Learning by Gaming: Democrapoli
A new concept of civic education through play
Within its civic and voter education campaigns in anticipation of the Malian communal elections, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), in collaboration with the Nigerien NGO Groupe de Recherche Action sur la Démocratie et les Systèmes Electoraux (GRADSEL), has developed an educational game called Democrapoli: Elections Communales Mali (Communal Elections Mali).
The Democrapoli game is a creative concept owned by GRADSEL, which was customized and adapted by IFES to support civic education in Mali for the communal election in a fun, educational manner through role play. It allows citizens to simulate the various roles of different stakeholders in the electoral process. This includes: candidates for election, elected officials, voters, members of the results commission and election observer, among others. As the game is based on actual data, it also has the added value of informing citizens of information on the administrative circumscriptions (such as the number of seats per commune and actual data on voter registration disaggregated by locality) and invites engagement with the provisions, laws and regulations governing the specific aspects of the electoral process.
IFES began working on the development of Democrapoli and its use within its Mali programs in April 2014. On June 21, IFES organized a public demonstration of the Democrapoli game, which was attended by a number of important national actors as well as USAID’s Mission Director in Mali. In addition to the public officials at the demonstration, huge crowds also gathered, which included a large number of women, persons with disabilities, and youth – who constitute IFES’ target group for campaigns featuring Democrapoli.
In order to better engage youth in the use of this game as a voter and civic education tool, the IFES team in Mali also organized a demonstration session of the Democrapoli kits (for which they created a “life size” version of the game) on June 17 at the University of Bamako. The event took place at the Faculty of Law and Political Science and was attended by over 200 students. After the demonstration, both teachers and students proposed a future partnership with IFES that would include further training on civic education – specifically with use of Democrapoli – in order to better understand and adapt the game to their environment. Since then, due to the popularity of this tool, IFES has ordered an additional 350 game kits of Democrapoli from GRADSEL that cover new communes and regions of Mali. The 350 game kits are in addition to the first 250 kits ordered in April.
IFES does not intend to limit itself to the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences at the University and plans to expand its outreach to other schools and universities in Mali (in Bamako and other regions). Televised sessions will be organized at the national level during the school holidays to better inform young people about the usefulness of Democrapoli and increase awareness and interest in elections and the democratic development of Mali.