Founder Stories

Praxis

Ever since she was a little girl, Diana Engel Gerbase ‘16SIPA knew she wanted to affect change in her home country of Brazil. While Gerbase grew up in Porto Alegre, she was lucky enough to travel the world, and this globe-trotting made her acutely aware of the poverty afflicting her native country. Pinpointing improved academic resources as the key to instigating change, Gerbase has since focused her efforts on civic education.

Although attempts have been made by the Brazilian National Congress during the past two decades to reinstitute democratic civic education high school curricula throughout the country, lasting scars from a tough military dictatorship, along with conflicting visions about the role of schools, have prevented successful implementation. But, as Gerbase knows, civic education begets civic participation — in order to revolutionize the political ecosystem, it’s necessary to transform how the next generation thinks about government on a fundamental level.

With this in mind, Gerbase founded Praxis, a social venture that researches and develops interactive civic education programs for high school students in Brazil. She enrolled at Columbia with a clear goal in mind: to create a nonprofit that would bring the best civic education programs to Brazil in an easily scalable way.

Having performed a successful beta test at a public high school in Brazil in the summer of 2015, Gerbase is well on her way to making this dream a reality. With the pilot program behind her, she has now set her sights on empowering a new generation of citizens to pursue political participation and civic engagement. Once her program has been implemented, Gerbase hopes to partner with think tanks to collect valuable data about the way Brazilian students learn. She sees impact evaluations as critical for both the programs’ continuous improvement, and Praxis’ long-term development.

Praxis Beta Test

Although Gerbase’s venture is currently in the early stages of development, she’s already drawn up business plans and hopes to begin fundraising in October or November of this year. Within the next two years, Gerbase will have hired a team and refined Praxis’ civic education program, which she expects to implement by 2018 at the latest.

The long-term vision, Gerbase says, is to arm the next generation with knowledge, a skill-base, and a more positive attitude towards effective governance — and to one day build a new Brazil. Praxis’s mission is not just to provide access to education; instead, they aim to drive home the message that in time, every well-informed student can make a difference.

Although Gerbase’s venture is currently in the early stages of development, she’s already drawn up business plans and hopes to begin fundraising in October or November of this year. Within the next two years, Gerbase will have hired a team and refined Praxis’ civic education program, which she expects to implement by 2018 at the latest.

The long-term vision, Gerbase says, is to arm the next generation with knowledge, a skill-base, and a more positive attitude towards effective governance — and to one day build a new Brazil. Praxis’s mission is not just to provide access to education; instead, they aim to drive home the message that in time, every well-informed student can make a difference.

Diana Engel Gerbase

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