2.2.2 Preparing the public to participate: Civic education

Making a constitution involves multiple choices about issues of great complexity; those responsible for making the choices usually need a significant level of information about the issues involved beforehand. (See the discussion in part 1.1.) In a highly participatory process, the people of the country in question are asked to contribute to the making of choices, which can extend to issues that could be quite difficult for the majority of people to understand— issues such as the numerous tasks and institutions involved in a constitution-making process, and the reasons for and steps involved in making a constitution more difficult to change than an ordinary law (entrenchment). Without access to information about the process or knowledge about constitutional choices being considered, as well as basic civic knowledge, most members of the public will have little opportunity to participate meaningfully in the process.

As a result, civic education is at the heart of a participatory process. For the purposes of this handbook, we define “civic education” in a constitution-making process to be any activity that helps prepare the public to participate, both before and after the constitution is prepared and adopted. Before the constitution is adopted, preparing the people involves enhancing their knowledge of not only the constitution-making process (so as to improve understanding of the nature and extent of opportunities to participate), but also the roles of a constitution and the choices in relation to content that are available when making a new constitution. After the constitution is adopted, preparing the people means developing their capacities and knowledge to engage in public affairs and to exercise and protect the rights that the constitution extends to them. It is important to note that participation in the process is also a form of civic education and if the participatory process is credible it can transform attitudes and beliefs as well as educate.

Civic education is widely recognized as an important part of constitution-making processes, especially highly participatory processes. It is referred to in the official mandates of some constitution-making bodies, one example being the Uganda Constitutional Commission, in respect of which the Uganda Constitutional Commission Statute of 1988 provided a power to “stimulate public discussions and awareness of constitutional issues.”

Any civic education program should be inclusive, open, and credible. Because the constitution has an impact on all people in the country, it should represent everyone—all age groups (from schoolchildren to the elderly), and every possible significant group within the society, whether defined by class, culture, ethnicity, religion, or on any other basis. It should prioritize reaching those who seldom participate in the political life of the country (such as minorities and marginalized groups). Successfully preparing the people in this regard is not just a matter of holding an isolated event or workshop, but an ongoing process of cultivating a culture of public participation and democratic values and practices as well as constitutionalism.

This section provides an overview of civic education objectives, a discussion of which bodies or actors should carry out this task, and a description of some of the methods that have been used in past processes. It also includes an analysis of some of the common problems associated with implementing more formal civic education efforts in constitution-making processes. It concludes with some practical tips for improving civic education workshops.

Key stages of civic education

The key stages of a constitution-making process at which civic education efforts are often carried out, and the main likely objectives of civic education at each such stage, include the following:

  • Before the first main steps in the process begin, when the main goals of civic education relate to informing people about the process, including alerting people to the opportunities for public participation and the manner in which they may be able to participate in the process, and (depending on the nature of the process in question) could involve efforts to prepare the people for their views to be sought in the early stages of the process on issues such as:
    • how later stages of the process should be designed; and
    • the agenda of issues to be considered during the process.
  • Prior to the constitution-makers reaching decisions about the constitution, when the goals of civic education would include helping inform people about issues related to the process, such as:
    • how the process is being structured and conducted;
    • the objectives of the constitution-making process and the principles that will guide the work of the constitution-making body, if any; and
    • roles the public can play in the process and how they can participate.

Box 11. Civic education in Rwanda prior to the referendum [2003]

Two years of civic education preceded Rwanda’s referendum. Copies of the draft constitution were distributed and intensive efforts were made to reach marginalized groups, including those who could not read or write, to inform them about the contents and help them decide whether to vote for the draft. These efforts seem to have led to high voter turnout and an overwhelming vote in favor of the constitution.

Civic education at this stage would also inform them about issues concerning the nature of a constitution and the kinds of choices that can be made when deciding on a new constitution, including such issues as:

  • what a constitution is and what it can and cannot do;
  • the constitutional history of the country and why a process of constitutional reform is necessary;
  • democratic principles, institutions, and practices to promote more democratic behaviors and attitudes; and
  • key constitutional issues so that the public can provide thoughtful input during any public consultation.

