"In light of the ever increasing demand for BRIDGE modules across the world, the project partners felt that there weren’t enough fully accredited facilitators to service this demand, particularly in the Middle East where Bridge will most likely be used extensively to service the proliferation of new democracies in that region. It was therefore agreed that a TTF would be conducted in Melbourne in May 2005. There were 26 trainees, 11 AEC staff and the rest coming from 8 other countries – Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, PNG, Ghana, Thailand, Bhutan and Afghanistan.
The TTF was hosted by the AEC. AEC staff were funded from an Internal BRIDGE budget and the expenses of most international participants were funded by the other partner organisations. Participants from PNG and Afghanistan were funded by AusAID while the participants from Bhutan were funded by UNDP. The participant from the Election Commission of Thailand was funded by his organisation.
The TTF course is an intensive 10 day program held over a 2 week period. It is fast-paced and highly interactive, intended to reflect the experiences of facilitating a real BRIDGE module.
To maximise learning experiences trainees are expected to immerse themselves in both the methodology and the content of the 10 course modules.
The standard of the trainees was extremely high and all completed the TTF successfully. This all goes well for the utilisation of BRIDGE in the Middle East in that there is now an Arab-speaking team of semi-accredited facilitators. It also helps kick start the AusAid funded, Asia Foundation managed BRIDGE project in Afghanistan. UNDP in Bhutan is very keen to introduce BRIDGE there when the members of the inaugural electoral commission are appointed and Bhutan now has two extremely competent semi-accredited facilitators who will hopefully be able to play a key role in the conducting of BRIDGE in Bhutan.
The AEC will certainly be ably served by this group of semi-accredited AEC facilitators, either in the internal use of BRIDGE as a professional development tool or in the numerous, AusAid funded BRIDGE courses managed by the AEC in the Asia/Pacific region and beyond.
Three of the co-facilitators – Caroline van den Broek from the UN mission to Iraq in Amman, Virginia Beramendi Heine from the Election Processes section of IDEA and Joanne Cheah, an Australian freelance elections expert – were completing the second part of the accreditation process and all performed brilliantly. Caroline is now strategically placed to play a key role in the use of BRIDGE in the Middle East. Virginia, a Uruguayan, will now play an important role in introducing BRIDGE to the Spanish-speaking world. Joanne will hopefully play a role in any further BRIDGE work conducted in Indonesia.
The feedback from the trainees was universally positive. All believed that the TTF had made them better facilitators. All felt that they had learnt a great deal about the comparative electoral processes used around the world. All felt like the networks and friendships they had made in the two weeks could only benefit them in their roles as professional electoral administrators.
The TTF in Melbourne in May 2005, not only served to create a wonderful group of semi-accredited BRIDGE facilitators, it also helped to strengthen the bonds that exist between the world wide family of electoral administrators".