KASYP Batch 10.3 & 11.2 Online Training-Worskshop - Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia
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The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared the planned activities of the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia (KASPDA) such as the Konrad Adenauer School for Young Politicians (KASYP). Due to this pandemic, two KASYP batches (Batch 10 and 11) have to participate in a joint online training-workshop instead of two separate sessions. This joint activity was also made possible by the improvement in the KASYP curriculum where the two batches will have to undergo with the same module on election campaigning for political parties.
The KASYP module on election campaigning for political parties aims to provide participants with the understanding and skills of electoral campaigning and its many tools as well as the importance of providing organized electoral choices to citizens through political parties, and training on bridging democratic leadership or BDL (second session on co-ownership). Core topics for this module covered electoral campaigning for political parties and electoral systems in Asia, and campaigning strategies for political parties. Meanwhile, elective topics may include social media, freedom of speech, disinformation, statistics for politicians, big data, electoral engineering, etc. For the skills training, there will be an election campaigning simulation and campaign planning training. The affective domain of the training will continue with the second session of the BDL. For this session, the participants will tackle co-ownership which includes topics like stakeholders’ analysis, adaptive leadership, negotiation styles, dialogue, and consensus-building.
As the first online training-workshop of KASYP, the programme design was adjusted to take into consideration the factors that may affect the programme delivery such as internet connection, variation in time zones, participants’ attention and focus, and competing tasks during online sessions. Some of these changes were the number of contact hours which was reduced from 8 to 3 hours per day and to compensate with this reduction, the number of session days was increased from 5 to 8 days. Meanwhile, the programme content prioritized the core topics and included a few elective ones. When it came to the delivery, the programme adopted interactive methods to ensure sustained active engagement between the speakers and the participants and among the participants themselves.
For this module, the KASYP team was able to organise an excellent pool of resource persons. For the core topics, Mr Alan Wall (Senior Adviser and Former Chief of Party) from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems discussed the topic on “Elections, Electoral Systems and Democracy in Asia”. This was followed by another core topic on “Election Campaigning: Communication, Strategy, Organisation” which was jointly delivered by our KASPDA Director, Mr Christian Echle and Prof. Dr Mario Voigt (Elected Chairman, Christian Democratic Union, Federal Parliamentary Group, Thuringian State Parliament, Germany). The two elective topics covered in this module were “Disinformation in Asia and its Implications on Elections and Democracy” discussed by Dr Masato Kajimoto (Associate Professor of Practice, Journalism and Media Studies Center, The University of Hong Kong) and “Artificial Intelligence in Election Campaigning” presented by Mr Roger Tu Lee (CEO and Founder, Autopolitic). Moreover, a workshop on campaign messaging, strategy, and organisation was facilitated by Mr Rey Padit (Programme Manager for Political Cooperation, KASPDA). The final input, exclusively required for the members of KASYP batch 11, was a continuation of the Bridging Democratic Leadership (BDL) Session. This time, Dr Ryan Guinaran delivered a lecture on adaptive leadership and facilitated some exercises on stakeholder analysis, negotiation, and dialogue.
Examining the impact of elections on democracy can be understood using the institutional lens, the rules of the game and the players of the game. The rules of the game would refer to the electoral systems and election practices, while the players of the game would refer to the voters and candidates. For societies to become more democratic, designing electoral systems should take into account the local context of the community in order to put in place processes and mechanisms that will deter undemocratic election practices and encourage democratic actions. On the other hand, the behaviour of the voters and candidates are equally important in ensuring that elections will result in democratic outcomes. Voters and candidates should agree to conduct themselves according to what is acceptably democratic and refrain from engaging with undemocratic means just to win elections. Behaviour compared to structures has more influence in making election outcomes more or less democratic.
On the amount of information individuals process every day, disinformation and misinformation only account to around 5 per cent. And when it comes to the influence of “fake news” on elections, there is no clear evidence on how “fake news” affect voters’ choice during elections. However, it is observed that non-factual information magnifies public division. The increased use of disinformation and misinformation is a symptom of political polarization. Political parties, as vanguards of democracy, should play a significant role in curtailing the use of disinformation and misinformation in all its functions and not take part in producing problematic information. One initiative that parties could adopt is to establish their internal fact-checking measures.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, they will make election campaigning easier and harder, but the key factors driving political success are a good process, deep empathy, and a desire to make the world better for everyone, even those who are in the opposition. In an increasingly chaotic world, predictability is a good thing. A stable party that can consistently produce victories will attract quality political talent, foster better governance, and can choose between clean money and dirty money. Thus, political parties should invest in strengthening their election campaigning capacities through a grassroots organizing, empathic communication, and micro-targeting strategy.
Building co-ownership of societal problems and solutions need leaders who can identify the priority actions among the competing interests from various stakeholders, negotiate for the win-win situation, and dialogue for a whole-of-society approach in achieving common goals.
To encapsulate the learning inputs from this module, the training programme ended up with a workshop on election campaigning where participants have to plan their campaign strategy, develop a campaign message and a slogan using the message grid, design a campaign poster, establish a campaign organizational structure, and deliver a campaign speech. All of these workshop outputs were delivered by the participants with excellent quality despite the challenges that come with an online mode of delivery. As one participant commented, “of all the virtual training that I have attended, this is the one that is most organized, most interactive and engaging, most informative, yet also the most fun.” This is one of the testaments that indeed, the first KASYP virtual training-workshop was a success.
We thank all resource persons who shared their time and expertise and most importantly to all the 28 KASYPers for committing their time and for actively engaging during the programme. KASYP batch 11 will continue with their 3rd module next year around April, while KASYP batch 10 will have their final meeting in Germany once international travel becomes feasible for everyone.