Box 12. South Africa [1996]: Preparing the public to participate

The leaders of South Africa’s constituent assembly were not legally mandated to carry out civic education. They announced that they would engage the members of the public and consult them about the constitution because it would create a sense of ownership and legitimacy for both the process and the constitution. The administrative management body of the assembly established a community liaison department, which took four months to plan the participatory process. Emphasis was placed on reaching as many citizens as possible, including illiterate and disadvantaged citizens, using open constitutional public meetings, meetings with civil society organizations on specific issues, an advertising and media campaign, and civic education workshops.

The community liaison department worked in close coordination with the constitutional assembly’s media department to develop a campaign to raise awareness that a process was happening (many other governmental reforms were also competing for attention) and to encourage the public to participate. The media campaign emphasized the role of the public in the process, the advertisements including messages such as “It’s your right to decide your constitutional rights” and “You’ve made your mark” (meaning “You voted; now have your say”). The first month was a pilot phase. External groups were contracted to evaluate whether their messages were effective, enabling them to be revised along the way.

The community liaison department also provided civic education on the process and on constitutional issues through the use of posters, brochures, leaflets, a biweekly constitutional newsletter called “Constitutional Talk” (160,000 copies were distributed each week), booklets such as “You and Building the New Constitution,” comic books, and an official website (developed with the University of Capetown). A weekly TV program, Constitutional Talk, promoted debates on constitutional issues such as the death penalty. An hour-long radio talk show was organized in eight languages and reached upwards of ten million South Africans each week. Ten thousand people also made use of a telephone “Constitutional Talk Line” to call in and leave submissions or receive information. The talk line was available in five languages. (See, generally, Skjelton 2006.)

Although this was not initially planned for, the community liaison department established a constitutional education program, which linked with hundreds of civil society organizations. The 486 face-to-face workshops targeted the country’s disadvantaged communities. Civic educators were hired and trained, and a manual was created to ensure that the messages and the methodology were consistent. The three- hour workshops used participatory methods such as role-playing. The objectives were to educate disadvantaged citizens about the process, South Africa’s constitutional history, and human rights, and also to encourage participants to provide input. The workshops did not educate people about specific constitutional issues or options or the draft constitution. Most of the workshops were held after the constitutional public meetings were conducted.

The meetings were held with multiparty panels of constituent assembly members in attendance and were conducted in all nine provinces. These were used both to educate (citizens asked questions of members and learned about the process) and to gather views on constitutional issues before the draft constitution was prepared. The public saw for the first time previously warring factions sitting peacefully together discussing constitutional issues. The process was also precedent-setting in that black South Africans were included in politics as they had never been before.

Four and a half million copies of the draft constitution (in a simplified format) and twelve million copies of the final constitution were sent through the mail for free, as well as being distributed in taxis, newspapers, and schools. Copies of the final constitution in particular were sent to the members of the official security forces. Braille versions and recordings of the final constitution were also made, as were comic-book versions of the bill of rights. Teaching aids on the final constitution were distributed to schools. These materials were distributed during “National Constitution Week,” which was created to promote constitutionalism and ownership of South Africa’s new constitution. To carry out these postadoption tasks, the community liaison department remained in operation for a few months after the constituent assembly concluded its work.

An external evaluation determined that three-quarters of the South African people— about thirty million—had heard about the process, and nearly twenty million knew that they could make a submission on constitutional issues. It is unclear what these numbers mean in terms of preparing citizens to make decisions on constitutional options—a stated goal of the civic education program. Nonetheless, the depth and creativity of South Africa’s participatory process has inspired numerous other constitution-makers to commit to preparing the public to participate.

  • After the preparation of a draft constitution, when the goal of civic education may be to inform the people about the contents of the draft (and if public consultation beforehand was conducted to inform them about how their views were taken into consideration in the draft) and to prepare the public to provide input on the draft.
  • Before any referendum on constitutional reform, when the goal of civic education would be to inform people about both the referendum process and the content of the proposed new constitution.
  • After the adoption of the constitution, when the goal of civic education would include informing the people about:
    • the contents of the constitution (a discussion directed to all audiences, including schoolchildren);
    • how key provisions of interest to particular groups or communities affect their lives and how specific rights can be accessed or enjoyed through the constitution;
    • civic responsibilities under the constitution; and
    • what responsibilities key government actors and others have to implement the constitution (for example, educating the judiciary about any new duties or institutional changes that will occur as a result of the constitution).

