Building Institutional Excellence in Elections – Liberian NEC
13-15 February 2023
NEC Liberia to transform the work-in-silos culture into an interactive exchange and teamwork embarks on Building Institutional Excellence in Elections
It was Thursday, the first day after the workshop. Executive Director (ED) Anthony K. Sengbe called his closest collaborators, deputies, and the directors of the sections. He said, “Please mark your calendars,” he announced, “we shall have a regular meeting each Thursday. Please, book your time”. Then he went on to make his usual round at the NEC, entering each office and each department. Although this was his regular tour around the offices in the building, this time, he took a step further and asked the people what they needed to improve their work and well-being. To his surprise, the lack of electricity and poor internet connection was not mentioned. Instead, most people requested to be involved in activities to get information and opportunities to learn. Anthony, or ED as everyone used to call him, made a plan and shared the tasks to engage all the staff who were interested and available in the upcoming CVE activities. As a result, the energy and motivation at NEC visibly increased.
He shared the story with Emma, one of his deputies. In response, Emma shared her experience – she relayed seeing one of the temporary workers in the warehouse spending more time on his telephone than working. He felt caught and was terribly scared to lose his temporary job, the income he desperately depended on. She asked him what the case was, reassuring him that he should not fret but relate his worries and ask if he needed help. It turned out that his daughter was in the hospital, and he spent agonizing hours staring at his phone screen, anxiously waiting for news. Emma comforted and advised him to take a break, talk to his wife, and return when ready. His eyes shone. He got back happily and pressed on with his work at full force. The next day, he arrived at work earlier, long before anyone else.
The corridors of the NEC are usually abuzz with people chatting and discussing. One frequently heard sentence was “let’s sharpen our axe,” a sentence from the story the UNDP Resident Representative shared. Emma remembered the other guest speaker’s story from the Ambassador, “soft on people, hard on issues.” ED was happy with the suggestion to be proactive, asking the people for their opinions and needs, besides the open-door policy he was practicing. The words from the slide, “would you do the same if your child was on your shoulder watching?” are deeply entrenched in his mind. New energy and enthusiasm could be sensed around the NEC in those days.
Those are only a few experiences after the NEC Liberia Building Institutional Excellence in Elections Workshop held in Marghibi County, near Monrovia. The Commissioners and Secretariat Directors, each with long years of experience in elections and other roles, confronted simulations they had never previously noticed had such a strong impact on the others. This module is not ordinary; this is a behavioral change workshop from which everyone takes something that inspires them to improve.
The commitment to building institutional excellence and nurturing the enabling environment was strongly welcomed. The topics of coordination and cooperation were discussed openly, as no one wanted to be seen as an obstacle. Confronting with simulation exercises and real team problem-solving opened new perspectives to everyday work and relations. Some of the proposed alternative solutions were already initiated. NEC Liberia has already embarked on Building Institutional Excellence in Elections.
UNDP Liberia Election Support Project, the Embassy of Sweden, and Airish aid support this transformative process that was the first global pilot of the new BRIDGE Module.