Therefore, it is important for you to conduct a careful power mapping of the political process and environment to identify the institutions and public officials that have some sort of decision-making power over the targeted process. This planning method involves determining the political actors at play, their chain of command and their level of influence.
There are a number of variables and considerations to take into account when preparing to undertake a monitoring initiative. At this stage, it is important to clarify how monitoring will help further your organizational mission and goals and to identify the change you seek to make through monitoring. This will help you more clearly design the types of actions to take during your monitoring initiative.
During the preparation stage, it is also helpful to gather relevant information about the political power environment, the target political process, and the stakeholders and target audience. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, including conducting a political context analysis or power-mapping exercises, and conducting a survey of citizen perspectives and experiences. Depending on a country’s political atmosphere, you may decide to conduct other activities before undertaking a monitoring project. For instance, you may decide that it is necessary to first push for freedom of information laws in order to conduct a meaningful political process monitoring initiative.
Understanding the Political Power Environment
Having a solid understanding of the political power environment is critical to the success of monitoring initiatives: what power looks like, who has power and influence, and how civil society might be able to increase their influence. It is important to understand these power dynamics to mitigate risks and maximize success.
In Maldives, where NDI supported civic groups’ efforts to monitor progress toward commitments made by the government in the Government of Maldives Strategic Action Plan 2019-2023 and elsewhere, power mapping helped prioritize key audiences. Not only did the power map inform communications strategy, it also factored into the design of a website that could be used to more effectively communicate the results of monitoring efforts with these key audiences.
Tip: The best way to determine the level of influence is to actually do some monitoring. What may seem on paper as the responsibility of one institution may actually be much more dependent on another institution.
Power mapping is also crucial in identifying potential supporters and opposers to the civic group’s objectives and actions. A power map like the template below can help you brainstorm the various stakeholders and the power, needs and opportunities of each.
To analyze the political power environment, you can also consider the following questions:
- Who has the power and authority to provide the necessary information as well as absorb the information in a way that can bring about positive change? For example, if the monitoring initiative is targeting a specific political institution, can that institution absorb and respond to the results of the monitoring project?
- What relationships do you currently have with these stakeholders? What power dynamics exist?
- What is the political context that you are operating within? How open or closed is the political space?
- How might the current political environment impact your political process monitoring initiative?
- What legal frameworks currently exist that would either allow or hinder a political process monitoring initiative? What barriers or issues exist to accessing the necessary information?
- Can the institutional infrastructure respond to the demands or requests presented in the findings from the monitoring report?
Understanding Stakeholders’ Perspectives and Experiences
It is also important to have a solid understanding of the perspectives and experiences of the monitoring initiatives’ stakeholders. Involving your key stakeholders in the design of your monitoring efforts will yield better results, because it makes their needs, behavior and motivations central to the design of your intervention. This approach will also help you stay focused on the problem you’re seeking to solve throughout every phase of your monitoring initiative. Ask questions to identify what some of the citizens’ key interests are. For example, you can conduct a survey of citizens in a target community about what they would like to know about the target political process, where they would like to be involved, and what information they would like to receive. This can also help you identify interest in participation, awareness and gaps that can help you define your monitoring goals.
Consider the following questions:
- Who are the primary stakeholders (such as government officials, political parties, community members, business owners, private sector actors, civil service workers, etc.)?
- What interests do stakeholders have in the results and outcome of the monitoring initiative?
- Are there any implications related to making the monitoring initiative findings public? Could this expand or shrink political space?
Clarifying Your Goals
After gathering information about the political context and identifying the governance gaps and community needs and concerns, clarify your objectives and desired outcome from monitoring.
Tip: Be realistic about the scope of the initiative and the expected outcomes or results for democratic development. Recognize that most changes will take time and have to be negotiated. Expect that any change will involve a complex process requiring an interface with public officials. One of the most common outcomes of monitoring initiatives is changes in or new relationships with public officials and the monitoring group or citizens.
As discussed in the IMPROVE steps, monitoring organizations should develop and follow a clear, concrete monitoring strategy based on clearly defined objectives. You are more likely to carry out program activities effectively and efficiently when your actions are informed by a strategy based on clearly defined objectives. Consider the following questions:
- Which governance dimension are you targeting through monitoring?
- What is the desired change you seek to achieve by undertaking a monitoring initiative? Specifically, how can monitoring help to increase citizen voice, expand political space, and/or increase government accountability?
- Are you seeking to increase citizens’ voice by providing them with information on the roles, responsibilities and performance of their elected officials or other government institutions?
- Are you seeking to occupy existing political space or further expand it?
- Are you seeking to hold government accountable?
- What are the short-, mid-, and long-term objectives for the monitoring?
- What skills or capacities need to be strengthened for your organization to be successful at implementing a political process monitoring initiative?
- How does political process monitoring fit in with your organization’s existing mission and goals?
Once you have clearly outlined your goals and the questions you need to answer to achieve those goals, you can design the appropriate monitoring tools.