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 curriculum.
BRIDGE stands for Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections. It is a modular professional development program with a particular focus on electoral processes. BRIDGE represents a unique initiative where five leading organisations in the democracy and governance field have jointly committed to developing, implementing and maintaining the most comprehensive curriculum and workshop package available, designed to be used as a tool within a broader capacity development framework.
The five BRIDGE partners are the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), International IDEA, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD).
The Objectives of BRIDGE
- to promote internationally accepted principles of democracy and good electoral practice
- enhance the skills and confidence of stakeholders in the electoral process
- increase the awareness of tools and resources available for the building and maintaining of a sustainable electoral culture
- develop a support network for stakeholders in electoral processes and encourage a culture of sharing information and experiences
BRIDGE as a Capacity Development Tool
An election is the largest and most complex logistical operation that a country ever undertakes in peace time. This is often not well understood, and indeed, the better an election is run, the simpler it looks. Committed, ethical, professional and confident people are the key to increasing the prospects of running a good election, in both emerging and more established democracies.
Electoral assistance providers recognise that the building of a strong and stable electoral culture in - country is more important than providing ad hoc electoral assistance from outside. Two of the largest, UNDP and the European Commission, have specifically recommended incorporating an electoral cycle approach and focussing on capacity development in their electoral assistance programming (see Electoral Assistance Manuals from the respective organisations).
Ideally, BRIDGE should be one component of an integrated package of broader electoral assistance or of a wider and longer-term capacity development strategy that incorporates other interventions such as technical assistance, operational training, and mentoring. BRIDGE is not a "fix-all", a 'stop gap', and a 'stand-alone' product that can meet all needs. BRIDGE can neither deliver a total electoral assistance package nor take complete responsibility for capacity development. Designing and implementing BRIDGE programs as multi-partner initiatives goes a long way to maximising BRIDGE's institutional development potential. BRIDGE partner organisations are well placed for such cooperation.
BRIDGE as a professional development tool primarily affects participants at the individual level. The BRIDGE workshops use an activity-based approach that maximises retention of knowledge and skills learned. In addition, the workshops are designed to promote or reinforce professional confidence, ethics, understanding of principles of best electoral practice, and access to networks of peers.
BRIDGE has the potential to trigger change at an organisational level. It can provide a broader understanding of an organisation, morale, and cohesion within the organisation. Workshops encourage participants to reflect on their better organisation, providing comparative examples and alternative approaches, generating blueprints or support for organisational reform.
Potential Workshop Participants
Election commissioners, electoral management body personnel, political parties, parliamentarians,civil society organisations, election observers (international and domestic), members of the media, university students and security forces.
All BRIDGE facilitators must be fully accredited to run any BRIDGE workshop. An experienced lead facilitator should head the team with at least one other facilitator and administrative support. If running a specialised module (e.g Boundary Delimitation) it is essential that the facilitator selected have content knowledge, or a technical expert join the team. Semi-accredited facilitators can be supervised by a lead facilitator.
Time and Cost Implications for Preparing and Implementing BRIDGE
The BRIDGE curriculum of 24 Modules and the content for all supporting handbooks and manuals for facilitators and participants are free and for global good but there are time and cost implications in implementing a workshop or program.
Needs Assessment Mission: a minimum of one BRIDGE expert for one week to consult with the client (e.g the Electoral Management Body and at least one provincial office if possible), development agencies, implementing agencies or assistance providers and other electoral stakeholders (political parties, parliament, civil society organisations, media) in a series of meetings to highlight policy or operational areas which would benefit from training and to decide which type of program would be most relevant and appropriate to each level of personnel.
Designing a training program: based on the needs assessment mission a customised program or a series of workshops ranging from a one-off showcase to a long-term national training program should be developed. Customisation is crucial to the success and local ownership of the program. It takes at least two weeks to customise and edit each module. The work should be carried out by an accredited BRIDGE facilitator who knows the language, culture, laws and procedures of the country Region. (Refer to the next page for a suggested program sequence of components).
Translating a module: check with the BRIDGE Office first, to see if there are existing translations in the language of the country or region. Translating takes at least one month per module (average number of words = 8,000 = 400 words a day) and at least two weeks to customise and edit by an accredited BRIDGE facilitator who knows the language, culture, laws and procedures of the country or region.
Production: in-country production or shipping costs will need to be built in for folders, certificates and other materials.
Pre - workshop preparation: some of the things to check pre-workshop are the availability of facilitators and their travel or visa requirements (also think of a reserve facilitator in case one withdraws at the last minute), a suitable venue with equipment (screen or projector for power point or OHP, poster papers, whiteboards) and refreshments (coffee and lunch), budget for participants and facilitators (travel and per diem). Logistics are easier if participants stay nearby or in the same venue.
A team of at least two facilitators should meet in-country at least one week before the workshop to arrange the material, agendas, evaluations and logistics.
Timing of workshop: two to ten days with an additional two days travel, adequate pre-workshop preparation time and at least a one day wrap up for consolidating evaluations and reporting to sponsors and the BRIDGE Office.