WFD Cross-Party Programme: The role of political parties in building resilience in an age of democratic decline

11 July 2022
Vacancy - consultant
WFD Cross-Party Programme: The role of political parties in building resilience in an age of democratic decline
We are looking for a consultant to undertake contextualised and collaborative research on the role political party support programming can and should play in building democratic resilience in an age of democratic decline.

About WFD and the Political Party Offices

Since 1992, the primary aim of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) has been to assist, support, and encourage the establishment and development of pluralistic democratic practice, institutions and political parties. In WFD's 30th year, our vision remains a world in which freedom and democracy thrive, with inclusive and accountable governments serving people fairly and effectively.

WFD is the UK’s leading democracy assistance agency, working in partnership with political parties, parliaments and civil society organisations around the world to create more inclusive, accountable and transparent democratic systems. WFD works in partnership with these key democratic institutions, helping ensure they have the systems, knowledge and skills to perform effectively. WFD also fosters improved democratic processes, bringing together individuals and institutions to work together to solve concrete problems, applying democratic values and principles. 

In partnership with WFD, UK political parties deliver programme to support strong, demoncratic political parties around the world. WFD’s political party programming is centred on principles of transparency, representation and inclusion, and works with sister parties to promote genuine pluralism, constructive debate and respect for other political actors. Long-term relationships, international party networks and trust with sister parties are vital for WFD’s political party programmes.

Working through four, independent Political Party Offices (PPOs) the WFD political party programmes are designed and implemented by the Conservative Party International Office, Labour Party International Office, Scottish National Party, and the Multi-Party Office (a consortium of the smaller parties). Whilst the majority of political party programmes are delivered by an individual political party office, this programme is a cross-party initiative that is co-designed, owned and implemented by all four PPOs. 

Purpose of this programme

The cross-party programme outlined in the TOR was agreed for 2022-2025 by the WFD Board of Governor as part of WFD’s review and restructure in early 2022. The purpose of the programme is to demonstrate the valuable, collective contribution of political party support to WFD and the UK government’s effort to support global democracy.  This programme should demonstrate how WFD programmes are leading research, learning and innovation efforts in the political party support sector. This programme should challenge existing assumptions about democracy support and make concrete recommendations on how supporting political party strengthening is essential for combatting political polarisation, increasing authoritarianism and strengthening democracy around the world. 

WFD’s political party programmes need to be responsive adaptative to national and global dynamics, using our political party expertise and extensive network of political party partners in Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Successful implementation and cross-party collaboration will position the PPOs to identify and compete for new channels of funding for political party programming in the future, reducing dependence on the FCDO.

Background to Research

Political polarisation is presenting increasing risks to democracy around the world, and political parties are at the centre of this crisis. Described by Levitsky (2018) as the “gatekeepers of democracy”, traditional political parties are a significant cause and victim of a trend of support for anti-political-establishment parties and movements, be they populist, anti-system, protest, or extreme. Whilst most academic literature has looked at the consequences of polarisation in Europe and North America in the 20th and 21st century, if we accept Bertoa and Rama’s definition of polarisation as “the fruit of the damaged party-voter relationship” (2021), it is clear that political parties around the world need to consider issues of relevance, governance and representation.

The negative consequences of polarisation for the healthy functioning of democracy on a national level and globally are vast. In more polarised societies[1], electoral turnout is lower. There is also a risk of negative impact on government stability and executive-legislative relations. It can be argued the more polarised party politics in a country become, the more difficult it will be to build stable legislative coalitions and, therefore, carry out the necessary public policies. This is also because, in polarised polities, political elites “have greater incentives to overtly politicize the bureaucracy or engage in clientelistic practices which will affect, for example, civil service recruitment and accordingly state continuity and efficiency.” Bertoa and Rama (2021).

In this piece of work, we want to look at the causes of polarisation and specifically, the need for traditional political parties to be revitalised, renewed and, at times, reformed. This is of importance to WFD and the political parties programmes because it will inform what types of parties we support and the content of our programmes. Our programmes must equip political parties with professional structures that are capable of resolving internal conflict, prevent extremist politicians gaining power, and maintain close links with their voters and supporters.

There is a vast amount of research and academic literature about political party structures, policies and practices, largely with a focus on Europe and North America in the 20th century[2]. Whilst recognising the valuable observations in this literature, we believe much of this literature is missing the politics of political parties. Applying the same framework and expectations to political parties as other organisations can lead to ineffective political party support programming. In this work, we hope to bridge the gap between research and analysis on political polarisation and political parties, and effective democracy support programmes.

Rooted in 30 years of practical experience of supporting political parties, we want this research to go beyond the academic, theoretical recommendations. Is it realistic to tell political parties to keep extremist political figures off the party ballots, even if they are going to win high numbers of votes? How can parties avoid accommodating extremist parties if they need to form coalition governments? This work should inform democracy support organisations, donors and other stakeholders how political parties must be part of our democratic resilience.

Research specifics

To undertake contextualised and collaborative research on the role political party support programming can and should play in building democratic resilience in an age of democratic decline. The report will focus on findings related to:

  1. Addressing increasing political polarisation
  2. Challenging authoritarian trends
  3. Addressing the impact and origins of disinformation

Research questions, areas of geographic focus and research methodologies will be defined through a co-creation meeting during the initial stages of the project.


  • A research outline and methodology, to be discussed in meetings with key WFD representatives
  • Periodic engagement and meetings with the relevant PPO Research Working Group (TBC)
  • Research paper/report on the role political party support programming
  • Executive summary for communications purposes
  • Briefing with practical recommendations for political party support programmes
  • Slide deck of key findings to share with the Research Reference Group and other key stakeholders

Timeframe and Rate

It is anticipated that this research will take place between July–February 2023.

This research project has a total budget allocation of £40,000

The timeframe below lists the key tentative dates for the research process. These will be agreed with the Research Partner(s) once secured. 




Starting date of the consultancy (induction meeting with WFD)


Research Outline / Methodology Meeting  


Meetings with Reference Group  

August- Dec 2022

Initial findings presentation

Dec 2022

Submission of first draft report

Jan 2023

Submission of final draft report

Feb 2023

How to apply and Submission of Expression of Interest

The Research Partner(s) must:

  • Demonstrate a deep understanding of democracy development within political parties and the role of political parties in building democratic accountability.
  • Have worked in or have a demonstrated research track records on political parties.
  • Hold post-graduate degrees in International Development, Political Science, Social Science or relevant academic field OR demonstrate at least 12 years’ equivalent research-related experience.
  • Experience of working with political parties on democracy and governance programmes is desirable.
  • Have excellent research, analytical and writing skills and working professional fluency in English.
  • Ability to collaborate with geographically dispersed teams.

To apply:

  1. Submit a cover letter of not more than 3 pages stipulating how the experience, skills and competencies of the consultant(s) meet the above requirements
  2. Submit short methodology outline (no more than 2 pages).
  3. Enclose one sample of previous work, written in English, in this area conducted by the researcher(s).
  4. Submit curriculum vitae(s) for the researcher(s).
  5. Submit proposed research budget.

Please submit the above documents to

Closing Date: 21 August 2022

Interviews:  w/c 5 September 2022



[1] Recognising that polarisation is difficult to measure, this TOR is using the definition of polarisation as the ideological distance among political parties in the given society. This is characterised by a higher number of anti-political establishment parties or movements. These tend to emphasise a fundamental divide exists between the political and the people – implying that all established parties are essentially the same.

[2] Including Liddiard (2019) What can be done about the problem of political parties. Wilson Center Occasional Paper.