Since 2000, NDI has worked with a broad range of political parties in Colombia to develop effective communication strategies that leverage new technologies to improve congressional-constituent relations. The recent launch of the Ciudadanía y Congresistas (aka Citizen and Legislators) platform is the latest example of such a project, which leveraged our Issues DemTool to strengthen the relationship between citizens and their members of congress.
As a refresher, the Issues DemTool is one of four, open source, online platforms that makes up the Democracy Toolkit, a suite of tools launched by our team last August to address the most common challenges faced by NDI partners: organizing contacts, connecting government with constituents, managing election data, and fostering civic debate. Each DemTool was designed to be easy-to-use and inexpensively deployed to support civic activists, political party officials, election observers, candidates for elected office, and members of parliament worldwide.
In Colombia, the Issues Demtool is being used to allow political candidates to present their positions on key issues via recorded online videos, and citizens the opportunity to ask candidates questions about their political platform. Citizens’ questions cover a wide range of topics, including how congresspeople are addressing disability rights, mining projects, legislative transparency and public health issues. By engaging in such dialogue and sharing statements via social media, the platform allows voters to more directly connect with their political leaders, opening new avenues for strengthening transparency and accountability. Based on the needs and priorities of NDI’s program in Colombia, the Issues DemTool was customized to enhance the usability of the platform, which included redesigning the layout and workflow of content that appeared on the site; featuring infographics and other educational materials on the site to supplement the video conversations that were taking place between legislators and citizens; and better integrating social media platforms like YouTube with the site.
Working alongside 14 national legislators from Bolívar, Chocó and Nariño, three main departments in Colombia, NDI staff worked closely with public officials, their staff, civic leaders and university students on how to film and upload video responses to the Ciudadanía y Congresistas platform. To-date, close to 40 questions have been posted online, a third of which have been answered by legislators. In March, NDI-Colombia's Program Manager, Andrés Osorio, was also featured in HSB Noticias, where he discussed the Ciudadanía y Congresistas platform and its aim to strengthen relations between members of congress and citizens in Colombia.