THE BLOG
14/05/2014 09:33 BST | Updated 12/07/2014 06:59 BST

As the World Cup Looms, Are Brazilians Doing Their Part to Change Their Country?

I'm visiting London at the moment and the first thing all of my British friends have asked me on meeting is about the World Cup in Brazil. It starts in a month and yet the press has endlessly talked about the surely imminent disaster as the biggest football tournament in the world takes place.

But the real picture is not as ugly as many have been painting. The venue for the World Cup Final in Rio has been operational for the past year and is regularly used for football matches. When England played Brazil in Rio last year, the volunteer-packed city resembled London during the Olympic Games.

I am tired of the negativity around the World Cup.

Danish journalist Mikkel Jensen fled Brazil claiming he is afraid to stay in such a place - I guess that he will soon be forgotten and might well struggle to build a career if that's how he reacts to a developing story.

Brazilian filmmaker Carla Dauden made a video pleading with people to not go to the World Cup because of corruption and supposedly misdirected spending. Of course Carla can say what she likes from her California pad and shake her fist on YouTube, but when was the last time she took any public transport in Brazil? In any case, her plea fell on deaf ears; millions of people applied for tickets and even the games in the most remote parts of Brazil are sold out.

The current negativity is a typical response to seemingly impossible issues, but let's consider the other side for a moment. Brazil is rapidly moving from an economic basket case two decades ago to one of the world's most powerful global economies. As the economy changes, so must the society. People with more economic power have greater expectations on the state - the kind of political corruption that was previously accepted in Brazil can no longer be ignored, the people want their elected representatives to...represent them.

But the world itself is changing faster than politicians anywhere would like - in particular in Brazil, where they would prefer to cling onto traditional powers and dodgy deals. One example of this is the phenomenal local and international success of Brazilian taxi booking mobile app Easy Taxi. While this little app may not seem revolutionary, it undermines an entire system in Brazil that consisted, until recently, of taxi rank mafias and fees that drivers need to pay - people are just bypassing the old way of doing things.

Self-help books and 'life gurus' always used to advise people that they should 'be the change'. It sounds like a cliché to hear people talk about this now because the reality is that people are changing society anyway, without even being told. People are just demanding more from those in authority.

This power shift is being witnessed across the world. The British parliament expenses scandal of 2009 is still reverberating today and forced an entire rethink on what politicians do with public money. Brazilians may not have noticed it yet, but they are demanding more transparency from their leaders, they are less deferential than ever before - although a distinct 'them' and 'us' still exists.

So what am I doing about the World Cup? I applied for tickets, but like millions of others I failed to get any, so if I do get in to see a game, it will be thanks to the generosity of friends who do have tickets.

I have been working with the British tourism agency VisitBritain to bring artists like The MacManus brothers over to Brazil during the World Cup because it's a fantastic opportunity to bring cultures and communities together.

But most importantly, I have continued my efforts to travel to every Brazilian state in 2014, meeting artisans and helping them to promote their art to the world in English using social networks.

If I am going to be a part of the change in Brazil then I want my own actions to help create jobs, spread some wealth around to those people who really need a bit more, and I'd love to help preserve some art and craft traditions in the process of doing all this.

That's my idea of being the change. I'm not going to throw up my arms in disgust and argue that the World Cup is all a waste of money. Maybe it is, but the money is now spent and the eyes of the world are on Brazil. I want them to see that Brazil truly deserves a place in the economic big league. People are going to get better schools and hospitals when they learn how to demand change from their leaders and that is a universal lesson we can all apply the world over.