Why the SOTU Made Me Proud to Work in Democracy Assistance

Caption: President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (left) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (right), delivers his eighth and final State of the Union (SOTU) address. In addition to listing his policy goals and accomplishments, the President provided a counter-narrative to hyperbolic election-year rhetoric and a reminder of the strength and resiliency of America’s democratic political system.

As a politics nerd, there was no question that I would spend Tuesday night on my couch, listening to the State of the Union (SOTU) address. As someone who has made a career in democracy assistance, the speech held even greater significance: it was an example of democracy in progress.

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An Inclusive Process to Redesign NDI.org

This Wayback Machine screenshot shows NDI’s original website from February 22, 1997. We’ve come a long way! Click here to explore the evolution of NDI’s website.

NDI launched a project to redesign its website this week. The redesign presents an exciting opportunity to put a fresh face on NDI's work, while preserving the depth of content that makes NDI.org such a valuable resource. In keeping with NDI's values and in the interest of meeting your needs, we hope to make this process as open and inclusive as possible...but we need your help!

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Best DemWorks Posts of 2015

Thank you for coming along on NDI’s journey into blogging. Since the DemWorks blog launched in February 2015, we have published over 100 posts and reached 57,000 users in 177 countries around the world. More than 400 of you were gracious enough to let us into your email inboxes through the new subscription feature, which was launched in October. While NDI is not a media organization, we have the world’s deepest pool of democracy experts. We hope you have enjoyed hearing our insights and will join us again in 2016. Please subscribe! Without further ado, here’s my list of the top blog posts from 2015.

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Four New Resources for Assisting Citizens in Diverse Political Contexts

Citizens line up to vote in the 2015 Tanzania elections. Photo credit: Monika Emch/NDI

Each week NDI’s Citizen Participation team provides a resource to assist NDI staff in meeting the objectives of their programs. This past month’s resources analyzed the relationship between minority groups and extreme poverty, ways in which authoritarian governments control the media, steps to increase women’s political participation and real-life lessons on how democracies can take hold.

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Global Women's Leadership Program Brings Women MPs to COP21

Members of the GWLP delegation of women parliamentarians to the COP21 Summit in Paris, from left to right:  Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, Uganda; Ake Camille Epse Akoun, Ivory Coast; Joséphine Drabo Kanyoulou, Burkina Faso; and Tayeba Zahidi, Afghanistan. Photo by Aretha Francis.

Under the Global Women's Ledership Program supported by USAID, NDI sent four women parliamentarians to the COP21 climate change summit in Paris.

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Colin Delany Discusses Political Parties and Tech

NDI's Politicial Parties team released a new guide to help parties taking advantage of the opportunities provided by Information Communication Technologies (ICTs).

On November 13th, the National Democratic Institute hosted an online ‘Question and Answer’ session with Colin Delany, editor and founder of epolitics.com. Delany was a lead contributor to NDI’s new tech guide, which, among other things, aims to help parties deploy new information communication technology (ICT) tools to organize and reach out to contacts, increase two-way communication with citizens, and conduct more strategic outreach.

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What’s New in DemTools 2.0?

NDI is launching a new and improved version of DemTools, a technology toolkit for civil society and government, on December 9 in Washington, D.C. We’ve put a lot of sweat, tears, and code (no blood so far) into this adventure and are ready to share it with the world. DemTools 2.0 upgrades and expands our existing set of tools, which was deployed by 82 organizations around the world in the last year.

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DemTools 2.0: Democratizing Access To Political Organizing and Communication Technology

On December 9, NDI will unveil DemTools 2.0, which upgrades and expands NDI’s existing suite of tools that promote democratic practices through the Internet, along with three innovative new applications for managing government petitions, crowdsourcing community problems, and open data, mapping and visualization.

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Choose Your Adventure: Hackathon Helps Build Smart Games for Democratic Development

Developers at AWS hackathon burn the midnight oil to create prototype games to teach democratic lessons.

Over 18 grueling hours, more than 200 developers at the ReInvent Conference in Las Vegas hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) worked to solve tech challenges submitted by four non-profit organizations: UNICEF, NPR’s Marketplace, Donors Choose and NDI. NDI’s challenge to “design a framework for building story-driven text-based games that convey lessons in an engaging ‘choose your own adventure’ format,” drew more participants than any other project.

Throughout the hackathon -- an event in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming -- five teams worked to deliver functional prototypes of a game system. When it was all over, “Team 29” was declared the winner. The winning team and several other participants committed to bring the demo version to a fully-functional product in the coming months, which NDI will be able to use to enhance its programs.

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Violence and Intimidation Against Women In Elections Needs to Stop. Here’s How.

Voters at a polling station in Tanzania on October 25, 2015. Credit: Monika Emch

Democratic elections are a fundamental way to peacefully resolve political competition. However, they are also high-stakes games where power is won and lost that can result in conflict and descend into violence. Although such violence affects all citizens, it has a particularly sinister impact on women. Since January alone, the world has seen politically active women stripped publically by police on their way to political and election events, decapitated and stabbed. Their vehicles have been damaged and their campaign materials destroyed. They are denigrated as “eye candy” and accused of having made sex tapes. Election officials and observers have faced violence in their work, and women voters are dismissed by the very parties seeking their votes with sexist language and jokes, or are banned from voting at all.

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