Community of Practice – a new hub for parliamentary strengthening

Graeme Ramshaw, WFD’s director of research and evaluation, writes about the thinking behind this week’s Community of Practice launch:

Parliamentary strengthening is receiving more and more attention these days.

The Commons’ international development select committee carried out an inquiry into the topic last year which found much to praise and celebrate.

But it also noted that coordinating and sharing of practices has, thus far, been erratic.

The committee’s final report strongly recommended that “consideration be given to the establishment of a stronger Westminster ‘hub’ which would bring together UK institutions with different kinds of expertise to enable them to cooperate rather than compete”.

They’ve got a point. Existing, fragmented dissemination strategies, while effective, haven’t done enough to convincingly inform the policy and strategic decision-making of the British government and other donors in parliamentary strengthening.

So later today organisations and individuals interested in UK parliamentary strengthening will meet in the CPA Room in the Houses of Parliament to launch the Community of Practice we hope will deliver the ‘hub’ sought by MPs..

The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and our partners the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) UK and the House of Commons and House of Lords Overseas Offices all see this as an opportunity to improve coordination.

But it’s about more than that. We want the Community of Practice to be a place for organisations to feed in new research, new opportunities and, hopefully, interesting questions for all of us to debate.

Launching the Community of Practice

Purpose:
•         To share new information and practices on parliamentary strengthening, especially between different communities (academic, policy making, assistance providers etc).
•         To gain greater insight into what has worked and what hasn’t in parliamentary strengthening and democracy assistance programmes.
•         To meet regularly to shared views on parliamentary strengthening.
•         To be a potential platform for joint undertakings (research, workshops, policy analysis etc)

Proposed Form:
•         Informal group, to which any organization that works on parliamentary strengthening can sign up by contacting WFD, CPA UK of the Overseas Offices.
•         Core group that meets at least twice-yearly to discuss new initiatives for community.
•         Links with other Communities of Practice in related fields, such as the PPPeer Network (a “global Political Party Peer Network, consisting of leading political party organizations and donors from all over the world”); and the IDEA (The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, based in Sweden) community of practice in political finance.

Activities:
•         Participation in talks, conferences, workshops etc., whenever organized by members of the community.
•         Establish working-groups on specific topics.
•         Establish email group that anyone can use to distribute notifications of events, new publications, questions etc.
•         Twitter hashtag to allow sharing of articles or news with Community of Practice.

Duration:
•         Indefinite, but WFD, Overseas offices and CPA UK can play a leading role in 2015-16 to ensure continuity and progress in the initial phase.

If you would like to contribute, please contact me at Graeme dot Ramshaw @wfd.org.

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