Regional Campaign Schools Programs Mobilize Thousands Across the Middle East and North Africa

With the support of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Campaign Schools program tailored its global practices to the post-Arab Spring context in the Middle East and North Africa to help potential election campaign managers and candidates build strategies using tested techniques. From 2012 to 2017, NDI trained 430 potential candidates or campaign staff from 13 countries across the region.

Responding to citizen calls for new leadership across the region, NDI actively encouraged women and young political activists to participate in the program—48 percent of program graduates are women, and 66 percent are under 40 years old—and develop skills to help them achieve leading roles in their political parties. Additionally, through a training-of-trainers (TOT) component, 85 qualified Campaign Schools graduates participated in workshops aimed at building a cadre of Arabic-speaking trainers in the region. A total of 76 graduates have run as candidates, 43 of whom were successful, and 84 have supported campaigns as managers or core staff. Graduates have also gone on to train over 22,000 others in their parties and communities using Campaign Schools materials.

Beyond those intended results, the Institute has observed that many graduates are affecting wider change in their parties, communities, and countries thanks in part to the skills and confidence they gained through the Campaign Schools program. Several graduates have reported creating training bureaus, youth wings, or women’s wings in their parties; several have convinced their party leadership to implement more robust and sophisticated systems of voter targeting and contact; and others have helped their parties develop new structures and strategies for policy development and citizen outreach.  Two specific examples of such impact are:

  • A Lebanese Campaign Schools graduate worked with the Chief of Staff of her party to convince the President and Executive Board to create a training bureau, and as the first head of this bureau, she worked closely with NDI’s office in Beirut to develop a menu of training topics and corresponding materials – much of which was adapted directly from the RCS curriculum.
  • A Tunisian Campaign Schools graduate was critical to helping his party double their number of seats in the 2014 parliamentary elections — from four to eight — by setting a clear vote goal and voter targeting strategy as he had learned through the program, rather than relying on one tactic for voter engagement as they had in 2011.

In its final year, the Regional Campaign Schools program has shifted its focus from training individual activists to helping parties institutionalize campaign skills and build structures for more citizen-centric policy development. The program focuses on four countries: Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia, selected because of their robust party-based political systems and the demonstrable impact of Campaign School graduates in these countries to-date. The core of the program is the Champions of Renewal initiative, through which participating parties have nominated standout Campaign School alumni to design, guide, and evaluate reform action plans within their political parties. NDI also continues to facilitate trainings for participating parties using the Campaign Schools curriculum, with a new emphasis on policy development processes with the aim of encouraging parties in the region to continue to build their capacity to respond to citizen concerns with realistic policy solutions.