Building Institutional Excellence in Elections

22-26 April 2024

South Sudan

Building Institutional Excellence in Electoral Administration of South Sudan

The United Nations Integrated Electoral Assistance Team (IEAT) in South Sudan conducted a 5-day BRIDGE modular workshop Building Institutional Excellence in Elections for the National Elections Commission (NEC) of South Sudan during April 22-26, 2024, in Juba, South Sudan. The workshop was led by BRIDGE facilitators Natia Kashakashvili and Shalva Tskhakaya and supported by Titi (Joyce) Pitso and Aiah Mattia. The workshop was organized for NEC decision-makers and key senior staff (members of the Board of Commissioners, Heads of Directorates, Heads of Departments, Advisors to the Board, members of the State High Election Committees) who are involved in making and/or advising on decisions in relation to the strategic direction of the institution. (Thirty participants, comprising 7 women and 23 men attended the workshop).

The overarching goal of this modular workshop is to strengthen and protect Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) and their reputations, supporting them in executing their mandates with integrity and efficiency to ultimately ensure the legitimacy of the electoral process. EMBs need to be resilient, agile, and robust institutions. Striving for institutional excellence in electoral administration is a multi-dimensional and complex endeavour that focuses on the structure and operation of the electoral institution rather than the electoral processes and delivery for which it is responsible.

The workshop aimed to explore themes relating to the management, organization, structure and culture of an EMB and enhance participants’ understanding of how to build institutional excellence in election administration. The workshop agenda primarily centred on introducing the four building blocks and five enablers of the Institutional Excellence Model. In summary, the first two days of the workshop focused on providing participants with an understanding of the foundational building blocks. Moving into days 3-4, the workshop delved into the enablers of institutional excellence, while on day 5, participants synthesized their knowledge to construct a roadmap for NEC’s journey towards institutional excellence.

Below is a detailed explanation of the flow and structure of the workshop content:

Days 1-2: Building Blocks of Institutional Excellence

Participants were introduced to the concept of institutional excellence, covering the building blocks, enablers, and potential inhibitors. The strategic elements required for driving institutional excellence in an EMB were explored (Building Block – Strategy). Moreover, conversations focused on understanding organizational culture, emphasizing the significance of cultivating a positive, values-based, and high-performance culture (Building Block – Culture). Participants reflected on how existing systems, processes, and resources impact their organization’s pursuit of excellence, considering how structures and procedures can either facilitate or inhibit excellence (Building Block – Structure). The session also delved into recruiting, developing, and retaining staff essential for achieving institutional excellence (Building Block – People).

Days 3-4: Enablers of Institutional Excellence

Days 3 and 4 revolved around the crucial role effective leadership plays in achieving institutional excellence. Discussions included advocacy, project management, and risk management as vital components of leadership (Enabler – Effective Leadership). Attendees examined strategic communication and collaboration with external stakeholders, fostering partnerships to drive institutional excellence (Enabler – Communication and Collaboration). The significance of learning and development (L&D) in enhancing institutional excellence was underscored. Attendees pinpointed NEC’s learning needs and priorities, strategizing ways to embed learning with a forward-thinking, strategic approach (Enabler – Organizational Learning). The process for conducting a thorough organizational assessment was delineated (Enabler – Monitoring and Assessment). Finally, participants explored the notion of continuous improvement and its role in pursuing excellence, concentrating on navigating change processes and evaluating performance.

Reflective Exercises:

After each building block and enabler session, participants engaged in a “reflection exercise,” providing a basis for further discussion and reference at the module’s conclusion.

Day 5: “Make it Happen” Activity

Participants actively participated in the “make it happen” activity, consolidating their reflections to construct an institutional excellence model applicable to their respective contexts. This led to the development of draft action plans or ‘roadmaps,’ outlining potential steps for attaining institutional excellence of the NEC.

Participants provided overwhelmingly positive feedback throughout the workshop. Besides praising the engaging and participatory approach of the workshop methodology, they commended the timing of the conduct of the workshop and claimed that it improved understanding of the status and level of institutional development of the National Elections Commission, as well as provided a much needed boost for the NEC senior leadership to undertake full structural establishment of the organization while delving into the challenging task of election preparations.

This workshop was the first of a series of BRIDGE workshops taking place from April to June 2024 as part of a broad capacity development programme that aims to (i) enhance the knowledge of the NEC on electoral principles and practices and the functions of election management throughout the electoral cycle; (ii) raise the awareness of targeted stakeholders on electoral issues; and (iii) start to develop a qualified cadre of facilitators in South Sudan who are able to use the BRIDGE curriculum effectively in order to deliver workshops on electoral issues for the benefit of a range of electoral stakeholders.

Natia Kashakashvili, Shalva Tskhakaya
Face to face workshop
Audience(s) for this workshop:
Electoral Management Body
Modules used at this workshop:
Building Institutional Excellence
Expected Outcomes:
Provide Electoral Principles to Staff, Professional Development of Staff