The facilitation team included Yvonne Goudie (Australia – Australian Electoral Commission), Joanne Cheah (Australia – Freelance elections expert) and Wael Al-Faraj (Iraq, United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq).
The course was conducted for 24 participants, with the aim to accredit a competent group of national BRIDGE facilitators; this group will be responsible for implementing the BEC’s plans in conducting a sizeable BRIDGE project in Bangladesh.
18 Participants represented a cross-section of the BEC as they came from different sections and geographical areas. The BEC also has invited participants from other institutions:
The guest speakers in the opening ceremony were: BEC Chief Election Commissioner, BEC members of the Board of Commissioners, Secretary of the Election Commission, Australian High Commissioner and UNDP Country representative.
The participants began the two-week course with sessions on the background of BRIDGE, the teaching methodology behind it and the Learning Outcomes of the TtF Program. Participants then applied the new materials through variety of activities, such as Role Play, Group Work and Case Study. In between, facilitators used the ice breakers and the energizers to establish rapport among the participants and to rejuvenate the mind and body. Participants quickly responded to BRIDGE teaching methodology by showing utmost participation and enthusiasm. In the first day of the course, participants developed their own code of conduct which is not only an exercise in team building, it is also another approach to working with adults and a way of constructing accepted behaviors for the rest of the two weeks.
Participants then were asked to work in pairs to present (facilitate) BRIDGE activities that reflect certain learning outcomes that is assigned to them by the facilitators. Participants were so receptive and they enjoyed acting as a facilitator and they performed their activities smoothly. Pairs were then asked to select any of the Ten BRIDGE Modules and to write their own Key Understandings and Learning Outcomes and to design activities that reflect the Learning Outcomes. Also they need to prepare all the resources they need for the presentation i.e. hand outs, OHP transparencies and scenarios for the role plays. Then they need to swap what they have written with another pair. In this case they will not only act as presenters / facilitators but they will also learn how to design and write their own training materials. Facilitators were so delighted to see the participants working as a team, discussing their activities and writing great materials. Again the participants performed brilliantly, this time not only as presenters/facilitators but also as writers. They were so creative and they wrote enjoyable role plays, informative debates and great group works.
On the last day of the course, the participants developed implementation frameworks for implementing BRIDGE in their areas; they were so enthusiastic, they expressed the need to implement BRIDGE in the near future in order to develop the capacity of the electoral administrators and to build bridges between the BEC and the stakeholders in the electoral process.
The participants’ evaluations unanimously rated the course as overwhelmingly outstanding, they thoroughly embraced all learning outcomes of BRIDGE – TtF and they expressed that BRIDGE methodology and the conducive learning environment. Participants described it as a ‘democratic environment’ helped them a lot to want to learn more and to become better facilitators. Participants said that they have learned something new and they will apply what they learned in their work, they consider what they have learned as a step forward toward a free and fair elections and toward a democratic society. As a member of the facilitation team, I felt when I was listening to the final group evaluation that I have received an invaluable reward that is when one of the participants said: “In this course we did not only learn how to facilitate, but also we learned how to work as a team, how to support and encourage each other”.