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Annual Report 2015 – Postcards from the Field

Postcards are not long and detailed, but they highlight the excitement you feel when experiencing something unusual and memorable. This year we asked all our partners to tell one brief story for the Annual Report, to get a sense of what they think has made a difference.

By Henrik Bach Mortensen, Chairman and Bjørn Førde, Director

The democracy business is in some ways a business like any other. If you want to invest your ideas, money and time wisely, you need to know the territory you are moving into; you need to know the capacity of your partners; and you would like to know what kind of resistance you are likely to meet.

When you know all of this, and a bit more if you are lucky, you can start figuring out what steps to take to reach your intended destination and objectives.

If this sounds like a safe and easy recipe for success, the experience of DIPD indicates that this is not really the case.

Irrespective of how well you prepare, how much you understand, how many carefully developed scenarios you have tested on paper, there is always a real chance of failing. In difficult and sensitive political environments, it is simply not possible to get all the information right, and even if you get it right, you will often be surprised.

This understanding is supported by evidence from decades of development in the democracy field. Rarely do we see all of the expectations expressed at the beginning of a process being met, when we take stock at the end. In the case of the Arab Spring, we know today that expectations were overly naïve, and the risks and uncertainties involved were dramatically underestimated.

For DIPD, the best way to minimize risks and uncertainties has been to develop trusted relationships with our partners. We focus on the importance of a genuine partnership rather than a more traditional donor-recipient relationship. We take pride in using the time needed to get this right.

For our partners, this means that they need to take full ownership from the very beginning, and they need to define what ideas in particular they can benefit from in their own particular political environment, based on a good sense of what Danish political parties and Danes in general can deliver.

From our end, we need to be honestly clear with our partners that DIPD is not in the business of money changing hands, but in the business of ideas changing minds. This also means that we have to be frank and honest about what we believe we can deliver, as well as what we know we are not in a position to deliver.

The postcards in this annual report deliberately only tell a small part of the story. This is in fact what postcards are intended to do, when they are sent off to family and friends from far away holiday destinations. Postcards are not long and detailed, but they highlight the excitement you feel when experiencing something unusual and memorable. This can be about your participation in a training course in your local party branch with colleagues from Denmark; or travelling to Copenhagen to celebrate the 100 years of women in politics with friends from around the world; or simply sharing solutions to common challenges when the platform meets in your capital.

Postcards like these cannot replace the rigorous efforts we engage in as an institute to measure progress over time. We have other procedures for doing this effectively.

However, what the postcards can do, contrary to the traditional forms of results reporting, is to remind us that efforts to strengthen, deepen and root political parties in a democratic culture is not only a technical exercise. It is also about excitement, commitment, leadership, timing, taking chances, failing and coming back, and much more.

In many ways, it is also about friendship and trust. This is the sense we get when reading the postcards, and we feel privileged to work with partners in such an environment.

Click on the picture below to read the report

annual report

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