By Rômulo Seitenfus
At the age of 12, Daniela, Brazilian from Belo Horizonte, one the biggest cities in the country, had her first contact with the charity world, visiting shelters and orphanages, she aspired to do this all her life. She went to the USA to study at the prestigious Harvard Business School. By the age of 30, already being the vice-president of Bank Boston, she decided to give up status and big salary to dedicate her life to charities. First working at the NGO Save the Children and she joined Impetus Trust as CEO a year later. Impetus is a NGO that helps other charities to structure their finances. Nowadays she convinces millionaires to invest in the third sector, influences the British government to test new social projects models and preside meetings with entrepreneurs, politicians and members of the royal family. She was called the “angel of business” by the Guardian journal and is listed by The Independent amongst the 100 personalities working for a better United Kingdom.
In an exclusive interview for The Brazilian Post Barone explains how the investments are spent in social projects, analyses poverty and shares her thoughts on inequalities between nations. She also unveils some of the projects she coordinates at Impetus Trust and speaks about her work in influencing new forms of social projects to be tested by the UK government.
The artworks displayed throughout her home as well as the internal staircase –spirally shaped- could be associated to her personality and work, feminine and always aiming higher. Daniel Barone Soares loves meditating, adores the Brazilian beaches and is crazy about “pão de queijo”, a Brazilian delicacy.
You were listed as one of the 100 people who make a better and happier UK in a research made by The Independent. How was your reaction to see your name in the annual Happy List?
That was a real surprise because they didn’t tell me anything before the publication of the research. I saw my name just when I opened the page with the article and felt really happy and gratified.
You were the vice-president of Bank Boston and renounced your high flying career to help the needy. How did that happen?
Meditating, I started to rethink my life. I have meditated with Brama Kumaris for 12 years now. It helped me learn about myself and rediscover my values, thinking and focusing on what I really want. It took me a lot of effort and courage to leave my stable career in the banking industry. My family and friends advised me to rethink it but I followed my intuition. I would be like jumping into the dark but I knew what I wanted. With this move, of course my financial security dropped, I moved home far away and it reflected on my lifestyle. It was a bit shocking at first because the changes were big and I had to adapt quickly but at the same time I accepted it and never looked back. I felt I was doing the right thing, fulfilling my objective of having a goo impact on the world. I think I did it. I feel I accomplished something.
You are related with influential personalities like bankers, politicians and member of the monarchy. Do they help you in Impetus?
Some do some don’t. It depends on their personal motivation. Many Impetus’ donors are very influential people, with loads of money and are highly motivated in fighting for a better world. They believe in what we do and support us. And the fact that they have money helps us grow, help other NGOs to grow and influences the government. Obviously they cannot influence the government policies directly but for instance when I invited the Justice Minister Kenneth Clark and Work and Pensions’ minister Ian Duncan for a meeting they came and the fact that they came shows that the union of powers fights for a better world.
Impetus has a lot of millionaires’ donors. Does someone need to be rich in order to donate and be your collaborator?
We accept any donation but of course we are focused in those who can donate a lot because we have very few resources for fundraising. There is another way of collaborating: giving your time as a volunteer.
In Brazil we see the poverty in the streets everyday. In England we don’t see it everywhere but we know that it exists. How do you see this difference?
The poverty in Brazil is on the streets; here it isn’t. Sometimes in the winter we go to residences and see five children sleeping in one bed and they’re cold because the family has no money for heating. The behavioural difference in between the two countries is that the Brazilians have more aspirations, dreaming about a better life and hoping for a better future. Here we see a big lack of aspiration, of believing that life can be better. It has been more than 20 years without any big social mobility changes while in Brazil, a lot happened in the last five years. Our home country has much bigger problems than this one, such as violence, corruption, thing that don’t happen in the same degree in the UK. But in Brazil there is hope in the future.
As the CEO of Impetus, you are cooperating with people from the government and setting up projects with them. How does it happen?
Impetus helps the government identify social models capable of reducing poverty. Models that can be disseminated at all level of the social ladder, taking people out of their poor environment so that the next generation can have better chances. The governments are interested in projects such as education, reintegration of ex-convicted or the developing of social opportunities. For instance we are now engaged in a project that helps single pregnant women in a chaotic and unstructured situation to take care of their children providing stability, care and health for the mother and the baby.
This is an approved and successful model used in the USA. Had it been tested in the UK?
This model is a huge success in the USA. We had a pilot here that worked well. The project is about disseminating systemic solutions for all children in a way that changes the status quo with a radical rethinking.
I imagine that you witness social contrast daily…
There was a day I went to visit a prison following a program for helping the inmates to learn reading. The lack of literacy makes them relapse and commit the same crimes. This program tries to avoid that by teaching them how to read. Later on I had dinner with Prince Andrew and at that time I realized that the difference between the prince and the inmate, as human beings, are not that big. Of course the status is completely different but this way of looking at people, with respect and appreciation, reduces the dazzle of the prince and the prejudice of the inmate. For me this offers a more equilibrated vision and makes me see the other, whoever he is, in a more balanced and equalised way.