BRIDGE Training for West African CSOs in Gorée Island

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As a result, International IDEA organised a meeting in July 2008. This meeting was hosted by the Gorée Institute. The participants who attended the second meeting of the ACE Regional Centres came from the eight of the ten participating organisations across the globe. The meeting served to introduce and consolidate BRIDGE as a tool amongst the regional centres. These centres would in future serve as important implementation points around the globe. Critical to this role would be the full accreditation of several of the participants as BRIDGE facilitators. The Senegal meeting served as an important strategic opportunity to fulfil accreditation for several of the ACE regional centres, as well as showcase some of the BRIDGE materials.

In September 2008, Gorée  Institute received funds from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) to implement a project entitled: Gorée Centre for Electoral Processes (GCEP). Its implementation period is 2008-2010. The activities of the project fall under the following components:

  • Knowledge sharing through a website and thematic forums;
  • Capacity building through BRIDGE for Civil Society Organisations;
  • Research (commissioning of case studies);
  • Advocacy for best practices in the ECOWAS region.

Following the launch of the West African Centre for Elections (WACE) on January 30th 2009, facilitated by Gorée Institute, the Steering Committee agreed that the network’s coordinating secretariat would be based at Gorée Institute. In addition, it has been agreed that the GCEP Project will support the WACE network and build the capacities of its members through BRIDGE.

As a result, Gorée Institute decided to organise a BRIDGE training for West African CSOs working in electoral processes from March 23rd 2009 to March 27th 2009. This five day training included organisations from the WACE network and other organisations nominated by Gorée Institute’s partners.

Project Objectives

The objectives of this training were as follows:

  • To train Civil Society Organisations in various aspects of electoral management;
  • To introduce the BRIDGE curriculum and its pedagogy to West African CSOs working in electoral processes;
  • To position Gorée Institute as a hub of excellence for both ACE and BRIDGE in West Africa;
  • To allow potential funders/donors to familiarize themselves with BRIDGE.

The Training Topics and Workshop Agenda

The training for West African CSOs followed a BRIDGE workshop model of 5-day training. The training topics were carefully chosen with special attention to the needs of West African Civil Society Organisations.

The following table illustrates the workshop framework:

DAY 1: Introductions, Introduction of EMBs: Types and Functions, Standards and Principles of Elections.

DAY 2: Electoral Systems, Comparison of Electoral Systems in the region, Concept of Free and Fair elections.

DAY 3: Voter Registration: Types and Comparison, Voter Registration Mechanisms, Voter Registration Challenges, Forecasting the Cost of Elections.

DAY 4: Principles of Media Management in Elections, Sources of Electoral Disputes, Electoral Dispute Resolution Standards and Principles, Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanisms.

DAY 5: Action plan for civil society organisations working in electoral processes, Nature of electoral observation, The pros and cons of observers in elections, Regulatory Frameworks for Electoral observation, Domestic Vs International Election Observers, How can observers assess the electoral process, Observer Code of Conduct.

In addition to these sessions, each country was assigned to do a group presentation highlighting the challenges faced by civil society organisations working in electoral processes in their countries and, other participants were invited to offer solutions.

Choosing and Producing The Training Materials

BRIDGE version 2 curriculum consists of 23 modules. For this training conducted entirely in English, version 2 materials were used. They were very similar to the ones used during the BRIDGE professional enhancement course held in Accra (March 9th – March 13th 2009). In addition to these materials, the facilitators produced new materials for new activities. Other valuable resources and references made available to the participants included IDEA handbook on "Electoral Systems Design" in English.

The participants

Eighteen participants representing different West African Civil Society Organisations working in Electoral Processes participated in the 5-day training course. These participants came from the following countries: Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone,Liberia and The Gambia.

The selection of participants was agreed upon with the members of the West African Centre for Elections Steering Committee, and a set of criteria was applied to guarantee the participation of Civil Society Organisations working in different areas of electoral processes.

Due to the Gorée Institute’s commitment for gender balance, 9 participants were women and 9 participants were men. The UNDEF support for the event was evidenced by Gorée Institute’s Director of Programmes Mr Waly Ndiaye in the course of the opening ceremony as well as Mr Breyten Breytenbach (Executive Director of Gorée Institute) in the closing ceremony. At the end of the training, 17 participants were awarded a certificate of course completion. This certificate is the same everywhere in the world. Only one participant did not receive a certificate because she could not attend the minimum required hours for such training. At the end of the training, participants were so satisfied with the content that they decided to elaborate and sign a protocol.

The Facilitation Team

Two facilitators participated in the workshop:

  1. Theophilus Dowetin
  2. Ibrahima Amadou Niang – Gorée Institute

Ibrahima is the Elections Projects Manager within Gorée Institute and he facilitated sessions while coordinating the other various logistics. Theophilus Dowetin who is also the International IDEA Programme Manager for West Africa facilitated most of the sessions.

The team was a good mix of experience and background. All facilitators showed high level of facilitation skills and were very helpful to participants.

Evaluation and Conclusions

Daily and Final workshop evaluations were extremely positive. It was mentioned by many participants that this training was at a high level and outstanding. Among other things participants appreciated were the training methodology, facilitation style and skills, and creating an environment of dialogue and experience sharing especially in a comparative context.

We highlight this because it offers an opportunity to build on the success achieved for other BRIDGE trainings in Senegal and in the region.

Key to any successful engagement in this regard is the sense of partnership and cooperation between UNDEF and Gorée Institute. It gives an example of how such a partnership can impact on our involvement in the electoral assistance in the region.

The participants provided a positive feedback of this training. The West African CSOs are asking for more BRIDGE workshops to be delivered over the course of 2009 in preparation for the upcoming electoral events between 2010 and 2011.

The following are some excerpts from the participant’s evaluation of the workshop:

Some answers to the question: How did you benefit from this training?

"Team work gives birth to productivity"

"I came to understand that elections is a process and that there is continuity in it"

"I learnt how important it is to collaborate instead of competing between Civil Society Organisations"

"The BRIDGE curriculum is an excellent and flexible training"

"It has been a wonderful experience for me to enrich my overall knowledge in electoral processes"

Some answers to the question: How could the training workshop be improved?

"It would be beneficial for us to have more practical experience in writing project proposals; designing an action plan, or conduct budgeting as civil society organisations"

"More sessions outside of the classroom, in the garden, would be very welcome"

"More time should be spent dealing with the comparison of electoral systems because it is a very dense topic."

"This training curriculum should be a continuous one."

Recommendations

Below are some recommendations to UNDEF and to the project partners:

  • To allow Civil Society Organisations to conduct their own BRIDGE trainings, to allow UNDEF and project partners to assess the feasibility of organising Train the Facilitator BRIDGE courses at the Gorée Institute in order to allow some of their staff to become accredited facilitators.
  • In any coming BRIDGE training in West Africa, a right mix of facilitators from civil society organisations can add value especially in bringing comparative experience to the training.
  • For such trainings, having more than two facilitators could be highly beneficial as the workload is extremely critical.
  • Facilitator’s fees must always be harmonised to the standard BRIDGE facilitation fees. Otherwise, this could jeopardize future trainings.

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