To provide readers with an idea of how these educational objectives are carried out at different stages, we outline in box 12 South Africa’s efforts to prepare the public to participate.

Who conducts civic education programs?

Constitution-making bodies are sometimes mandated to undertake civic education. But even when they are not officially given such a role, some such bodies may still take on the role, usually as a result of a commitment to ensuring that the process is “people-driven.” (South Africa provides an example of such a situation.)

The tasks required to prepare the people to participate can seem daunting. However, constitution- makers rarely undertake this task on their own. If they are required to do it, some form of an administrative management body (see part 3.3) or governmental department will assist. In addition, media and civil society (including women’s groups, human rights organizations, trade unions, religious organizations, and minority groups) often play significant roles.

In some processes, a national curriculum is created; civil society and local leaders agree to follow the national program and are trained to use it. Sufficient time must be allocated to train educators to effectively deliver the program, particularly in the use of participatory methodologies. To clearly define responsibilities and relationships, the constitution-makers may enter into memoranda of understanding with civic education providers, who may also be required to sign a code of conduct. (See appendix C.2.) Mechanisms are also sometimes established to monitor whether a civic education program is being implemented effectively and as agreed.

A constitution-making body that develops good working relationships with civil society and the media in presenting an effective and helpful civic education program will often establish a precedent for open and democratic participation in governance in the future. It may lead the constitution-making body and the process itself to be viewed as more credible, accessible, and transparent.

Civil society may sometimes take its own initiative in relation to civic education. Ideally there will be some coordination with the official process. However, at times, the constitution-making body may be conducting a “top-down” approach and have little interest in engaging the public. Civil society may then act on its own to promote a participatory process. (See part 4.1.)

Planning civic education

Part 2.3.2 discusses preparation of strategic and operational plans for constitution-making processes, plans that should normally include arrangements for civic education programs, and box 23 provides specific ideas about how to plan such programs. If resources are limited, the constitution-making body may be able to tap into existing channels for civic education. Examples may include community organizations, academic institutions, schools, churches, popular TV, blogs, websites or radio programs, as well as government programs.

Practical planning tips

  • Ensure that there is sufficient time to plan. In South Africa (see box 12) the planners took four months to plan for civic education and public consultation efforts.
  • Some initial research may be needed to determine the level of civic knowledge about democratic practices and constitutions as well as attitudes, beliefs, etc. A plan should consider what level of civic and constitutional knowledge is necessary to participate effectively or what should be prioritized.
  • In a highly participatory process, the constitution-making body should aim to ensure that accurate information and effective civic or educational messages reach a wide and inclusive audience—in particular, groups in the society that have historically been marginalized (see box 9 to ensure program is inclusive).
  • Most constitution-making bodies do not have unlimited time and resources and as a result they need to determine what is feasible and cost-effective. For example, it may be appealing to develop a sophisticated website, but if only a small percentage of the public uses the Internet, resources may be better spent elsewhere.
  • Evaluations of the impact of civic education efforts should be conducted to measure whether they are achieving the intended results. Some constitution-makers have hired experts in civic education or advertising to conduct research as well as develop and test methods.

Methods of civic education

Most civic education programs use a combination of methods to reach different groups and communities. The experience of South Africa (described in box 12 above) provides a useful example. In contexts where there is an independent media, it is common to rely heavily on the media. (See part 2.3.11 for a discussion about linking with the media.) This may involve either linking with reliable newspapers or radio and television stations, or the constitution-making body developing the capacity needed to produce its own media programs, including using social media tools.

Research may be needed to determine which medium or method is most effective in reaching which groups best, and at what times, to convey information in a manner that is most trusted and credible. International NGOs may often fund such studies. Conveying information and educational messages effectively to a particular audience is highly context- and culture-specific. What has worked in one place may fail in another. It is usually necessary to take into account differences between audiences in the same country (for example, women, illiterate citizens, and minorities). This section provides examples of various approaches to civic education that have been used at different stages of constitution-making processes.

