Summary of Problem
Marr Nyang had a simple problem without an easy answer: People under the age of 35 in his country of The Gambia did not have a strong record of showing up to vote in elections, despite being 65% of the country’s population. Marr brought this challenge with him to TechCamp Ghana focused on Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network members working on digital strategies for civic participation. He successfully applied for follow-on TechCamp funding for a project to engage, educate, and excite Gambian youth to participate in their country’s elections.
Because the issue of voter participation and education is a large one, Marr knew that he would need to bring on partners. Together, they would organize a mini TechCamp to train others in the digital outreach and grassroots organizing techniques they learned at YALI TechCamp Ghana, and then launch an online platform to engage with Gambian youth.
Marr’s partners included participants of YALI TechCamp Ghana, YALI Network members in The Gambia, and organizations that work with youth and elections in The Gambia. Fatu Ogwuche, a TechCamp trainer from Nigeria, provided expert elections and technology strategy consultation. The group organized a mini-TechCamp for 70 participants who learned techniques and strategies for increasing voter registration, education, and participation in their home communities. Participants were taught how to respond to public inquiries and how to best share information with public audiences, using social media tools, online communications, and in-person, face-to-face strategies.
For the digital component of their project, Marr and his colleagues launched a Facebook page and social media campaign they called #GambiaParticipates. “The aim of this project is to allow young citizens to reclaim political spaces for dialogue and discussion about community needs and the interventions required for development through both online and offline strategies,” Marr said.
Summary of Outcome
#GambiaParticipates became an online platform with an offline reach that has so far engaged with more than 100,000 people on Facebook alone — far ahead of from Marr’s original goal of engaging with 20,000 people.
In his final report on the results of #GambiaParticipates, Marr wrote: “The project has successfully contributed immensely towards voter registration, participation …and minimization of voter apathy in The Gambia. It also contributed to the unprecedented voter turnout of the 2016 presidential election of the Gambia. These were the main goals and objectives of the project and successfully; they were all met.”
Following the national elections, the #GambiaParticipates Facebook community is still active, and is supporting other civic engagement and anti-corruption campaigns in the Gambia and surrounding region, including the #GambiaHasDecided social media campaign.
Technology to Solve the Problem
The #GambiaParticipates project blended online and offline tools to most effectively reach its target audience.
Aside from teaching the mini-TechCamp participants digital advocacy and communications strategies for increasing civic engagement, the team also identified a dearth of online information about the election and voter education tools and worked to upload useful materials to share on social media.
The social media, messaging, and online community development skills Marr and his team sharpened at YALI TechCamp Ghana contributed directly to the success of this project and their campaign, he said.
Marr Nyang and the #GambiaParticipates project is an excellent example of how TechCamp participants can successfully transition their TechCamp experience into tangible results for their home communities.
Marr’s extremely hard work and follow-through, along with the enthusiasm demonstrated by the project team, trainers, and participants of #GambiaParticipates, demonstrates that ideas nurtured at a TechCamp can become reality, and potentially impact their country’s future.