Alan Clutterbuck is transforming Argentina’s political culture from one riddled by patronage and constant division into one that is accountable and well-equipped to work across party lines. By building a network of carefully vetted politicians from various political parties, Alan is training an emerging class of ethically-driven and collaborative political leaders.
La idea nueva
Through a highly selective process, Alan has created a powerful network of politicians from a diverse array of parties and regions and provides them with the training, knowledge, and support they need to achieve lasting social change. Finally, to bridge the gap between government and the people, he creates firm links between his network, civil society leaders, and the media.
Because of the constant turnover rate among politicians and the political parties, many of Argentina’s elected leaders lack the skills and knowledge needed to institute needed reforms. Alan thus offers training programs designed to address a variety of issue areas, including matters of political reform, public sector management, and legislative development. He supplements these programs with information sessions on constituents’ concerns and leading issue areas, and tailors his programming to the interests of each particular politician. Held before the entire network, these programs are central to his efforts to foster collaboration and action plans amongst politicians with different ideologies.
More recently, Alan is reaching out to major players in the media and across civil society. He arranges regular meetings between politicians, CEOs, and social organizations as a way to better connect the government to the people and issues it is intended to serve. He aims to publicize the group’s achievements, in an effort to introduce new standards of excellence and an unprecedented culture of ethical leadership.
Thanks to a rigorous selection process, Alan’s Political Action Network (RAP) is comprised of a growing group of ethically proven politicians who pledge their commitment to the common good. Having started in Buenos Aires, Argentina’s center of political activity, RAP has developed a strong presence in three cities the country’s interior. With 108 members to date, Alan plans to grow his network to 400 members in the coming years.
Argentina’s political history is one rife with instability: There were seven coup de etats between 1930 and 1976, and between 1955 and 1989, no democratically elected government fulfilled its full term. Against this backdrop, a profoundly fractured political climate has emerged, characterized by political inaction and a near constant struggle for power.
Indeed, such volatility has lingered on in spite of more recent democratic reforms. In December 2001, in the immediate aftermath of a crisis begun at the mayoral level, five presidents succeeded the ousted President Fernando De la Rua in the course of two weeks. Thousands of people took to the streets in a series of famed “cacerolazos,” banging pots and pans in protest, while shouting; “Que se vayan todos” (“Make them all leave”).
These events and the many years of political strife that preceded them have fueled an extreme mistrust of the country’s political parties and politicians at large. Moreover, the current climate is unlikely to change without considerable intervention, as most of the country’s parties and the political structures meant to support them have fallen into a state of disarray. There is little dialogue between or within parties, and few measures of accountability in the interests of the people, resulting in public policies that rarely endure beyond a single party’s term in office. Such recurring tensions only work to worsen society’s perception of the political system, adding to its existing discredit.
Politicians must undergo a rigorous selection process to take part in the network. Interested politicians can either receive a formal invitation or nominate themselves to the network, and are then subject to careful review by an admissions panel, taking into account their political background and actions, moral character, and their ability to make an impact.
Upon induction to the network, members must sign a formal letter of understanding, in which they pledge to maintain a cooperative environment and to uphold a strict ethical code. This includes an explicit commitment to defend the common good and remain within the bounds of their selected political branch, and a promise not to use their office for economic gain. To this end, members agree to declare their income to the Administración Federal de Ingresos Públicos.
RAP conducts monthly training and support programs on topics that range from political reform, legislation and public policy, fundraising, and how to conduct political campaigns. Members have access to academic scholarships in order to attend national and international seminars on public sector management.
To build trust and enhance political debate, most of RAP’s programs are held exclusively for its members. The security and collegiality provided by RAP has produced measurable results: In 2007, two members of the Lower House from opposing political parties joined forces for the first time. They stood up in Court together, denouncing a number of bribes that had gone into the creation of a well-known infrastructure project. The restored public faith has likewise benefited the politicians themselves; in 2007’s national election, 28 of RAP’s members were elected to seats at a Municipal, Provincial, and National levels.
Alan has placed a growing emphasis on building ties between sectors. He holds regular meetings between members of the network and leaders from various organizations and fields of work. In addition, he has launched a campaign with members of the media; providing them with regular updates and success stories. His goal is to have them inform the public of the growing changes in Argentina’s political leadership, to close the gap between citizens and political leaders, and to develop a stronger public understanding of correct political behavior.
Alan’s diverse network includes 108 political representatives from 18 of Argentina’s 24 provinces. At present, RAP has seven paid employees, thirty volunteers, and an annual budget of approximately $2M pesos. To help maintain transparency and objectivity, no single donor may contribute more than 10 percent of RAP’s total revenue. In partnership with the Universidad Austral, he has also begun to develop a series of indicators to allow him to better assess RAP’s impact. Following a series of recent consultations, Alan is looking to expand his network in Peru and Brazil.
Alan has shown inherent leadership since childhood. Elected “Head Boy” of his high school, he served as a delegate of the student body in meetings with school officials.
Guided by his father, an enterprising businessman, Alan first decided on a career in economics, which ultimately led him to pursue Master’s degree at Stanford University. During his second year, however, his father was kidnapped. Alan quickly returned to Buenos Aires to negotiate with his father’s captors, yet after a year with no news about his father, he returned to the U.S. to finish his studies and earn his degree.
After several years in the private sector and the pain of losing his father still raw, Alan chose to take a “semi-sabbatical” year to think about his future. It was at this time that Argentina underwent its latest profound political crisis. Alan grew frustrated with the country’s complacency, and realized that he needed to act to change the country’s broken political system; driving him to get involved in politics. In 2002, he started RAP with a small group of people who shared his worries about the country’s future and felt called to make a difference.