Making Democracy Work by Improving Government Communication and Public Engagement in The Gambia
Since the democratic election of President Adama Barrow and ousting of longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh in 2017, The Gambia has undergone a series of reform processes to right the wrongs of the former regime. While pursuing broad constitutional and transitional justice reforms, the government of The Gambia has not only recognized communication as a central part of functioning democracies, but has also opened its doors to NDI’s support to help achieve its vision of attaining democratic reforms in The Gambia and serving as a beacon of hope for other countries that have experienced autocratic rule.
To ensure that NDI's support was responsive to the needs of government stakeholders, NDI conducted a week-long baseline assessment, which informed the development of a communication workshop agenda and set of short term and long-term recommendations aimed at helping the government improve its internal and external communication.
On a beautiful rainy Saturday in September, NDI conducted this communications workshop. The event welcomed government communications and public engagement officials from the Office of the President, the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Information, and the National Audit Office to a two-day communication workshop to improve government communication and public engagement efforts in The Gambia. With a room filled with participants excited to learn from NDI’s government communications consultant, the Institute shared good practices and lessons from other democratic governments to ensure citizens are well informed about their government’s activities.
Eager to adopt similar measures and enhance their abilities to better communicate with the public, participants engaged in a series of hands-on exercises that exposed them to communication procedures and internal practices they can use to keep the public informed and to shape public perception. In one of these exercises, participants learned the art of storytelling and how to turn news articles into relatable and understandable stories that the general public can connect to. In another exercise, participants explored different communication mediums, including traditional media and social media, and practiced writing targeted content for different platforms and audiences.
At the end of the training, participants shared their thoughts on the impact such training would have on their work, including one participant who noted “this training was needed and very timely. It will help structure our capacities to better communicate government policies and activities. I have learned ways to enhance communication at the level of my ministry.”
Since 2020, NDI has provided technical support to the government to enhance its communication, public engagement, and transparency reform efforts. Moving forward, NDI will continue to work closely with the government as it develops communication strategies and a government-wide communication plan which, when implemented, will keep the general citizenry informed and take the country a step closer to achieving its goal of solidifying exemplary democracy in The Gambia.
Author: Lala Touray is a Program Officer for The Gambia Office.
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.