3 QUESTIONS | 3 MINUTES
The National Network for Civic Education (Rede Nacional de Educação Cidadã) is a Brazilian collective that aims to strengthen Brazilian democracy by boosting the civic education ecosystem in the country. The all-volunteer team is led by five members (left to right): João Felipe Casimiro de Tavares, Helena Carvalho Schmidt, Tashi de Fáveri Torres, Valmor Araújo and Leandro Morais. We delved into the journey of their network and are happy to share their valuable lessons on how to establishing a national network of civic educators.
1. How did you build a national civic education network in Brazil, given the competition for funding within civil society?
“The truthful answer is that we are still building our “Rede” – and will, most likely, continue building it forever. What has helped bring everyone together is a common issue clarifying the dynamic as “us working against a problem” rather than “us competing against each other”. We inferred a lack of financial stability as a prevalent concern in the sector and confirmed that by mapping the financial health of some key actors in civic education in Brazil in 2022, identifying a gap of nearly R$2 million (~€377.400) in funding for their activities. Building from that data, we developed a common understanding: the challenges in funding must be addressed as structural issues, as these result in fewer financing streams which overburden and undersupply civic education initiatives. As a network priority, we maintain that new financing opportunities must be a goal; however, to that end, we need to first come together as a community and tackle those structural issues, creating a common discourse in order to develop joint strategies for cause-based funding. The National Conference on Civic Education (ENEC) is the first forum we developed in this strategy, uniting civic education actors (e.g. NGOs, teachers, foundations) at the same table.”
2. What steps and advice would you offer to colleagues in different countries aiming to create a similar national network?
“Always start by listening to the “field”. If you don’t know who is in the field, start there – map the actors, the funding streams, the challenges and opportunities. They will give you quality, first-hand data that can inform you of the community’s main concerns.
Then, develop proposals on how to address those concerns – which you should validate with the community. Identify key issues that are common or tangential to one another and make those into your community “problems”, developing strategies to defeat “the problems” in collaboration so that the community will not only support but want to participate in the solution.
Finally, remember civic education is multifaceted. At first, we tried to suggest finding “one definition” – and while the community is supportive of that, it’s unfair to give up their own definitions. Rather than focusing on the prominence of a certain methodology, theme or strategy that defines “civic education”, we characterize it as the constitutional right we are owed, encompassing anything pertaining to the education of a modern democratic citizen (e.g. human rights, political systems, public participation, ethics). In this way, we can grow a diverse community (with different perspectives, priorities and approaches) that can foster innovation and learning.“
3. Could you outline the main priorities of your network and highlight some achievements you’re proud of?
“As we welcome more actors into our network, we must adapt to accommodate new personas while remaining true to our mission and vision. At present, our key targets, to be achieved with the network, are: bringing civic education to public schools, developing an advocacy front to facilitate fundraising within the private sector, and mapping the Brazilian civic education sector to consolidate a community.
In nearly one year of Rede activities, we have made significant strides. At ENEC22 (November 2022), we brought together 61 actors to map the status of civic education in Brazil; we tripled our baseline by welcoming nearly 200 allies to the ENEC23, featuring panels centred on the implementation of civic education in schools with international panellists, public sector and NGO representatives. We are honoured by how engaged the community has been, and in awe of the new, passionate voices in the room.
We also held our first Consultative Council for Democratic Education (CCED), which aims to transform this debate into a resolution, outlining strategies to universalize civic education in Brazil. We hope to share soon that this document has (a) been adopted by civil society as a joint strategy and (b) delivered to the hands of policymakers.”