Case Study: Bancada Ativista, Brazil

Bancada Ativista (Activist Caucus) was founded in the wake of Brazil’s 2016 political crisis as an independent movement to elect progressive activists. The movement’s central agenda was to bring about political renewal from civil society. After a strong showing in the 2016 local elections in São Paulo, Bancada Ativista set its sights on state and national level positions. 


Given the strong influence of Brazil’s existing parties—and the fact that candidates cannot run without being nominated by a party—Bancada Ativista needed to find ways to work around the limitations of the party system. BA was determined to achieve its progressive vision by build new collaborative, innovative, educational, supra-partisan ways to run successful low-budget campaigns to elect underrepresented groups in the 2018 state and national elections. 


After long debates about strategy, the movement concluded the most powerful idea was to pursue a collective candidacy. This was inspired by a successful experience run in 2016 by a collective of five activists who were elected together for a seat on a municipal council in central Brazil. Bancada Ativista would supercharge their model by bringing together activists from diverse backgrounds and political parties into a single candidacy. If elected, they would share the responsibilities and also the resources available for a parliamentary mandate, and their elected office would work as a bridge between institutional politics and very diverse civil society organizations and movements. In terms of campaigning, this would also have the advantage of combining candidacies of different backgrounds, talents, and organizational capacities. While under Brazilian law only one could be chosen as the legal representative, for all practical purposes candidates were running together. 


Bancada Ativista’s collective candidacies have received significant support around Brazil, including by ranking in the top 10 candidates in Sao Paulo in the 2018 election. In this regard, Bancada Ativista had succeeded in its goal of creating replicable strategies and innovations to allow underrepresented groups to win elections. However, the collective candidacy model resulted in some difficulties, including in terms of personality conflicts, imbalances of power in single-member offices, and legal challenges. 
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