With one of the world’s largest economies and a population of more than 200 million people, Brazil is Latin America’s giant. The country’s government is large and provides essential services to its people, but Brazil struggles to strengthen and consolidate its public institutions.
“If we really want to have impact on people’s lives, we can’t do it working only with the private sector,” says Joice Toyota. “If we want to have scale, we have to change the government.”
However, changing the government is a herculean task and it’s difficult to attract skilled government employees who are up to the job. People often steer clear of government work because of pervasive stereotypes that Brazil and its unbridled bureaucracy are corrupt. “That’s something that people don’t want to deal with,” says Toyota, who earned her MBA from Stanford GSB in 2015.
Toyota’s nonprofit Vetor Brasil aims to develop leaders who can change Brazil’s public sector and how services are provided to the public. Think of it as Teach for America for government work. “We believe that there are thousands of high-potential university graduates who want to have social impact and give back to their country,” Toyota says.
What’s keeping them from rolling up their sleeves? These young workers don’t know of the opportunities available in public management, Toyota says. Vetor Brasil selects workers and places them in temporary government jobs. “The idea is to change the system by changing the people,” she says.
Toyota put out her first call for applicants last summer. She received 1,700 applicants and placed 12 trainees in state and local governments in four different states in Brazil.
Vetor Brasil will provide resources and counseling after their service to help them acquire jobs in the public sector or other types of public service organizations. Toyota’s goal is to staff a total of 800 people in the public sector within the next five years.
Toyota grew up in the countryside in São Paulo, Brazil. Initially she studied at private school but then, when her family could no longer afford the school, she switched to public school. “People shouldn’t have such different services because they don’t have the resources,” she says. “This was something I always wanted to work on but I wasn’t sure how to start.”
As a recent college graduate, Toyota dreamed of working for a social cause. She soon became frustrated by the structure of nonprofits in Brazil and how difficult it was to make a major impact within such organizations. Discouraged, she left her dream for a more traditional career in international consulting. Then, her work with Bain & Co. brought her to Manaus in the Amazon to work on a project with the Amazonas State Department of Education. She was the only consultant within the firm who wanted to take the position, underlining the talent gap for this kind of work.
“I realized that I could break the vicious cycle that plagues Brazil’s public sector by founding an organization that would grow the network of high-potential leaders in the government,” Toyota says.
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Joice Toyota received her MBA from Stanford GSB in 2015. She is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow. The fellowship provides up to $180,000 in funding, advising, and support to graduating Stanford GSB students who want to start a nonprofit venture to address a pressing social or environmental need during the year after graduation.