What do you get when you introduce two organizations from different countries both working to monitor their countries’ elections? Last month we had a chance to find out.
Even though our work last year coordinating some online skill shares was interesting and useful, we were excited to try an offline skill share as part of our work to support Oxfam Novib partners in Uganda and Burundi. What did this skill share look like?
COSOME (Coalition de la Société Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral), an election observation consortium with 400 member organizations, is preparing for the 2015 general elections in Burundi. With just 18 months to go, they wanted help from people with successful experience in both traditional election monitoring and integrating new technology into monitoring processes. As it happens, several organizations next door in Uganda finished their second multiparty general elections in 2011 and had very rich experiences in observation, using ICT tools for monitoring, and for building long-term plans for offline engagement in between the elections (elections are only one day after all).
With funding from Oxfam Novib Burundi, the COSOME team arrived for a 6-day trip to meet with Ugandan organizations to share tactics and experiences. We were there to document lessons learned and best practices from the Ugandan organization’s experiences (our report is here). The types of projects the COSOME team met with were diverse: from ICT-heavy citizen engagement projects, to small field offices doing long-term community building with often under-represented communities, to government electoral commission offices, and embassies.
In meeting after meeting the COSOME team was struck by the direct relevance of content and the sheer number of ideas and experiences at hand. The Ugandan groups had comparable experiences, shared mandates of election observation, and were working with similar electoral processes (and to some extent the political context – the Burundian presidency is trying to change the constitution to allow him another term in office). The trip quickly became a comprehensive crash course in election observation and community building for social accountability.
We’ll be working more with COSOME to help with early stage strategies for communications planning and information security as they move forward. In the meantime, here is a report on the trip in Uganda, which describes several civil society election observation projects in Uganda, and draws some conclusions based on several of the meetings. If you have any questions about the process or are curious about how it went, feel free to get in touch!
**A big thanks to Oxfam Novib for funding the trip, Citizens Watch IT (CEW-IT) who were wonderful hosts and an inspiration for the COSOME team, and the COSOME team itself who were keen to learn and are actively tackling the long 18 months ahead of them. Download the report here.**