In nascent democracies, international and domestic challenges continue to test the capacity of governments to respond to needs of their constituents. With a global pandemic wreaking havoc on every continent over the last year, we’ve been reminded that responding efficiently and effectively to citizen needs is essential to solving any nation’s most pressing problems, as it creates the space for those directly impacted to be part of the response. If democratically elected leaders are going to succeed in their responsibilities, they must communicate with the people they serve. However, it is essential to understand how to engage.

To assist in fostering a better relationship between policymakers and their constituencies, the International Republican Institute (IRI) has published an in-depth guide on how to bring both sides closer together. It is the result of a year-long program with Panama’s National Assembly, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, with the goal to better the citizen engagement practices of members and staff of the National Assembly. This tool however can be used in a global context, enhancing transparency and engagement between legislators and citizens, as well as increasing the public’s access to information.

“This document clearly articulates many of the necessary functions, roles, and responsibilities that can strengthen constituent engagement,” said Patrick Quirk, Senior Director of the Center for Global Impact at IRI. “We look forward to working with legislators, parliamentarians, and community leaders around the world to implement these practices and advance good governance on both the local and national levels.”

The guide includes sections on how legislators and their staff can establish goals and priorities, communicate through traditional and social media, setup an office, meet with constituents directly, host townhall forums, manage casework, and work with civil society. This is a comprehensive tool with the ability to strengthen democratic practices in any community, large or small.

“It’s extremely important that we continue to connect people with their representatives. Legislative solutions are better, more effective, and more sustainable when they are based on input from the people they impact directly,” said Quirk.

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