When it comes to parliamentary monitoring, setting up a website is the easy bit. The real test of effectiveness is whether you can find an audience for that site and whether that audience can make an impact.
Indigo funds a range of parliamentary monitoring organisations (PMOs). We also aim to work closely with other stakeholders in this field. Recently, we’ve been forging connections between some of our PMOs and industry expert on parliamentary monitoring, the Sunlight Foundation.
These partnerships have generated some interesting discussion on what it takes to run a successful PMO that gets the right information to the right people. Here are some tips:
- Make it relevant. Often, potential users – citizens, journalists, activists, politicians – do not realise the value of the information these sites provide. It is crucial to find ways to connect it with things people are already interested in to find an initial audience. Tailor your message, find out what is interesting to different audiences. Try and even tie content in with key political and national events – elections, milestones and anniversaries of key historical events.
- Get opinion leaders excited about transparency. Getting lots of users isn’t necessarily as important as getting the right users. Journalists, prominent members of civil society, bloggers are able to reach the broadest possible audience: they can get stories about corruption and good governance into the daily mainstream news cycle, they can incorporate transparency and accountability in their campaigns. Because of this, it is these opinion leaders who can exert the most pressure on politicians. Cultivate relationships with key people: hold informal pitches, social events and speaker meetings to get them engaged. Get the right people excited about the issues, find out what they think and the rest should follow.
- Make participation easy. Ensure that your website is easy to use, dropping ‘breadcrumbs’ on Facebook and Twitter to lead people to the site. People may not be aware of PMOs but be a potential supporter; make it as easy as possible for these people to find your site. Engage with other groups to get the word out, particularly through social media. How to use tools should be made as obvious as possible, provide clear instructions and even offer to train CSO groups.
Get the message out to the right people in the right form to give your PMO the best possible chance of making an impact!