Partner story

Q&A with Brand New Bundestag's Maximilian Oehl

Since we started building our Western Europe portfolio in 2017, Luminate has had the chance to partner with some extraordinary people and organisations in the UK, Germany, and France. We are winding down our domestic work in Europe by the end of 2023, but before we do, we want to give space to the partners we’ve worked with to share their own perspectives on their work, what they have learnt, and what’s needed in the future.

By Maximilian Oehl, Co-Initiator & Executive Director at Brand New Bundestag

1. What does Brand New Bundestag do?

Brand New Bundestag’s (BNB) goal is to build more future-fit parliaments in Germany. It provides young (18-45), diverse, progressive candidates customized training on political skills and supports them on their path to elected office.

 BNB actively scouts progressive political talents via its community networks, social media and by searching electoral party lists. All identified candidates are thoroughly screened via desk research and go through a multi-stage assessment process with a diverse jury of prominent activists selecting the best-fitting candidates. There is no strict requirement regarding political affiliation, however all selected finalists must agree with certain future-oriented policy positions on climate, social justice, sustainable business, and the future of Europe. Other important characteristics for successful participants include strong motivation, integrity, a track record of civil society engagement, and good public speaking skills.

Moreover, BNB creates campaigns, for example, highlighting ‘50 progressive candidates’ and amplifies them through media campaigns and events. These campaigns foster exchange, networking and mutual support for candidates, with the primary goal of accelerating and attracting attention and support from various parties for progressive goals.


2. What are the greatest lessons you've learned over the past two years?

First of all, we were thrilled to learn that the BNB approach actually works. Out of the ten candidates we supported in the federal elections in 2021, three were elected to office – an overwhelming success for a young organization like ours! The key to this success was a clear-cut cooperation model with political parties. Given that there are no public primaries in Germany, we sought to convince the party delegates of the BNB candidates through press and PR efforts as well as first-hand exchanges on an individual basis. 

Moreover, we confirmed our hypothesis that there is a great need for the kind of work BNB is doing. There are many roadblocks and glass ceilings for progressive, and especially diverse, political candidates in Germany. People of Colour, Women, people with an East German biography, and people without a college degree are not adequately represented in the German political system. Candidates seeking to push the boundaries of innovation and transformation often experience substantial backlash from strong informal networks relying especially on party affiliation rather than personal competence, authenticity, or motivation. The reaction to our innovative approach is overwhelmingly positive, including encouraging feedback from party elites at all levels. 

In addition, we had to realize that the funding ecosystem for this kind of civil society-led work is only starting to emerge. ‘Traditional’ funders have proven to be very cautious to get involved, mostly out of a common habit to perceive non-profit work as being separate from party politics. This view, however, misperceives the fact that civil society engagement knows many forms and does not somewhat artificially stop as soon as party politics appear on the horizon. Rather, these trans-sectoral approaches connecting the work of civil society with decision makers are key in unleashing the full societal innovation potential. Thanks to Gauri van Gulik and Kitty von Bertele at Luminate, the work they have been able to start and are continuing to build in Europe (through the setup of a new foundation to support this kind of work) has the potential to considerably change the funding ecosystem in the years to come.

3. What opportunities do you see on the horizon and what are your plans for the future?

One pivotal opportunity lies in the new generation of politicians we just saw enter the German legislature in comparatively large numbers. They are filling their mandates with a spirit of openness, pragmatism, and collaboration, which may likely lead the way forward towards transformative political processes. BNB serves as a platform fostering these collaborative, connected efforts – with the ultimate aim of channeling the dynamic of civil society actors into parliamentary processes. This effort is particularly promising as several progressive MPs from multiple parties have strongly signaled their openness towards such new processes convened by BNB. In fact, they are actively working towards expanding the platform both regarding content and the inclusion of further MPs. 

To increase the network of visionary, hands-on politicians, BNB has already started to expand from the federal to state and local levels and is now supporting candidates in the electoral races in three federal states in 2022. 

BNB is intending to channel all its network energy into the development of a future-oriented policy program, which will be developed collaboratively between civil society and politicians. However, this process will only kick-off if the corresponding Crowdfunding campaign is successful! Therefore, please feel free to share the word and donate via our Crowdfunding page, which runs until June 1st, 2022!

4. How can funders support you right now?

There are many ways for funders to get involved:

  • You can become an Angel supporter (starting at 10€k/year) – with an option of joining our ‘Wir Für Zukunft’ collective of like-minded visionaries and practitioners working to innovate German politics
  • You can join the BNB Impact alliance and become a long-term institutional partner. Our partnerships coordinator Linda will gladly provide further details on this opportunity: [email protected]
  • Direct donations are possible through the BNB website
  • Or: Support our Crowdfunding campaign and help us develop a ‘Brand New Agenda’ for Germany and beyond (runs from May 4th to June 1st 2022): 

The success of our candidates and of our initial collaborations with MPs has proven: The BNB approach works. Your contribution can make a difference in innovating politics, and building more diverse, future-fit parliaments today! Join our mission now!

Read more Q&As with leaders from our Western Europe portfolio.