A New Approach: ICT Blogging at NDI

By Chris Spence | August 17, 2010

(Promoted to top from August 17)

For my first post on the new NDI blog I thought I’d share thoughts on how we came to the decision to start blogging and what we hope to accomplish.

This NDI blog represents a new way of communicating for the Institute. NDI provides technical assistance to democracy partners around the world including political parties, legislatures, civic groups, other organizations and individuals in more than 70 countries. The reason we exist is to help these groups strengthen democratic institutions, safeguard elections, advance citizen engagement, and promote open and accountable government in their countries. As such, our Institutional public communication, managed by our excellent Public Affairs team, conveys who we are, what we do, where we work and information about the breadth and depth of our programs around the world. The majority of this happens through our official website at ndi.org.

The NDI ICT (information and communication technology) team has a more narrow focus: we specialize in integrating tech tools into NDI programs to help our partners use technology in innovative and sustainable ways. From a communications standpoint, over the years we've always felt it was important to stand behind our partners because our role is to support their efforts to improve their lives by making their societies more democratic. Since our partners were the ones doing the hard and often courageous work we felt that they should be the ones sharing their stories.

As such, over the last 15 years as we created and evolved ways to integrate technology into our democracy strengthening programs my team hasn't engaged in widely sharing our experiences or in engaging in conversations with the broader democracy community online. While we still believe our partners can and should share their own stories, we've come to realize that the ICT team at NDI has an important contribution to make to the broader democracy and development communities by doing more direct outreach and communication.

Through this blog and our wider social media strategy we hope to engage in conversations about the role of technology in democratic development, to share our program experiences, and provide whatever assistance we can to others around the world struggling for their human and political rights and to strengthen their democratic institutions and societies. Our approach will still be to communicate in ways that reflect the supporting role that our team and NDI generally plays in our democracy assistance programs. However, since we have the opportunity to provide technical assistance to quite a number of groups in dozens of countries around the world who often face similar challenges, we recognize that our thoughts and experiences gained from this work may be useful.

We’ll try and generalize our tech knowledge so that it may be helpful to others around the world – whether they be aspiring democrats in countries struggling to create more political space or to defend basic human and political rights, organizations in established democracies working to use technology to further institutionalize democratic traditions, democracy practitioners like NDI who seek to improve their ability to support the efforts of partners around the world to strengthen their societies, or technology companies and organizations who need insight into some of the challenges faced by groups trying to use tools and strategies to achieve their political or social goals.

So I hope this platform becomes a place where our team can not only share our experiences and contributions in the democracy and technology space, but as importantly, begin to participate in the conversations taking place on the range of approaches, opportunities and issues confronted by the democracy and technology community. We hope you’ll engage us in this conversation.