Learning Delegation to Brazil

Update —
October 4, 2023

Today, progressive organizers and activists are struggling to reach enough people and build the power necessary to realize our transformational ambitions. As we engage in the long struggle to protect democracy, and to advance racial, gender and economic justice, we are searching for ways to learn, remember, and reimagine forms of organization, tactics, cultural practices, and political education methods that can help us sustain people’s participation, resist authoritarian threats, and build the power necessary to win.

Front-line organizers in the United States and Puerto Rico stand to learn a great deal from the Brazilian context, and to gain inspiration and ideas from the experience of progressives there who are finding ways to resist authoritarian threats, expand fundamental rights of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, generate new solutions to the overlapping crises of inequality and climate disaster, and build organizations able to engage millions of poor and working class people in long-term fights for land, rights and governing power.

To facilitate this learning, in September of 2023, The Action Lab partnered with the Defend Democracy in Brazil Committee to organize a learning and exchange delegation of 35 community leaders and organizers from New York, California, Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the strategies, tactics and practices of leading Brazilian social movements.

  • To learn about effective resistance from those in the struggle against authoritarianism: What are effective combinations of organizing strategy, security, and risk-taking in face of authoritarian threats?
  • To learn about emergent modes of organizing and ways of relating to political institutions from organizers who are innovating in real time: How are people developing new, participatory institutions and coalitions across issues and communities, and how are they relating to political institutions?
  • To learn about power-creating policy ideas from those who are developing and implementing new proposals: What policies work to effectively produce more just outcomes and shift the balance of power away from elites and toward working class communities and people of color?

Brazil exhibits stark social inequalities, violence, and a long history of authoritarianism. Simultaneously, it boasts a very important history of resilience, resistance, and creative methods of combating those challenges – its recent experience of defeating an authoritarian demagogue is an enduring example. This context presented inspiration and challenge to our delegation. We interacted with various leaders and movements including the Landless Workers Movement (MST), the São Paulo Downtown Homeless Movement (MSTC), Black Movements, and the Workers' Party (PT) to understand their roles in Brazil's political landscape.

Explore our detailed report on the delegation’s trip here. We continue to work with the delegates from the trip to build shared practices inspired from the trip, to incorporate our learnings together, and to design follow-up sessions for 2024 that will allow us more time to workshop promising tactics we were exposed to in Brazil.

Our learning delegation to Brazil was The Action Lab’s third learning delegation, building on successful trips to Chile and Vienna in 2022. These delegations are important parts of The Action Lab’s mission to provide space for organizers to step out of their immediate and urgent campaign work, to take a step back to see their own work in the context of interdependent global perspectives. Not only do our delegates tell us how much the opportunities supercharge their work with tangible new lessons and practices, but the shared experiential learning opportunities have been a source of fellowship and relationship growth for The Action Lab and our growing community of partners in the US and Puerto Rico.

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