On November 16 and 17, 2020, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) facilitated a blended virtual and in-person strategic communications training for staff members of The Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The IEC identified strategic communications as a priority for their capacity building as an outcome of IFES' Executive Curriculum in Electoral Leadership (iEXCEL) training held in July.
The strategic communications training was tailored to The Gambian context. During the training, participants engaged with material in five areas, including developing a strategic communications plan, utilizing social media for communications, developing strategies to counter disinformation, building crisis management communication skills and crafting media statements. At the end of the training, participants rated their level of knowledge higher than at the beginning of the training in all five areas. One of the participant’s reflections on the training was that "strategic communications as the purposeful use of communication by the IEC to enable the Commission [to] ameliorate future crisis during the 2021 electoral activities had been strengthened within the Commission."
The two-day interactive event was remotely facilitated by IFES' Electoral Leadership and Crisis Management Expert Juliette Schmidt and Caroline Hooper-Box, an international strategic and communications adviser. In-country support was provided by IFES’ Election Management Adviser in The Gambia Lamin Lighe and Harona Drammeh, a local media expert. The training was delivered by two trainers in the same room as the participants and two remote trainers utilizing Zoom to connect with the participants. Lighe, the local media expert and the participants followed all government-mandated COVID-19 guidelines and wore personal protective equipment during the training. The IEC commissioners and some departmental directors attended the training to enhance the ability of its leadership to respond during crises and mitigate the impact of misinformation and disinformation during the electoral period.
The training is part of IFES' "Gambia Governance Reform Activity" program funded by the United States Agency for International Development through the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening. One of the program's objectives is to increase the IEC’s professional capacity to execute its strategic plan through trainings for election commissioners and staff. The training will better prepare IEC leadership to plan ahead, frame and communicate messages in a better manner, and use the most effective channels as it responds to crises during this electoral cycle and beyond, strengthening the IEC’s reputation and credibility. The focus of IFES' support to the IEC is increasing its ability to promote inclusive democratic governance, electoral integrity and democracy in The Gambia.
Written by Marita Ivonne Jimenez, program coordinator for Africa at IFES.
Published on March 5, 2021.