Television and radio

Research in sixty districts of Nepal showed that 90 percent of the people listened to the radio for up to two hours a day and that this was the most trusted source of information. In most developing countries, radio tends to have the widest reach. In many countries FM technology has made it possible to have a variety of radio stations catering to the needs of most linguistic groups. In countries without good supplies of electricity, battery-operated radios can be used. Where batteries have been too expensive, donors have sometimes distributed wind-up or solar- powered radios (e.g., in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and Malawi).

Radio and television offer a variety of creative possibilities to convey information and to educate. Dramas, including single performances of plays and long-running serials, and discussion programs, interviews, and even traditional storytelling and songs can all be used to convey information or educational messages. In Afghanistan and Nepal, material about constitutional issues was integrated into existing popular radio soap opera programs.

Call-in shows and debates can serve as a way for people to ask questions, and can spur debate and dialogue on constitutional issues. Television, radio, and the constitution-making body’s official website can broadcast live sessions of a constituent assembly. In Nauru, radio was used to broadcast the constitution-making committee’s debates on every single clause of the draft constitution. A surprising number of people followed those proceedings closely, and the public found it interesting to see the complexities of the debate. Broadcasts of concerts and sporting events have been organized around the constitutional process. Repeating programs at different times of the day may enable them to reach different groups (i.e., women may listen or watch at different times than men), or may allow people to hear information more than once.

Brazil’s constitution-making body is one that supplemented the use of existing mass- communication media with the production of in-house media. Its own media center produced 716 television programs and 700 radio programs that were distributed to multiple stations, with segments aired daily (Rosenn 2010: 445).

Print materials

In the small South Pacific island country of Nauru, half of which did not receive a radio or television signal, three large billboards were placed in highly visible areas. One read: “The Constitution is for the people. The review will help us learn more about the Constitution and be more active citizens of Nauru,” and another stated, “The Constitution belongs to the people of Nauru. The review is our chance to make the Constitution more truly Nauruan. Your views and opinions will be needed in step 2—public consultation.” The third listed the six steps in the review process (Le Roy 2010).

Newspapers, magazines, and popular Internet sites can be paid or encouraged to include:

  • copies of the draft constitution, the final constitution, or any other important document;
  • requests for submissions of constitutional options and directions on where to send them;
  • information about important constitution-making process events and activities or deadlines;
  • regular columns that answer readers’ questions about the constitutional process or constitutional issues; and
  • stories or comic books about the process.

In-house efforts can supplement the effort as well. Newsletters, brochures, posters, leaflets, and booklets can all be developed, ranging from in-depth discussions of complex issues to comic books about the process or the constitution. In Afghanistan and other countries, biweekly or monthly magazines have been distributed to more than a hundred thousand readers. Disseminating such publications can be assisted by use of websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Some countries have used the regional or district field offices of their constitution-making bodies to assist with disseminating materials to remote areas. New technologies, such as digital books, could also be distributed to every community with key civic education materials loaded onto them.

To prepare the people to provide their views, Uganda circulated the existing constitution along with a booklet titled “Guiding Questions on Constitutional Issues” and one explaining how to prepare memoranda containing submissions on constitutional issues. In various countries, after a draft constitution has been produced, or after the eventual adoption of a new constitution, constitution-making bodies have developed booklets explaining the constitutional document and why certain choices were made. In some cases comic books have also been developed for people with low literacy levels.

Box 13. Examples of official websites of constitution-making bodies

Bolivian Constituent Assembly (in Spanish): http://www.laconstituyente.org/

Ecuador Constituent Assembly (in Spanish): http://constituyente.asambleanacional.gob.ec/

Ghana Constitution Review Commission: http://www.crc.gov.gh/

Kenya: Committee of Experts: http://www.coekenya.go.ke/

Malawi Law Commission—Constitutional Review: http://www.lawcom.mw/index.php/constitutionreview

Nepal Constituent Assembly (in Nepali and English): http://www.can.gov.np/en

Somalia Independent Federal Constitution Commission (Somali and English): http://www.dastuur.org/eng/

Zambia: National Constitutional Conference: http://www.ncczambia.org/index.php

In Ecuador, a constitutional glossary was created to familiarize the public with terms related to the upcoming constitutional referendum. In Kenya, a snakes-and-ladders-like game was created in order to teach people about human rights (though this was in fact produced prior to the constitution-making process). Such materials can bolster face-to-face civic education efforts. For example, in Nepal a large poster was designed to illustrate the journey involved in the constitution-making process; it was used to start discussions about the process.

