A band of Latin American activist economists sets out to change their region, partnering with women marginalized by poverty to challenge accepted notions on how to eradicate inequality. Through this program, the women become empowered economic and political agents in their communities. If the model is taken to scale, could 20 million women upend a continent?

(2014) 84 min. DVD: $349. Skylight Pictures. PPR.
Disruption follows the efforts of award-winning activist/economist group Fundación Capital, whose leaders work to create economic opportunities for Latin American women living in extreme poverty. Through interviews with FC leadership and program participants in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, filmmaker Pamela Yates examines three initiatives. In the first, impoverished mothers with school-age children receive “cash transfers” paid directly into bank accounts set up for them. Many are thus able to learn about banking for the first time and to meet their families’ basic needs, but Fundación Capital wants to “scale up” so that those receiving assistance will continue to be financially viable after their children turn 18 and the payments stop. A second project encourages financial saving; even people in extreme poverty will set aside small amounts if encouraged to do so and if banks are willing to host modest accounts. A third undertaking brings personal-finance education to rural residents via tablet computers (with a colorful app designed to teach strategies for and benefits of money management that proves remarkably successful). Fundación Capital hopes to transform communities and eliminate poverty as women develop assets and begin to see themselves as agents of change—a vision that seems to be borne out, as participants not only save, but also teach their daughters to manage funds or start small businesses of their own. A moving account of visionary and successful efforts targeting some of the world’s most disenfranchised but deeply appreciative and enthusiastic individuals, this is highly recommended. Aud: C, P. (M. Puffer-Rothenberg)

Video Librarian "Highly Recommended"
Synopsis: 

DISRUPTION explores a groundbreaking initiative that seeks to eradicate poverty by empowering women on government assistance programs in Colombia, Peru and Brazil to “save their way out of poverty.” The film interweaves women’s testimonies to the transformative power of financial education with the story of Fundación Capital (winners of the 2014 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship), a group of dynamic activist-economists that believes when you invest in women you change society. As women share how economic empowerment led to their growth as local political figures, entrepreneurs, and peer-educators, we follow the team at Fundación Capital while they strive to bring their successful grassroots model to millions more women across the region, collaborating with governments and big banks in order to do so. In a time when many of the world’s problems seem intractable, the stories of the characters in DISRUPTION show us how society can be transformed for the better through community-led change.

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Director's Commentary: 

Latin America is a group of nations on the rise, yet income distribution in the region remains among the most unequal in the world. DISRUPTION takes place in South America where hundreds of millions live in dire circumstances and the poorest of the poor are women. It is the plight of women like these, multiplied by millions, which set a band of Latin American activist economists on a journey to develop new ideas to confront what they call “the scandal of inequality” on their continent.

They form Fundación Capital (Winners of the 2014 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship), a group guided by the idea that the poor can save and build assets, use tablet computers to educate themselves, and access capital through crowdfunding and mobile banking. To take these innovative ideas to scale, the team at Fundación Capital partners with women marginalized by poverty as well as players in the public, private and social sectors, piggybacking on massive G2P programs (Government to People) like Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) to forge a path to sustainable financial inclusion. Programs like CCTs transfer cash to poor households, on the condition that they keep their children in school through secondary education, and take them to health clinics on a regular basis.

At the heart of DISRUPTION are the stories of women who participate in Fundación Capitalʼs programs, discovering formerly untapped political and economic energy which propels many into active roles of civic participation. These innovative financial inclusion programs which DISRUPTION spotlights in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, are now poised to spread to reach millions of women. If the model is taken to scale, can 20 million women upend a continent? And if they did, what would this mean for the potential of translating insights from the developing world to an international stage? DISRUPTION sets the stage for this potential paradigm shift.