Key Points

The recent growth of community organizations and collectives can be seen as a consequence of social movements that have emerged in defense of human and civil rights. This article reflects on an initiative implemented by Instituto Rio, a community foundation based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, within the context of this expansion of community philanthropy.

The initiative — the West Zone Community University — works to strengthen civil society actors so they can lead efforts to secure civil and human rights, decentralize the production and sharing of knowledge, and construct a public, democratic space for local communities. The analysis will focus on the potential of the Community University case to inform the field of community philanthropy and on the possibility that universal elements of this initiative can be more widely applied.

The article closes with reflections on the role of community foundations in different global contexts, specifically in terms of their capacity to resolve local problems, connect multiple social actors, and assume a leadership role implementing dynamics focused on “the common good.”

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