Cultural and sporting events, games, and competitions

In Fiji, art competitions on the theme of the new constitution were held. Other countries have held poetry, song, and essay competitions to encourage public engagement in the process. These competitions have been for both adults and students. Sports events can also be an effective way to introduce youth to the constitution-making process.

Official website of the constitution-making body

Many recent constitution-making processes have benefited from establishing an official website. The constitution-making body can thereby communicate and consult directly with the public. This is especially useful if the media are biased or inexperienced and untrained and cannot be relied upon to report information accurately; the Internet gives the public another way to receive information.

The public can also be encouraged to send questions, comments, and suggestions directly to the website or though links to social media tools. However, the constitution-making body must have the resources to respond and manage the flow of information effectively. If five thousand questions are asked, ideally each should receive a response. A section on the website of frequently asked questions can help with basic questions.

An official website can be a valuable resource for the general public, journalists, members of civil society, advisers to the process, government actors, international actors, and especially members of the diaspora. The constitution-making body’s willingness to post its budget, drafts of the constitution, and other key documents can vastly improve the transparency and openness of the process and add to its overall credibility. The following list of potential components for an official website draws upon the experience of a number of processes:

  • Introductory page
    • An overview of the role and structure of the constitution-making body
    • An overview of why the constitution-making process is taking place
  • Information about how the public can participate in or learn more about the process
    • A schedule for the constitution-making process (including the main steps involved and an estimated timetable)
    • Information about constitutions, constitution-making, and constitutional issues
    • Upcoming events, activities, or public sessions
    • The times and purposes of events or activities
  • Biographical data on leaders and members of the constitution-making body
    • Including information not only about their backgrounds, but also about how they were selected or elected and their functions and powers
  • List of committees or other working groups of the constitution-making body
    • Description of the mandate and names of members of the committees
    • Information on upcoming meetings and agendas
    • Working drafts or final reports from relevant committees
  • Copies of key documents related to the process
    • Copies of the current and any past constitution of the country in question and all relevant legislation or other legal instruments relevant to the establishment of the constitution-making process
    • All relevant educational material
    • Public surveys, questionnaires, and calls for submissions
    • Press releases and any reports from the constitution-making body
    • Rules of procedure, budgets, working drafts of the proposed constitution, the final constitution, and any report of the constitution-making body
    • Codes of conduct for constitution-makers or other relevant actors
  • Online video or audio recordings
    • Proceedings, sessions, public consultation meetings, and other events in real time
  • Questions and answers
    • Can provide list of frequently asked questions about the process
    • Mechanism for members of the public to get answers to questions about either the process or constitutional issues
  • Getting public views
    • A platform for the public to submit its views about the constitution (see part 2.2.3 on public consultation)
  • External hyperlinks (including to social media tools) and search tools

Mobile messaging services and social media

The constitution-making body can use mobile messaging services or social media such as Facebook and Twitter to send out critical pieces of information, such as the results of a vote on a key provision of the constitution, the opening of the polls for a referendum, or the final adoption of the constitution. Texting and social media can also be an effective way to communicate with youth. South Africa set up a phone line for the public to use to ask questions or give suggestions. (See box 22 for an example of how Iceland is using social media to prepare its constitution.)

Civic education workshops

Face-to-face workshops are a common method for delivery of civic education programs. Usually they will be planned to supplement messages (about the constitution-making process and how people can participate) being delivered through other channels (e.g., television, radio, and print media). However, face-to-face workshops often play important roles in such programs. They provide publicity for the constitution-making process, and they can bring constitution-makers in direct contact with the people, enabling the constitution-makers to gauge for themselves such things as the extent to which “the people,” or particular social groups, understand constitutional issues.

Most importantly, face-to-face workshops may often be the only effective way to reach disadvantaged or hard to reach groups who do not have much access to media, are illiterate, or do not speak the dominant language. It will often be important to make special efforts to reach such groups. By way of example of the difficulties sometimes involved, a woman villager in Zimbabwe recently reported that people may “tune out” information and educational messages about the process because they feel such information does not concern them or that it is for lawyers.

