Delivering impactful programmes and policy support


Delivering impactful programmes and policy support

Delivering impactful programmes and policy support is a main goal of WFD’s strategy for 2022-2025. In this article, WFD’s Director of Policy and Programmes and Director of Quality and Innovation set out our ambition.

It is clearer than ever that human dignity and social progress are intimately linked to democratic freedoms. As we wrote our strategy, we witnessed attempts by leaders in Myanmar and Russia to suppress freedom by force and atrocity. But we also saw that people are willing to die for the freedom and rights that democracy brings.

Democracy is important not just as a concept, but as a practical defence against the abuse of power. Leaders that are immune from dissent see their private interests as equal or more important than the public good. Citizens that are excluded from the political process cannot live up to their potential.

The evidence is clear that a commitment to accountability, inclusion, representation, openness, and transparency helps to protect individual rights, reduces the risk of conflict, and increases the likelihood of sustainable, sustained economic growth and effective social policies.

WFD’s ambition is that our programmes contribute directly to:

  • promoting inclusive political processes
  • enabling accountable political systems
  • supporting the protection of freedom and rights
  • fostering pluralist societies

Moreover, to build and use knowledge that will help secure transitions to democracy and build the resilience needed to sustain them, WFD will also invest in policy-relevant research that provides effective support at country level and makes a practical contribution to our and others’ work.

Lessons from our previous strategy

Three main lessons from our previous strategy informed our development of WFD’s strategy for 2022-2025:

First, we learned that for people to value democracy, they must see that democracy is effective in helping to solve problems. Equally, democracy support cannot just be concerned with institutions and formal processes. It must also be people-focused and problem-driven, putting good democratic practice at the heart of good policymaking.

Second, our previous strategy showed that WFD's work lies at the intersection of policy and practice. We learned that effective programming can be improved by robust evidence. And we learned that good evidence is best derived from practical experience. Investing in this beneficial feedback loop makes WFD a better partner and a better organisation.

Thirdly, it became clear that our expertise resides in every WFD office and programme manager. Our people don't just implement our programmes; they are our programmes. WFD is proud of the relationships we create and maintain with parliaments, political parties, and civil society in the places we work. The time and effort that goes into establishing and strengthening ties with senior administrative and political officials in challenging circumstances is an essential part of good democracy support programming. That is why our people, especially our local and regional staff, will remain at the centre of our approach.

Delivering impactful programmes

Over the next three years, WFD will strengthen and expand our adaptive programming methodology. And we will continue to design and deliver problem-driven programming that helps the core democratic institutions of parliaments, political parties, civil society actors and electoral systems deliver meaningful outcomes for their societies.

Problem-driven programming ensures that interventions and activities are linked to what is causing poor outcomes, rather than to the effects of this problem. Transformative change requires us to help tackle the roots of the problems.

Expand the boxes below or get in touch to find out more about our programme methodology

Our programme methodology

WFD thinks and work politically because the exercise of political power is the core of all political systems.

Political understanding of the local context is fundamental to WFD’s programme design. We base our programmes in gender and conflict-sensitive political economy analysis using a bespoke WFD framework. This approach uses a practitioner-led, consultative process to identify important, locally-defined problems and the factors that are creating or sustaining them. Our principled pragmatism focuses on realistic pathways for action.

Complex problems are at the heart of democratic and governance challenges. They are multifaceted. Both the nature of the problem and possible solutions are often contested. To reflect this complexity, WFD has developed programme methodologies that are adaptive. WFD programmes identify multiple pathways with the potential to deliver positive change – even in small increments. We scale interventions to align with what is working and changes in context and political realities. This facilitates sustained programme impact even in challenging circumstances. And, it allows more creative, locally-driven and innovative solutions to emerge.

Working with local partners

Local history, culture and leadership determine the quality of democracy in each country, territory or region. That is why WFD works to support local leadership, not replace it. Our partners include parliaments, political parties, electoral bodies, civil society organisations and others that are addressing critical policy and governance challenges.

We provide support in a range of ways:

  • analysis and learning based on our own experience and independent research
  • mentoring and knowledge sharing by counterparts in other countries
  • connections with other relevant national or local leaders.

Through our staff who are local to the places we work, we build long-term, trusted relationships that are sensitive to local politics. We work at national and sub-national levels, as well as with territories and regional bodies.

Democratic pinch points

We expect a range of thematic and technical areas to be ‘democratic pinch points’ during the life of our current strategy. We will maintain and build professional expertise in these areas, so that we can help provide the tools, information, environment, and approach for complex problems to be solved locally. We want this to contribute to political trust, the quality of democracy and democratic resilience.

Those themes include:

  • Accountability and transparency
  • Women’s political leadership
  • Inclusion and equality of participation
  • Democratic action on climate and the environment
  • Electoral integrity
  • Political parties and political pluralism
  • Digital democracy
  • Disinformation and political discourse
  • Democratic resilience

How we will decide where to work

We will build on our existing relationships and presence. WFD’s network of country offices includes many that have managed local programmes for more than a decade, and the UK political party-managed programmes have long-standing relationships across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Caribbean.

We will also expand our presence in response to demand from partners and funders. That said, we will never work in locations or on issues that do not match our own principles, values, and strategy.

WFD will consider three factors in deciding on the geographic priorities for our work:

  1. Regional trends.

Developments in neighbouring countries can affect democratic resilience in individual countries. We will look for opportunities to work in countries which could exert a positive regional or global influence.

  1. Commitment to democratic accountability.

A credible and verifiable commitment by political and social leaders to change the trajectory of a country’s political and economic development can offer significant opportunities to deepen democratic culture and behaviours. Where that commitment is weak or under threat, there may be opportunities to strengthen it.

  1. Presence of viable partners.

WFD’s role is always to support local partners, never to be an independent actor in another country. We will only work when we have partners that are able to play a viable local leadership role.

Delivering impactful policy support

Over 2022-2025, WFD’s impact will extend beyond the programmes that we implement as we find new ways of:

  • Working with security, economic, investment, and development organisations to consider their impact on democracy in partner countries. By doing this, we can find the best ways of supporting accountability, inclusion, and political freedom while securing other UK national interests.
  • Supporting work that UK and other diplomatic missions are doing at country level to understand the democracy context and provide support. WFD could provide analysis and expertise in a much larger number of locations than we have direct programmes.

We will focus on policy-relevant research that can provide effective support at country level to funders, programme managers and the global democracy support community. We aim to be an authoritative source of expertise for the UK, drawing on WFD’s own resources and those of our academic and practitioner partners.