Citizen participation is instrumental in promoting transparent and accountable government, and in fostering the norms that underpin a functioning democratic system. Democracy develops and deepens when citizens are active and exercise their right to be heard, and when they use organized, informed action to hold government accountable for making real improvements in people’s lives.
Citizen-led political process monitoring can be used to promote more open and accountable government, improve government performance and increase citizen engagement. By systematically gathering information and reporting on political processes, such as campaigning for elected office, public budgeting and procurement, lawmaking, or follow-through on policy implementation, civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists can offer assessments, provide data-driven recommendations, and lay the foundation for greater citizen influence over political processes and outcomes.
Political process monitoring initiatives can be implemented by diverse civic actors, ranging from national-level watchdog organizations to local-level groups concerned about quality-of-life issues. These initiatives can focus on a range of processes for different purposes depending on the identified governance gaps. This guide supports five types of monitoring: campaign monitoring; parliamentary monitoring; monitoring government follow-through; budget monitoring and expenditure tracking; and shadow reporting.
Monitoring the Information Space
Monitoring misinformation and disinformation in political processes is increasingly important, particularly in campaign-related monitoring. Both social media and traditional media, online and offline, are vectors for spreading misinformation or disinformation narratives. Social media in particular is a significant source of information for citizens, where unfiltered and unverified information and minority opinions can become disproportionately spread and incorrectly accepted as factual. While many of the most successful and reliable fact-checking initiatives have been undertaken by researchers, independent media or trained journalists, CSOs can also play a critical role, often complementing fact-checking initiatives1 with firsthand knowledge of an issue, community or geographical area. While monitoring misinformation and disinformation is outside the scope of this guide, several tools and guides, particularly for campaign-related monitoring, can be found below.
- Countering Disinformation Guide2
- Data Analytics for Social Media Monitoring3
- Combatting Information Manipulation: A Playbook for Elections and Beyond4
- NDI Publications on Election Monitoring5
- Disinformation and Electoral Integrity: A Guidance Document for NDI Elections Programs6
Drawing from NDI’s research and experience supporting local partners engaged in political process monitoring, this guidebook provides practical approaches that civil society actors can use to initiate or enhance monitoring activities. It also focuses on the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to conduct a strategic and politically astute monitoring initiative.
This NDI guidebook takes a fresh look at political process monitoring by incorporating technology approaches and recognizing the digital era’s emerging opportunities and threats. The rapid rise in the use of technology among citizens and civil society organizations is increasingly complementing citizen activism and challenging institutions and paradigms in ways that directly affect the relationships between governments and citizens. New technologies offer the possibility of strengthening citizens’ voices in politics and governance, creating political spaces for activism, and promoting increased government transparency and accountability. Over the last decade, the use of information and communication technologies for social and political purposes has rapidly increased, and as a result programs can engage those citizens who are online, taking advantage of the powerful capabilities of the devices for new forms of monitoring, communications and analysis.
NDI prepared this updated guidebook with the assistance of civil society leader Jetmir Bakija, and includes significant contributions by Daniel Arnaudo, Aaron Azelton, Priyal Bhatt, Chris Doten, Jesper Frant, Mario Mitre, Madeleine Nicoloff, Jessie Steinhauer, Evan Summers and Moira Whelan. NDI’s Equal Rights in Action Fund team and staff in Albania, Kenya, Moldova, Myanmar, and Ukraine were essential in helping to identify relevant case studies. A special thanks also goes to Eden Beck for her brilliant copy edits.
The guidebook builds on two earlier resources by reflecting emerging lessons and responding to practical challenges and opportunities, especially those posed by changing technology.
- Kourtney Pompi and Lacey Kohlmoos. Political Process Monitoring: Activist Tools and Techniques. Washington, D.C.: National Democratic Institute, 2010.
- Political Process Monitoring: Considering the Outcomes and How They Can Be Measured. Washington, D.C.: National Democratic Institute, 2012.
1 Julia Sittman, “Civil Society Actors Offer Community-Based Fact-Checking,” DW Akademie, July 17, 2020, https://p.dw.com/p/3eOYA.
2 Daniel Arnaudo et al., “Countering Disinformation Guide, Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening,” accessed October 5, 2022, https://counteringdisinformation.org/.
3 Nick Monaco and Daniel Arnaudo, “Data Analytics for Social Media Monitoring,” National Democratic Institute, May 28, 2020, https://www.ndi.org/publications/data-analytics-social-media-monitoring#.
4 Daniel Arnaudo et al., Combatting Information Manipulation: A Playbook for Elections and Beyond, National Democratic Institute, International Republican Institute and Stanford Internet Observatory, September 17, 2021, https://www.ndi.org/publications/combating-information-manipulation-playbook-elections-and-beyond.
5 “NDI Publications for Election Monitoring,” National Democratic Institute, accessed October 5, 2022, https://www.ndi.org/ndi-publications-election-monitoring.
6 “Disinformation and Electoral Integrity: A Guidance Document for NDI Election Programs,” National Democratic Institute, accessed October 5, 2022, https://www.ndi.org/publications/disinformation-and-electoral-integrity-guidance-document-ndi-elections-programs.