Making Purpose Sustainable




As Featured In:


In a seaside café, on our favourite coast, four dreamers sit around a cup of coffee filled with the thrive, energy and hope that the world can truly be a better place.

It’s 2011, in a Portugal in flames sparked by the economic crisis. The outlook is bleak and people are violently losing the security of that seaside terrace.

Successful companies are firing at breakneck speed, kids are saying goodbye to their families in search of opportunities and the adults are losing their jobs for life and returning to their parents’ homes.

The crisis was upon us and for most people it seemed like the end: no job, no prospects, no confidence, no future.

But around that table, hope was different. There it was believed that as human beings we have more potential than we believe; that the ordinary mortal can create solutions and find new ways; that we have the incredible capacity to reinvent ourselves; that we can all achieve the craziest goals and that we have the capacity to be more satisfied and happier if we develop our self-awareness.

That was the only certainty.

If we know who we are, what we want and what we dream of, if we know our fears and our deepest ambitions, if we know of what we are truly made of, then we can be creators of change. We can generate change in our lives, in the lives of our peers and consequently, in the world around us.

And so SAPANA was born; meaning dream in Nepali, with the mission to make every individual aware and knowledgeable of him/herself, make him/her capable of achieving their best version and thus become an agent of change for a better world.

The Story behind the name – SAPANA

In 2009, Carolina (one of the founders) decided to go on a backpacking trip to Nepal, to India and Tibet to find herself as a human being. She worked as a volunteer with orphans in Nepal and with sex workers in India. In Nepal, the name the orphans gave to her was SAPANA; dream in Nepali.


We were sure that we wanted to make it happen. And then the first opportunity came. Barclays UK believed in our mission and project and was our first investor, investing in our program for unemployed people, one of the main social issues in Portugal in 2012. This program took place for three (3) years and empowered more than 800 individuals with an employability success rate of 80%.

This was the opportunity and the program which launched SAPANA and the beginning of all other projects that we developed.


“Leave no one behind” is the Agenda 2030 slogan, but it has been since the beginning our drive. We believe that every human being deserves a second chance, and he/she can be a better version of him/herself. That is the reason why we empower every individual independently of his/her context, but also the reason why we are particularly focused on working with inmates with the main goal to prevent the criminal recidivism.

This target group is particularly vulnerable and lacks opportunities due to the stigma in our society. So, we developed Breaking Bars project with two main goals:

• empower these individuals when they are from six months to one year to exit prison, by working on their social and professional reintegration and connecting them with potential employers; and
• raise awareness in our society to deconstruct beliefs and bias.

At SAPANA we believe that the only way to solve a social problem and to raise impact, is by working in partnership with the three economic sectors: private, public and social. So, we apply that approach in all our projects, involving a public entity and the private sector. In Breaking Bars project, due to the approach and our methodology, we are a case study at the UNECE International PPP Forum and we are also the first organization in Portugal with a social impact bond in the Justice sector, having the project currently running in Pinheiro da Cruz Prison.

At this moment, we have two social impact bonds running in SAPANA – in the justice and the juvenile justice sectors. And it’s a dream come true!


Our collaboration with the Oeiras Municipality started in 2015, with our program for unemployed people. It was also in Oeiras where we had the opportunity to carry out the first edition of Breaking Bars project in Caxias Prison.

Over the past four years, SAPANA has been working closely with the Oeiras Municipality in Oeiras Capacita program. It is a program developed by SAPANA intervening in the Outurela/Carnaxide and Navegadores neighborhoods, with the purpose of preventing criminal behavior, working the professional integration of people.. This program is currently being funded through Active Citizenship Program promoted by EEA grants and will run until 2023.

It has been a great opportunity to work in Oeiras.


“Thank you for your help! The training helped a lot in the achievement of this work!”
“For me, this training was very good because I was out of my comfort zone and that makes us grow, be better people and have more skills for a job interview.”

“This training has brought me a lot more skills. It helped me to grow as a person and to value my values on a personal level. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have been given to meet new people and to support me in this not so good phase of mine.”

“My journey in this training was good, because it made me think about what I want for the future, I never knew for sure what I wanted. With this training I already have some areas of interest. I just have to thank SAPANA for the help they gave me, it was fundamental.”

“This training helped me a lot to know myself better, the positive and negative points and what aspects to improve. I learned a lot of useful things, such as what posture I should have in an interview and thanks to the training I feel I have more tools for a promising future. Thank you very much for this memorable experience.”

Other INNOVATE® Ecosystems