2023 HONOURABLE MENTION
POLITIZE! CIVIC EDUCATION INSTITUTE | Brazil
A diverse group of youth gather at a university in Brazil to discuss challenges in their communities. They discuss their community’s latest concerns – inadequate public transportation and an increase in traffic. There are many different perspectives in the room but, guided by a healthy dialogue built around empathy and cooperation, the participants come to an agreement about several solutions. They conclude the workshop by developing a public policy proposal. Proposals from these workshops will be presented to a local congress or mayor’s office, and some will go on to become part of legislation. In Brazil, where consensus between different groups is incredibly hard to reach, and much of the country’s diverse population feels excluded from decision-making, a workshop like this is groundbreaking.
This is an example of the award-winning Ambassador’s Program from Politize!, a non-partisan, civil society organization that promotes inclusive participatory democracy and fosters a democratic political culture in Brazil. Its mission is to build a generation of conscious citizens committed to democracy. They are bringing political education to anyone, anywhere.
Brazil is experiencing extreme political and social polarization, which is putting its democracy in crisis. The past decade saw tremendous unrest as millions of people demonstrated against inadequate social services and corruption; elections relied on polarizing rhetoric and fake news campaigns; a presidential impeachment deepened the divide between political parties; the pandemic exacerbated divisions; and an anti-democratic armed insurgency followed a general election. The growing political divide has made it hard for many Brazilians to engage with people who hold different ideas.
Politize! was established in 2015 to strengthen democratic values, political culture and participation in Brazil. Politize!’s Active Citizenship School Program offers courses on democracy and citizenship for secondary students and trains secondary school teachers on citizenship, democratic values, human rights and governance. In schools, 125,508 students have used their pedagogical materials, which are being disseminated by 2,605 teachers trained by the organization. Their online portal, which has been accessed by 93 million users, increases citizens’ political awareness and strengthens their commitment to democracy in their communities. Politize!’s work has attracted volunteers, bloggers, teachers and students in the thousands, as well as numerous partnerships with state education secretariats.
At a time of profound polarization and misinformation in Brazil, Politize!’s work to promote civic engagement is crucial. By empowering all of Brazil’s citizens to have their say, the organization is building stronger communities and a healthier, more pluralistic political dialogue that greatly benefits from the rich diversity of the nation.