There is no particular correct method for conducting such workshops. Relevant experience distilled from largely practitioner experience and advice is included in the discussion under the next heading in this part (“Practical tips for conducting civic education programs”). Some of the points made about organizing face-to-face meetings as part of public consultation apply here as well. (See in particular part 2.2.3, under the heading “Practical tips for organizing all types of face-to-face meetings.”)

There has been much debate in the democratization field about the efficacy of civic education workshops. A key question is whether participation in them does result in improved democratic knowledge, beliefs, and behavior. Studies suggest that it can—but only if the workshops are carefully planned, have sufficient resources and time, use participatory methodologies that link the subject matter to the real lives of the participants, and offer follow-up sessions (e.g., Finkel 2003). Designers of civic education in constitution-making processes need to consider carefully how these lessons can improve their plans and strategies. It may mean that more consideration is given to reaching marginalized groups on an ongoing basis than to holding isolated workshops for vast numbers of participants. Each program will have to assess what is realistic.

As noted above, in a participatory constitution-making process, a key goal of civic education will normally be to help to prepare people to give their views—both about the process of constitution-making and on constitutional issues. If face-to-face workshops are to be held as part of civic education programs in such a process, it will be necessary to plan for and structure the workshops with these goals in mind. Where civic education programs are developed in a rush, sometimes such goals are neglected. For example, one of the goals of South Africa’s civic education workshops was to prepare disadvantaged groups to make submissions or share views during the public consultation phase. (See box 12.) Yet the individual workshops did not cover constitutional concepts, nor were follow-up workshops held to help workshop participants provide input to the constitution-makers. The workshops were also held after the first draft was prepared. Ideally, time would have been allocated to this task prior to preparation of the draft (as has been done in Kenya, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, and Uganda).

Those planning and implementing civic education programs are often up against tight deadlines. This may be because of poor planning, or a lack of understanding of the complex nature of this task, or because once a civic education process gets under way, there are demands from the public for a more extensive program. There can also be pressures from those in control of the constitution-making process to complete civic education as quickly as possible so as not to

delay the overall process. As a result of these and similar pressures, it may be difficult to conduct even basic research on the levels of civic knowledge and common beliefs and attitudes. Further, when a program is under way, there is often little or no attempt to test out the approach and or to evaluate the impact of the workshops. Instead, success is often measured by the number of workshops and participants rather than by knowledge gained or transformation in democratic practice, beliefs or attitudes.

It is vital to the success of civic education generally, and in particular face-to-face workshops, that the material presented should be accessible to the audience. Sometimes the approach taken in the design and presentation of formal workshops reduces the chance of success. For example, in Nepal [ongoing process], lawyers prepared dense educational materials and civic educators lectured from these materials on topics such as the difference between a parliamentary system and a presidential system. However, many of the educators did not understand what a constitution was or how it worked. This is not uncommon and probably does not prepare the public to any significant degree to participate in a way that is meaningful and has an impact.

Civic education workshops have sometimes been conducted largely “for show.” The trend toward more participatory constitution-making processes has resulted in some authorities feeling pressure to have the process at least appear participatory or “people driven.” Such pressures can include external demands (e.g., from the media, civil society, international actors, etc.) for public participation, including workshops directed toward encouraging such participation. In Timor-Leste [2002], civil society demanded a participatory process. The official civic education workshops and initial public consultation meetings were conducted on the same day. Participants had no time to reflect on the civic education to provide thoughtful views and suggestions on the constitution.

Civil society members protested to the United Nations Security Council that citizens were not being given the opportunity to participate meaningfully and reflect on the constitutional decisions before them. While there have been few empirical evaluations of civic education in constitution-making processes, we can assume that few positive results are gained from programs that do not adequately prepare the people to participate and they could even discredit or weaken the process.

Practical tips for conducting civic education programs

Some practical tips about implementing civic education programs can be drawn from lessons learned through the experiences of dozens of practitioners in both the democratization field and constitution-making processes. While many of these tips involve a particular focus on civic education workshops, others extend to issues about civic education programs more generally.

