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News / April 15, 2020

Promoting More Policy-Focused Parties Through Civic Organizing


In democratic systems, political parties should provide opportunities for citizens to oversee or influence their government. In many places, however, political parties are too weak, too personality-driven, too constrained by oppressive governments or too out of touch to play this critical role in democratic governance.  Developing more vibrant and inclusive democracies requires citizen-centered approaches that help people increase their engagement with and influence over political parties. For instance, through issue-based voter education, debates, citizen platforms, and political process monitoring efforts, civic groups can encourage political parties to: increase their focus on policies; involve citizens in policy processes; and improve service delivery.

Participants of a workshop on Roma youth activism speaking with residents of the Lenartov Roma settlement (2010).


Intended for the donor community and democracy and governance practitioners, this publication (download) outlines lessons and recommendations for using citizen-centered approaches to promote more policy-focused political parties. Based on lessons learned from programming in Belarus, Liberia, Slovakia and Uganda, the publication offers the following recommendations to strengthen future programming.

  1. When designing programs, consider how a wide range of factors might create risks or opportunities for citizen-centered approaches to improving party policy processes. (The publication outlines a matrix of issues to consider.)
  2. Based on analyses of the operating context, set realistic expectations for progress toward more policy-focused political parties.
    Plan for medium- to long-term efforts that incorporate a variety of interventions, use multiple entry points in the political cycle and that can be sustained over time.
  3. Consider how entrenched social norms may influence power relations and party responsiveness to demands from marginalized groups. In addition, when mobilizing people around a shared identity (e.g. gender), carefully weigh how intersecting identities  (e.g. gender, age, religion, and race) may affect prospects for uniting people around a single, shared, identity maker.

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