• Opinion
  • December 7, 2018
  • 5 minutes
  • 1

How we’re celebrating the unsung heroes of Brazil’s public service

Opinion: The Brazilian Public Spirit Award responds to current lack of recognition and trust

This piece was written by Eloy Oliveira. For more like this, see our government innovation newsfeed.


Many sectors have famous prizes and awards — think the Nobel Prize, The Oscars or The Pulitzer Prize. So why not the public sector?

Prizes are a great way to foster a culture of recognition, celebrate achievement and to inspire other people to match that achievement.

A prestigious prize for public servants can also serve to change the way people think about public service, by breaking misconceptions and showcasing the best possible examples.

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In Brazil, for example, public servants today face a real lack of public trust and recognition for their work. Some 75% of Brazilians think that “our government does not prioritise the concerns of people like me”. Again, 75% of Brazilians believe that the excess of bureaucracy may be harmful and serve to facilitate corruption.

We believe that it’s time for change. And, this week, Apolitical team met the 12 winners of the Brazil’s very own new award for the public sector: the Brazilian Public Spirit Award.

It aims to celebrate the best public servants in the country and to respond to current lack of recognition and trust. The award was created by Instituto República and Agenda Brasil do Futuro.

Instituto República is a non-profit association that uses data and evidence to invest in qualification, recognition and network building — all with the goal of having more excellent people in Brazil’s public service. Agenda Brasil do Futuro is a non-profit that has focused, since 2015, on new public sector models and practices for transparency and professional excellence.

In Brazil public servants today face a real lack of public trust and recognition for their work

The 12 awardees came to London for a week-long academy organised by The Guardian, which is one of the partners. They had the chance to meet public departments and also to take part in The Guardian’s own award for public servants.

Using other international public service awards — like the US Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals — as a benchmark, Instituto República and ABF designed the award so as to celebrate successful careers in the public sector, demonstrating to this industry that good efforts could be recognised and even rewarded and reinvigorating even the most worn-out.

In order to be considered for the award, each candidate had to complete an application form available on the award site, following the eligibility rules. Almost 2,000 applicants started to fill a demanding application, and 375 of those entries were completed and submitted. Applicants from all the 27 Brazilian states completed the process.

An internal team screened applications to spot candidates that did not meet the eligibility criteria. After this process, a team of 60 jurors evaluated the remaining candidates, based on four criteria: (1) the ability to inspire the team and the work environment; (2) contribution in specific technical areas; (3) the impact of the results on the society; and (4) moments of overcoming and resilience in favor of the country.

At the end of the competition, the winners were awarded cash prizes and a training trip to meet the British public service. And, you can find out more about the winners with these 3 minutes videos about each awardee (subtitled in English). Or, connect with them on Apolitical!

We really need to celebrate the talents within public service. It is our belief that it’s time for other similar prizes to emerge around the world in order to form a positive agenda supporting great public servants. — Eloy Oliveira

(Picture credit: Unsplash)

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