In December 1999, a group of prominent electoral experts from around the world met in Canberra, Australia to discuss the potential structure and content of a short capacity-building program for electoral administrators. They were asked to reflect on everything which, with the benefit of hindsight, they wished they had known when starting work on their first election. The knowledge they identified formed the basis for what has become the BRIDGE (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) curriculum – arguably the world’s most comprehensive curriculum in electoral processes.

BRIDGE is the umbrella name for the cooperative effort between the five BRIDGE Partner Organisations that develop and maintain the BRIDGE package of products and services. Roles within the BRIDGE partnership include membership on the Partner Committee and providing BRIDGE focal persons in each partner organisation. The expanded BRIDGE partnership now includes two new partners, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), each with a strong track record in implementation of electoral support projects in a wide variety of countries.

Within the BRIDGE Office based in the Australian Electoral Commission in Melbourne, Australia, there is a BRIDGE Coordinator and several full-time project officers who are responsible for developing the curriculum and the BRIDGE website, for providing advice and support to implementers of BRIDGE, maintaining a database of all BRIDGE facilitators, keeping records of all BRIDGE workshops conducted around the world, and dealing with other ad hoc project requirements as they arise.

From the beginning, we at the BRIDGE Office have been blessed to work with the most talented and committed co-writers, all of them experts in some aspect of elections. We have all shared the view that the educational philosophy of BRIDGE is that the best teaching should involve learning by all, including the teachers. We are committed to an activity based, ‘inquiry learning’ approach. We have all believed that the teaching approach of BRIDGE should model all of the democratic standards and principles that BRIDGE aims to nurture. We all share the belief that the best learning environment is one where everyone is respected and where all opinions and efforts are valued. We also firmly believe in the principle of consulting the users of BRIDGE in order to improve BRIDGE. Most importantly, we have all worked on the basis that BRIDGE is not a ‘quick fix’. It is a long term, professional development program. Local ownership of the content and methodology of BRIDGE is essential if BRIDGE is to successfully meet its stated objective. That being:

To give insights into the principles, skills and challenges involved in the conduct of properly run elections.

I believe that we have created something which genuinely helps to build the capacity not only of those new to elections, but also of those who have been in electoral administration for a long time and all stakeholders in the electoral process. BRIDGE builds teams, it encourages sharing, and it helps electoral administrators find the information they need to meet the challenges of their vitally important jobs. Of that, we can all be justly proud.

BRIDGE is in a process of continuous development and improvement, as the curriculum has evolved from Version 1 to Version 2, and as BRIDGE workshops are being run in increasingly diverse situations. One evolution is a widening of scope, from initially being a curriculum in election administration to focusing on the wider electoral process as well as the associated issues of Democracy and Governance. This has placed much more emphasis on the role of stakeholders both in the design of the modules and as potential target audiences for the workshops. 

Version 2 of BRIDGE is a huge curriculum with all its attendant resources and that combined with the broadening of the potential target audience has placed a great deal more responsibility on implementers to build their skills in customisation of programs and workshops. The emphasis of this second edition of the BRIDGE Implementation Manual therefore, is to again offer practical advice and tools to those planning, project managing and implementing BRIDGE programs around the world. As with the Implementation Manual for Version 1, this manual will again contain all the detailed information necessary to ensure the smooth planning, conduct and evaluation of all types of BRIDGE programs and workshops. However, this time there will be more emphasis on areas such as customisation, translation and facilitator accreditation.

The development of BRIDGE has been the work of many hands, and the content of the curriculum materials, and of this Manual, represent a distillation of input from virtually everyone who has used or had contact with BRIDGE.  The BRIDGE partners are deeply grateful for their support.

Ross Attrill – BRIDGE Coordinator

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