8. An idiosyncratic map
The third and leading characteristic of Banco Palmas’ methodology is its annual ‘Local Consumption and Production Map’ (Figure 12) which is idiosyncratic to Conjunto Palmeiras and therefore distinguishes it from all other Brazilian microcredit initiatives.
Figure 12: Map and Card of Local Consumption and Production
The above card contains a wide ranging list of products such as beef, flour, sugar and mayonnaise.
The map is based on a detailed research operation implemented by Banco Palmas and which provides up-to-date information on the quantity of products and services typically produced and consumed within the community. The information is collected through an extensive door-to-door survey carried out by young people from the community. The survey allows Banco Palmas to better evaluate which investments should be promoted or discouraged based on the local demand for particular products and services. The idea is to adjust the local supply to the local demand. By doing so, Banco Palmas is able to efficiently use its microcredit and professional training projects, by specifically focusing on products and services which will satisfy the community’s existing needs. This mechanism allows the bank to finance local businesses based on both the needs and capacity of individual microentrepreneurs, but also considering community development as a whole, on a territorial basis. This also prevents individual micro-businesses to saturate the local market with a particular product or service and, thereby, causing existing competitors to collapse or be displaced.
This initiative is further supported by ASMOCONP’s promotion of a monthly “Fórum Econômico Local” (Local Economic Forum; Figure 13), where microentrepreneurs and local residents meet and discuss the types of businesses to be promoted. The premise for the forum is that each community member, despite his/her educational level or economic situation, is an agent for bringing solutions to local problems. The neighborhood association therefore believes that sustainable and local development can only be achieved through a higher degree of self-management and thoughtful cooperation from each resident.
Figure 13: Banner for the Local Economic Forum
The creation of a computing school in Conjunto Palmeiras exemplifies how investment is strategically directed towards the needs of the community, rather than to an individual entrepreneur. After it was determined that many young people in the community were spending hours travelling to more developed areas of the city in order to acquire computer knowledge and expertise necessary to gain access to better jobs, the Fórum Econômico Local decided that Banco Palmas should support the creation of a computer school within the neighborhood. Since there were no local entrepreneurs with experience in this domain, the bank convinced the owner of a small local market, who also had the largest building in Conjunto Palmeiras, to house the computing school business in his facility. Banco Palmas also believed that the market owner was the ideal and best equipped entrepreneur to expand into a totally new business activity. This is how the local market owner also became a successful computer school manager.