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A Political Path: Dr. Maximilian Oehl

Dr. Oehl is the Executive Director and Co-Initiator of Brand New Bundestag, a German political leadership incubator which we featured in our “28 PLIs to Watch” list earlier this year. He is a trained lawyer with a background in entrepreneurship and political consultancy. This week he also became an Ashoka Fellow.

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How would you describe your political path?

I started out as a civil society advocate and quickly realized how pivotal legislation is in transforming societies. I turned my frustration over innovation-blocking political rituals and structures into action, setting out on a journey to reimagine people’s paths into political office. This vision also includes cross-party, trans-sectoral collaboration between civil society and members of parliament.

What are the most useful lessons you’ve learnt on the way?

People are the gold! Luckily, German politics is not a “big money” game. Instead, you can achieve a lot by effectively organizing volunteers. I’ve also learnt that deep, trusting connections to other human beings are vital if you want to substantially change the way things are done. If people know and trust you, they are more encouraged to step out of their way to challenge the state of things.

“There’s no such thing as too many people actively engaged in our democracies.”

What are the top three things that could be done to get courageous, ethical and trusted politicians in your area?

  1. Nominate anyone you think that these traits apply to here in Germany to us at (laughs).

  2. We need a strong, pragmatic collaboration between civil society and political parties. If that works out then the pool of dynamic, empathetic leaders will grow substantially larger.

  3. In this regard: If you feel that these traits apply to you, please join a political party! There’s no such thing as too many people actively engaged in our democracies.

What ideas and/or people are inspiring you at the moment?

The person without whom Brand New Bundestag would most likely not exist today: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Her public speaking and social media skills are outstanding. With her empathy and courage she is leading the way for an entire young political generation that I feel a deep connection to. There are also a lot of amazing people active across politics that I admire a lot, be it in parliament or in the super important “pre-parliamentary space”.

What story do you want communities to tell about politicians?

That they feel represented by someone who listens to them with empathy, by someone that they trust to get things done. A person that does not appear to be lost in face of the challenging transformations we are facing today. Those leaders already exist widely in civil society. It is high time we turn a lot more of them into our political leaders.


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