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By Legisla Brasil

O² Program – Oxygenating Brazilian Politics

In Brazil, when you open the newspaper, you will probably see news involving our legislative. Law proceedings, budget decisions and debates among parliamentarians are topics that always dominate our news. On the other hand, this universe backstage is almost never talked about. In addition to deputies and senators, legislative politics is made by several other people, including all the professionals who make up the cabinets and advise parliamentarians.

This lack of information hides a fundamental problem in our political system. We know that the Brazilian legislature is not very diverse: If we stick to two statistics, from the 513 current federal deputies, only 77 are women, while less than ¼ is self-declared as black. This same reality extends to political offices. The women and black people underrepresentation adds to the low presence of people with disabilities, indigenous leaders and LGBTQIA+ people in these spaces.

The mentioned absences exemplify a chronic problem: our policy is being determined without the participation of a large part of Brazilian society. We know that our country’s challenges are enormous and, without the presence of historically marginalized groups, we will not be able to build effective responses to these demands. The program Oxygenating the Policy of Legisla Brasil aims to transform this reality! Launched in 2021, the initiative selects and prepares professionals from underrepresented groups in politics to work in legislative mandates throughout Brazil.

We build bridges so that diversity enters legislative spaces and enhances parliamentary effectiveness. When we do this, we strengthen the teams problem-solving capacity, since different experiences and skills are combined to build solutions that take into account the Brazilian society plurality.

More than that, we foster the imagination of a career in politics and make the legislative more accessible to the population! In the first O² edition, we had more than 2,700 entries from people across the country. Almost half of these professionals (48%) stated that the initiative was the first awakening for these people to seek opportunities in the political world. From this group, we selected 245 professionals to be part of our Accelerators Bank and to be presented to parliamentary teams.

Our commitment to diversity can be translated into the project first edition numbers. Approximately 90% of the selected professionals identified themselves as part of one of the underrepresented groups in politics. Among the main statistics, we highlight that 44% of the selected candidates are women, 49% are self-declared non-white and 45% are non-heterosexual. Also, as a program premise, all those selected have received numerous training to make them feel even more ready for the challenges in the legislative day-to-day. These moments range from lectures to more hands-on workshops, on various topics addressing soft and hard skills, such as “Best practices to be the dream advisor”, “Career and LinkedIn Protagonism”, “Simplified communication for offices” and so on. Throughout January, other training will be offered, addressing pain that the participants themselves have brought us.

On the other hand, we strive to make the political class aware of the importance of cabinets being increasingly diverse and professionalized. Our efforts resulted in encouraging numbers. Since the beginning of 2021, when we launched the O² Program, we have already received 350 vacancy requests for professional indication to parliamentary teams, a number 5x greater than the five-year history of our organization’s existence. From these requests, we have already connected 35 people to positions in legislative offices or party structures.

It is important to contextualize that these numbers are conditioned to the current Brazilian politics reality. In 2022, we experienced the closest election in our democracy, at a time when parties and mandates were concentrated in electoral campaigns. We turned this challenging scenario into an opportunity window. We changed our strategy and sought to allocate professionals from our bank in campaigns as a way of promoting these people’s first experience in the political world. We bet that this participation could open doors to more concrete opportunities in 2023.

Based on this scenario (and the consequent weakening of some political parties) we also understand that investing in party structures could be a more effective way of expanding and capillarizing our impact. When we allocate a diversity of professionals in these structures, we encourage that the different mandates linked to that party are influenced by worldviews and experiences that are recurrently neglected in politics. And that the parties are even more active in their support fronts for these mandates. That is why we took advantage from the party rules reformulation moment to approach these organizations and present our solutions, appointing people from our Bank to work internally in these parties.

We took advantage from this moment to also strengthen our institutional practices. We invested in technology to hire a platform for attracting and selecting professionals and adapting them to meet our needs. At the same time, our team grew! We hired new professionals to optimize our tools and be more effective in the relationship with professionals selected by the O2 Program, in the active search for vacancies in politics and in the strategies design to attract mandates and parties to the initiative.

With all these improvements already implemented, the second edition of the O² Program came out of the oven in October 2022 and it already has more than 1,300 subscribers. Taking advantage of the legislature renewal moment and the arrival of new terms in the state and federal legislative houses, we intend to select more than 250 professionals by the end of the year, keeping the diversity rate obtained in the first edition. Going further, we will also face some gaps that still exist in our Bank based on the lessons learned from the first edition. We want to expand our presence nationally and expand our professional’s attraction to other regions of Brazil outside the Rio-São Paulo axis. Similarly, we want to select professionals with a higher level of political seniority, meeting an expensive demand for first-time travel mandates.

We still have a lot to do for these innovations to reach their desired potential, as we know that the challenges are many. But we are confident that the Program Oxygenating Brazilian Politics is a fundamental initiative for strengthening our democracy and for a legislative that has our country face. We are ready to make it happen, expand our impact and transform the backstage of Brazilian politics into an accessible, representative and effective environment.