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E-lection Bridge Academy: Exploring the appeal and possibilities of integrating social media into political campaigns

In the new world of unanticipated election outcomes it is clear that the fundamentals of political campaigning are changing, with online and social media voter engagement becoming increasingly more significant. The possibilities for integrating social media into political campaigns was a key theme for the group of fifteen young political communicators from seven countries across Africa who gathered in Nairobi, Kenya recently for the KAS E-lection Bridge Academy workshop.

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The Academy, convened by the KAS Sub-Sahara Media Programme, is an annual intake of talented young African politicians who meet for a four-day introductory workshop and then complete an 18-week e-learning course to fine-tune their political campaigning skills. The primary workshop trainer and e-learning moderator is seasoned campaigning expert and political science academic Heather Thuynsma, but since knowledge-sharing amongst peers and across boundaries is so important, the best-performing alumni from the E-lection Bridge Academy class of 2016 were enlisted as mentors for the new intake.

The workshop began with presentations from the three Academy alumni who demonstrated their recently-acquired skills as they outlined new campaigning opportunities in their respective countries – Uganda, Tanzania and Angola. The KAS Country Directors, in Nairobi for a parallel workshop, were then engaged as respondents and offered additional insights into the challenges and shifts in the political landscape.

The facilitated and group work sessions required the participants to go back to basics to reconsider campaigning 101 and how party values should be the key basis of actions and communications. On the third workshop day the group considered the what, why and how of social media for campaigns under the guidance of Kenyan digital expert, Mark Kaigwa. He stressed that is was important to understand how the community interacts with technology and not have inflated expectations of social media. For instance, in Kenya, the instant messaging application Whatsapp is 14 times the size of twitter.

The workshop also featured a session delivered by Henning Suhr, Country Director of KAS South Africa, entitled “Countering Authoritarian Regimes: Lessons from Venezuela” where he showed some of the inventive anti-government protest strategies employed in the embattled South American country.

On the final day of the workshop the group took a field trip to PAWA254 an inspiring project set up by socially-conscious creative young Kenyans who are passionate about setting social change agendas and informing people about the role of civic leaders. As it was a Friday afternoon the Academy group also got to enjoy #Open Friday, a weekly open-mic showcase on the building’s rooftop with impressive sunset views over the Nairobi skyline – a fitting closure to a productive and enlightening workshop week.

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Dr. Werner Böhler


Leiter des Auslandsbüros in Costa Rica und Panama +506 2296 6676


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