Plan carefully and dedicate sufficient resources. A nationwide civic education program will require time to conduct some basic research, plan, train staff, test approaches, and implement. Strong planning and management skills are required to coordinate dozens or hundreds of civic education partners (usually NGOs, local leaders, or government departments or bodies), as well as for preparation of media campaigns, workshops, public meetings, activities such as sporting events and song contests, printed materials, radio and TV programs, websites, links to social media tools, and so on. civil society or other partners are usually needed. Ideally they should be selected on the basis of such criteria as established reputations, experience in design or conduct of civic education programs, or use of participatory methodologies. So a constitution-making body may require considerable expertise (perhaps through use of short- term consultants) even in its selection of partners.

Identify groups and communities that have been historically disadvantaged and may require special attention to ensure their participation. (See box 9) This may require translation of printed materials, radio and TV programs, and workshop presentations into minority languages. When delivering face-to-face workshops, it may require providing childcare, holding workshops at night or early in the morning when women or farmers in a particular area are available, or providing food or accommodations if groups are nomadic or populations are spread out. There may be a need to train members of particular groups or communities to be resource persons on constitutional issues and to have them serve as liaisons with the constitution-making body.

Use a participatory methodology in face-to-face workshops. There should be a focus on the use of role-playing, mock political debates or discussions, small-group activities, and the like to achieve the learning objectives of the program. Examples include holding mock constituent assembly sessions or debates with women or students. In Nepal, representatives of marginalized groups were brought together to discuss constitutional issues in much the same way as the constituent assembly might do. Street-theater performances and short plays can also be effective ways to educate people about rights.

Train workshop facilitators. Facilitators should receive training in the participatory methodologies and also in basic constitutional knowledge. Depending on the objectives and skill levels of the civic educators, training may require a few weeks.

Start workshop discussions with issues that concern participants. Participants may be especially concerned with issues such as land rights, health services, or political rights. The facilitator should design participatory exercises to help explain how a constitution or democracy relates to those concerns and how the group can get involved in the constitutional and democratic process to better address those specific concerns.

Hold at least three workshops or sessions with each group or community. Studies show that holding fewer than three workshops for any particular group has little impact on levels of knowledge of such things as democratic principles, values, or practices (Finkel 2003).

Develop realistic learning objectives and test approaches in advance. Some core constitutional concepts can be explained, but this may require a combination of civic education methods (e.g., printed materials of various kinds, TV and radio programs, cultural events, and workshops). Where face-to-face workshops are used, if multiple workshops can be held for particular groups, there should be careful testing to determine if the approach is in fact working. If evaluations indicate that certain audiences still lack the knowledge and tools to make choices among constitutional options—often a key objective—then either objectives or methodology may need to be revised. Raising awareness about how a constitution relates to the lives of the participants and clarifying some basic democratic values may end up being more realistic objectives where a remote population has such limited levels of formal education as to make it difficult for choices to be made on constitutional issues.

Stress neutrality and develop a code of conduct that describes what this entails. The designers and facilitators of all aspects of civic education must understand that they cannot use the process to promote a particular form of government or any other personal agenda in relation to the process or constitutional issues. The process should be monitored to ensure that those implementing an official civic education program of the constitution-making body are doing it in an ethical manner and according to a code of conduct.

Do not mislead people about what democracy or a new constitution can change in participants’ lives. When any part of a civic education program (printed materials, radio or TV programs, websites, or facilitators of workshops) is encouraging the public to provide input for the process, the material presented should be accurate about how views may or may not be used and what a constitution can and cannot do.

Give the official process a logo. An official logo will identify the civic education materials and activities as those conducted or approved by the constitution-making body. The logo should be advertised as widely as possible to ensure that citizens can distinguish the official civic education program from those conducted by unofficial actors who may not have accurate information or who may even intend to misinform the public.

Monitor and evaluate. Evaluation both of civic education activities and of their overall results is important. This is especially true when a program is operating over an extended period, for monitoring and evaluation can then enable the constitution-making body to adapt and improve the program whenever problems are revealed. There may be advantages in monitoring and evaluation being conducted by an outside group that may be more objective.

Some challenges of implementing civic education programs

Most civic education programs are conducted with good intentions. The problem lies in their implementation, including unrealistic objectives given time and resource constraints and sometimes a lack of awareness about what the task entails. As a result, it is helpful to highlight some of the main implementation challenges experienced in other processes.

