The IFES office in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Election Commission (SLEC) supported a workshop combining the BRIDGE Voter Information and Civic Education modules for a regional audience in Colombo, Sri Lanka 20 -25 July 2016
Although it was initially envisaged that the program would have a purely Sri Lankan focus, the Chairman of the SLEC made the decision that he would like to kick start the process of developing a new approach to Voter Education in Sri Lanka by offering to host a 5 day regional BRIDGE Voter Education module. Invitations were extended to the EMBs of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Pakistan. Eventually 25 participants attended – 2 from Bangladesh, 3 from Bhutan, 2 from the Maldives, 2 from Nepal and 1 from Pakistan. The remaining 15 consisted of a combination of National office and regionally based SLEC staff and several member of Civil Society organisations. There were 7 women and 18 men. There was also one vision impaired participant.
As the lead facilitator was at Expert level, it created the opportunity to accredit 2 workshop facilitators – Nalaka Hemantha Rathnayake and J.A.S.P. (Samantha) Jayasinghe – from the National Headquarters of the SLEC and 1 Accrediting facilitator – Radhika Regmi from Nepal.
The facilitation team came together in Colombo several days before the workshop and it was decided that the best approach for such a group of participants was to combine elements of the Voter Information and Civic Education modules from BRIDGE and sections from the BRIDGE Train the Facilitator (TTF) program that focussed on the qualities of good facilitation and those things which give facilitators credibility in the eyes of participants.
It was also decided that the agenda should address strategic approaches to designing a Voter Education program, potential design and implementation timelines, an opportunity to develop curriculum and to then attempt to conduct sections of that curriculum. This would leave all participants with a suite of draft activities they could hopefully adapt to their respective home contexts and the confidence to conduct them when they had completed them. Once the agenda was completed a set of accompanying facilitation notes were drafted and agreed to.
The workshop was opened by the Chairman of the SLEC, Mr Mahinda Deshapriya – a great believer in the importance of Voter and Civic Education in supporting democratic development – and the IFES Chief of Party, Beverly Hagerdon on the morning of July 20 at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo.
As always with BRIDGE, the methodology soon helped to create a relaxed and positive learning environment where people from varying backgrounds and countries soon felt at ease with each other and worked collaboratively and productively on all set tasks. Although some of the participants were initially reticent to participate in reporting or group discussion, everyone was engaged and making positive comment by the end of the program.
I was particularly impressed by the quality and variety of the curriculum that was produced and by the standard of the presentations on the final day. It certainly gives me confidence that all participants are better equipped to design, write and implement Voter and Civic Education programs in their countries of origin. I look forward to hearing how they progress this.
It was with great pleasure that I was able to accredit both Nalaka and Samantha as workshop facilitators – the first in Sri Lanka. They both exhibited excellent preparation and attention to detail. Although their presentation styles are very different, both were able to demonstrate compassion, clear delivery and excellent monitoring and evaluation skills. What most impressed me was how seriously they took the importance of team work and assisting one another. Sri Lanka now has a great resources in these two, both in terms of future BRIDGE events and in the design and implementation of Voter education and training programs.
It was also very pleasing to be able to oversee Radhika’s progression to Accrediting facilitator. She is a confident and very well organised facilitator who is a natural mentor. It was very useful for Nalaka and Samantha to have Radhika as a role model. She assisted them whenever it was necessary and she created an instant rapport with the participants. Radhika’s move to the Accrediting level will be of great importance to Nepal and the wider region. It means someone with a deep understanding of the region is now available to oversee the accreditation process across South Asia and beyond.
Finally, the SLEC showed itself to be an excellent host by organising a day trip to Kandy for the international participants after Day 3 of the program. Apart from enabling them to see a little of beautiful Sri Lanka, it also helped to refresh them for the curriculum writing day and their presentations on the last day.
All in all, the workshop was a great success and I very much look forward to seeing how the knowledge and skills gained by the participants will be used in their respective contexts.