The Active Democracy Network: An Alliance of Transnational Civil Society Organizations Claiming and Building National Capacity

The Active Democracy Network focuses on developing specificity and methodological rigor in tracking the implementation of OAS Summit of the Americas mandates, while helping to build sub-national capacity bases of specialized civil society expertise to help measure, communicate and catalyze democratic governance commitments made at the regional level.

The Story:
There exists broad consensus throughout the Americas on the low level of implementation of commitments assumed by governments at Summit of the Americas, convened by the Organization of American States. The agreements appear to have neither teeth nor relevancy at the sub-national level. Over the past decade, the Active Democracy Network has taken the quixotic language and elusive mandates issuing from each Summit Plan of Action and translated them into actionable government mandates at the sub-national level by innovating a methodology for identifying and tracking the implementation of specific democratic commitments, and building the capacity of civil society to measure, communicate and catalyze progress.

In its latest project cycle, (2007-2010) the Network focused on Summit commitments that could be identified from the Summit Plan of Action in four areas:
-access to public information;
-freedom of expression;
-local government and decentralization;
-and commitments to strengthen civil society participation in national governance.

With a project management team of three hemispheric coordinators in Chile, Canada and Venezuela and over twenty civil society organization country coordinators in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Network has helped to build the capacity of over 100 civil society organizations in at least two ways that are important for sub-national capacity, which are individually elaborated in the following paragraphs.

1. Capacity-Building in the design and execution of civil society-based, high-quality, comparative social policy research National coordinators in each country were trained in the application of a research methodology to guide quantitative and qualitative research in each theme; develop heuristic tools, and engage primary and secondary sources research resources; and produce reports on the findings of the evaluation and recommendations of the evaluation. National coordinators were also trained in the development of another social science research and evaluation tool which proved quite useful in summarizing and publishing research results in a way that is easily digestible for the spectrum of national stakeholders: an Evaluation Index of Government Compliance (EIGC) assigning numerical value to the opinions of sub-national social policy and democratic governance activities and experts, allowing final rankings of countries to be tallied and compared. The Network drew on the experience and expertise of researchers and statisticians, including from the UNDP Office in Chile, to adapt and innovate this methodology to build the capacity of participant civil society organizations.

2. Building Capacity to design and execute high impact communications and outreach strategies to offer targeted assessments and solutions for the consolidation of democratic governance. An important component of the Active Democracy project was to communicate, at the sub-national level, the importance of the Summit process and the existence of commitments made by the governments at the regional level, the findings on progress made by the governments in meeting Summit commitments, and also the value-add of civil society partnerships. The civil society partner organizations received training and support in using and applying effective public outreach strategies, including using media and other communications campaigns, to publicize and disseminate the project’s findings in order to stimulate and inspire informed civil society participation in democratic governance at the national and hemispheric levels. A Communications and Outreach Manual and accompanying Toolkit guided outreach and dissemination activities at the sub-national level in 23 countries. The manual guided strategies for branding, messaging and communications activities to showcase the dynamism and relevance of the work, while the tool kit included specific communications tools that civil society organizations adapted for use in the implementation of outreach and dissemination activities. These included Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs); press release drafts; presentation guides, etc.

Year of publication: 
2010
Collection: 
UNDP Capacity is Development knowledge fair
Country: 
ARGENTINA
Country: 
BARBADOS
Country: 
BOLIVIA
Country: 
CANADA
Country: 
CHILE
Country: 
COLOMBIA
Country: 
COSTA RICA
Country: 
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Country: 
ECUADOR
Country: 
EL SALVADOR
Country: 
GRENADA
Country: 
GUATEMALA
Country: 
HONDURAS
Country: 
JAMAICA
Country: 
MEXICO
Country: 
NICARAGUA
Country: 
PANAMA
Country: 
PARAGUAY
Country: 
PERU
Country: 
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Country: 
UNITED STATES
Country: 
URUGUAY
Country: 
VENEZUELA
Themes and sectors: 
Civil society
Themes and sectors: 
Governance

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