Civic education is rarely neutral. civic education programs are often funded by foreign donors and use foreign-developed materials that promote a particular type of system, such as federalism. In several countries, foreign actors have tried to “sell” their system of governance as the best form. Such efforts often ignore specific cultural contexts and the social mores of the country where the constitution-making process occurs, and may limit the extent of local analysis of the problems as well as consideration of locally derived solutions. Similarly, civic educators have signed codes of conduct that obligate them to deliver the official curriculum in a neutral way (e.g., in South Africa [1996] and in Kenya [2005]). Yet civil society members, political parties, government agencies, and even the constitution-makers themselves have used civic education to promote their own agendas.

While it will often be necessary for constitution-makers to partner with civil society in the development and presentation of civic education programs, it must also be noted that NGOs are often established mainly to access donor funds, which can include funds for civic education. Donors may issue calls for proposals in English and only in urban areas; this often excludes rural organizations which may be more closely linked with marginalized groups and even some longstanding organizations with poor English or proposal writing skills. Donors should make efforts to map the civil society organizations that are experienced and help those that need it to prepare proposals. Some funds for organizational development may be needed.

Some organizations may be more interested in the money than in achieving the goals of the civic education program. Because of pressure on donors to spend money allocated to support a constitution-making process, donors may not monitor the effectiveness of NGO civic education programs or even whether they were held. (Afghanistan [2004] is one example.)

Few civic education programs have had the time, resources, and commitment to reach disadvantaged groups effectively. Just to make contact with certain groups may pose significant challenges. In Eritrea [1997], the constitution-making body struggled to communicate with nomads. It went to great lengths to organize meetings and provided food and water for weeks so that the nomads could stay in one place and talk with constitution-makers in their own language.

Because the resources necessary to reach marginalized groups and minorities, especially in poor countries, are seldom available, even a “neutral” civic education campaign may contribute to increased inequalities in a society by further empowering those who already have access to some level of social networks or resources. The most disadvantaged and isolated citizens will rarely have time to participate or to translate civic education into political, economic, or social gains without sustained engagement and targeted resources.

Box 14. Evaluations of civic education workshops: Some observations

It is common to pass around evaluation forms at the end of civic education workshops. They tend to ask questions such as:

  • Were the objectives clear and were they achieved?
  • Did you understand the presentations?
  • Did you have adequate opportunity to ask questions and/or contribute to discussions?
  • Would you come again to a workshop organized by this organization?

There are problems with evaluations of this sort. The questionnaire is completed at the end of the workshop, when everyone is anxious to leave and get home; many people will answer positively because they have enjoyed the event, but this gives the organizers absolutely no idea whether it has achieved its objectives.

An event that is designed to affect attitudes can be measured by questioning people at the beginning and again at the end, using questions designed to reveal attitudes, though not simply by asking “How has your attitude changed?” If an objective is to encourage people to respond to the opportunity to have input into a constitution-making process, this can be measured. Tests of recognition should be carried out ideally before the event and again after some time has passed: for example, it is hoped that more people will have heard of the constitution or the concept of federalism than had before the event.

Testing for knowledge is much more difficult. Asking whether people feel they have a better understanding elicits an attitude and not a measure of knowledge. People who already have some knowledge may be able to judge whether they now have more. It is far harder in the case of those who know nothing about the issue at the beginning. Members of the public do not expect to be given an examination as the price of attending a workshop. And unless the evaluator was present and knowledgeable, it may be impossible to know whether what was learned was accurate.

There are many creative means for evaluating results. For example, more or different things may be learned about participants’ reactions by having a space where people can write their reactions (e.g., a wall papered with plain paper with pens provided; a pile of shapes on which people can write, which are then hung on a “comment tree”).

Finally, we emphasize that such challenges are discussed not with a view to discouraging constitution-makers from carrying out this task, but rather to stress that ambitious civic education objectives can be hard to achieve. This task in particular requires careful consideration of what are realistic objectives and how to achieve them with the time and resources available. (See part 2.3.2 on strategic planning.) Constitution-makers may not have the time or skill to do this, and as a result they may need to set up arrangements under which they only oversee this task rather than implement it themselves, provided of course that the task is allocated to competent partners, and that their performance is subject to ongoing critical monitoring and evaluation.