Elections management is frequently a form of crisis management. It’s thus hardly surprising an EMB’s first priorities during an electoral process are often the most short-term concerns: tomorrow’s printing of ballot papers and next week’s opening of candidate nominations nation-wide. This module deals with issues of sustainability that an EMB would seldom have a chance to think about when faced with the operational pressures of a looming election day. These are issues best considered with a longer-term outlook after the dust of the electoral process has settled, and EMB staff have been re-introduced to their families! The challenges being posed here lend themselves to taking the EMB to a comfortable and contemplative environment, and with a large blank white board, lots of A1 paper and coloured pens the strategically minded can agree and plot the future course of the institution.
The topics in this module deal with strengthening both the EMB as an institution as well as the electoral processes it is responsible for. The first and most critical step is to ensure the EMB has strong fundamentals, those aspects of the institution without which it could not survive. Work on these fundamentals must increase the survivability of the EMB in the long term as well as improve the capacity of its staff to manage elections. In addition to strengthening its own house, in parallel an EMB needs to address the concerns of its primary stakeholders: for voters and candidates. They expect the EMB to periodically evaluate and improve the technical aspects of the electoral processes: how voter registration is done, why polling procedures are as they are, and what other options there are for an EMB to take candidate nominations. Many of these questions have been answered in previous modules, but this module will position the questions as part of a holistic review of electoral practices that can be addressed after an election is finished. Central to the messages in this module is that to be a sustainable institution and to promote sustainable electoral process, an EMB needs to learn lessons from past practice.
Parts one and two of the module provide participants an outline of an EMB’s options to develop a plan for sustainability. Specifically, part one introduces the sustainability concepts and part two concentrates on the EMB institution to be nurtured by developing four critical pillars that are bulwarks for the EMB’s survivability: its legal framework, its people, its assets and services, and its money. It concludes with a brief examination of additional pre-requisites for a sustainability reform program, including: the existence of necessary political will; the EMB having coherent structures, processes, and leadership in place; strong institutional memory within the EMB; and an EMB being embedded into supportive networks.
EMB staff know that planning isn’t rocket science; for a plan to be carried out as envisaged and be successful does, however, require a deliberate approach. Part three is the more practical component of the module, and following an introduction to principles of strategic planning there is a series of exercises for participants to develop strategic plans an EMB might use to implement such holistic reforms introduced in the first parts of the module. This part of the module concentrates on the electoral processes an EMB is responsible for. Finally, participants will recognize the methods applied in the teaching of BRIDGE echo the principles espoused in this module to promote sustainable EMB’s and electoral processes. To reinforce this point the module concludes in part four by looking at the BRIDGE program and its lessons learnt for developing a culture of sustainability.