impact education for children living in the favelas and how to enhance the local economy. We conducted interviews with experts from around the world to help us understand how to develop effective social impact initiatives and grow tourism in the favelas. Our team is also working to identify organizations that Favela Xperience could partner with to help its social impact initiatives thrive.

“Helping Gabriel navigate these kinds of partnerships will not only benefit Favela Xperience, but the favela communities at large,” says Team Favela X-Factor’s Faye Moussa (MBA@UNC ’15).

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Favela Xperience founder Gabriel Abreu uses his company to help enhance education for local children.

The project is a great opportunity to work with a group of students from different cultures, and having exposure to academia from another country is a great learning experience. “Working with such a diverse group of people provides learning beyond the scope of the project in areas such as professional development, teamwork and communication,” says Cacilda Teixeira (MBA ’15), Team Favela X-Factor language and culture officer.

STAR Global has also given us an opportunity to learn a new language. Cacilda and I are coaching Justin, Faye and Sarah Kowalski (BSBA ’17) as they learn Portuguese, and Faye is helping me expand my English proficiency.

Our team has already learned so much about the company, and the culture and needs of the favelas in this vibrant region. “Although I’ve lived in Brazil, the project has given me an opportunity to explore the Brazilian culture in depth and dive deeper into the favela culture,” says Cacilda. For the final phase of the project, we will travel to Rio de Janeiro to conduct on-the-ground research before making our final presentation to the client.

Stay tuned for more updates on the Team Favela X-Factor!

By Márcia Macedo (UNISINOS University), marketing officer – Team Favela X-Factor

Learn more about STAR Global and the student experience.