Information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) are powerful tools for organizing and advocacy. The Issues platform was launched as part of DemTools, NDI’s Democracy Toolkit. DemTools provides basic and easy-to-use solutions for common technical problems in the democracy and human rights space that are accessible to programs that lack funding for sophisticated software development. Of course, the right political and program factors still need to be in place, along with adequate funding for implementation and partner training.
The Issues platform was originally developed by the NDItech team to bridge the communication gap between governments and their citizens. The vision for the tool is that it will be used by diverse partners (both political and civil) to outline party and candidate stances on key issues, and identify the issues that are of most interest to their constituents. The Issues platform allows political candidates to present their positions on key issues via text, recorded online videos and audio clips, while it allows citizens the opportunity to ask candidates questions about their political platform in the same formats. By engaging in such dialogue and sharing statements via social media, voters can more directly connect with their political leaders, opening new avenues for strengthening transparency and accountability.
A program making use of the Issues DemTool provides civic and political organizations with the opportunity to hone their media skills, tailoring brief video responses to common questions for an online audience. While this platform is relatively inexpensive to set up, understand that quality content creation and promotion will prove very time-consuming.
This manual is intended to outline the basic functions of the Issues DemTool and provide step-by-step instructions on how NDI partners and field organizers can best utilize the platform to better foster civic debate. For more information on using the Issues DemTool effectively in a particular context, please consult our Program Guide.
Overview of Features#
The Issues DemTool presents several options for driving engagement between citizens and political candidates. The main features of the platform are displayed as five tabs on the homepage. Those tabs include the following, which are discussed in more detail in the Navigating the Site section of this manual:
- The Issues tab categorizes citizen questions based on issue topics, such as women’s health or youth inclusion. Visitors can view recordings of a candidate describing their platform and provide comments in response.
- The Candidates tab provides the name, photo and party affiliation of all candidates running in an election and engaging with citizens using the Issues platform. The tab allows searching and filtering, so that visitors can easily find the information they want on specific candidate stances.
- The Parties tab provides general information about the party to which political candidates belong.
- The Ask a Question tab provides a quick way for citizens to submit questions to political candidates via text, recorded video or audio clip.
- The About tab provides basic information about the Issues platform or the organization managing it.
By clicking on the Issues tab, visitors will be directed to a page that categorizes political issues by topic. Visitors are able to sort these issues alphabetically. They can also sort issues by most questions submitted (by citizens) and most questions answered (by candidates) on that topic. When a topic is selected, you will see a list of questions submitted by citizens, each denoted with a symbol of a question mark in a speech bubble. You will also see a list of answers submitted by political candidates, each denoted with a symbol of a checkmark in a speech bubble. Questions and answers can be submitted as text, audio clips or YouTube and Vimeo videos, which are denoted with a symbol of a play button and SoundCloud audio clips, which are denoted with a symbol of headphones. Questions can also be shared via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Below, we can see a citizen has posed a question to the candidates about taxing corporations. The user can share this question over many forms of social media. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are the three defaults, but many more channels are available by clicking the blue and white plus button to the right.
The Candidates tab displays the name, photo and party affiliation of candidates who are running in an election and engaging with citizens via the Issues platform. By clicking on the name or photo of the candidate, you can navigate to their profile page, which provides a summary of their political platform and ways that citizens can connect with them via social media. Alternatively, by clicking on the party’s name listed below the candidate’s name, you can navigate to their respective party’s profile page, which provides a summary of the party, how citizens can connect with it via social media, a list of party members, and a summary of recorded answers that members have uploaded in response to citizen questions.
Below, we see a profile created for a fictional candidate. We see his photo, party affiliation, a brief summary of his career, links to connect with her outside of the Issues platform, and answers he’s supplied to citizens’ questions.
The Parties tab provides general information about the parties using the Issues platform to connect with citizens. By clicking on a party logo, you can navigate to the party’s profile page, which provides a summary of the party and its platform, how citizens can connect with the party via social media, a list of party members, and a summary of recorded answers that members have uploaded in response to citizen questions.
Ask a Question Tab#
The Ask a Question tab provides a quick way for citizens to submit questions to political candidates. Questions can be submitted as text, by YouTube or Vimeo video, or via a SoundCloud audio clip. Questions can also be shared via Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. When posting a question, citizens are given the option to provide a description of their question and upload a media file of their choosing. They will be asked to specify what topic or issue their question corresponds to before their question can be saved and added to a moderation queue for the site administrators to approve.
An administrator of the Issues platform is a person who is responsible for managing information on the platform, including determining who has access to create, modify or delete content. The following sections of this manual will expand on the content manager user role and corresponding permissions.
When logged in as a content manager, you will see the navigation bar shown below.
By clicking on Content next to the homepage icon you will see an overview of all the content that has been added to the Issues platform. You can also access this overview by clicking Find Content, located below the homepage icon. The content is organized by title, type (i.e. answer, question, candidate, party), author, status (i.e. published or unpublished) and language, all of which can be edited or deleted from this page.
To add content to the five tabs displayed on the homepage, click on Add Content, which is located in the navigation bar under the homepage icon and populate the required fields as prompted.
As the content admin, you are tasked with publishing and removing posts on the website. Click on Find Content to access this panel and view all submitted content. You can manage the posts by checking the corresponding box and selecting the desired action in the highlighted drop-down menu and clicking Update.
For more information on how to administer content on the Issues platform, please see the Drupal Resource Guide.
Adding an Answer#
As an administrator, you may want to provide answers to questions that were submitted by citizens over different systems, such as social media, to the Issues platform. This can be done using the navigation bar. Click on Content > Add Content > Answer and then fill in each of the required fields before clicking “Save” at the bottom of the page.
You will be asked to select the question for which the answer was provided, in addition to the language in which the answer was provided and the public official it came from. You will also be asked to give the answer a title and given the option to add a short description. Media clips can be submitted as a YouTube or Vimeo video, as well as a Soundcloud audio clip.
Adding a Candidate#
Adding candidates to the Issues platform allows website visitors to learn about the candidates that are running in an election. As an administrator, click on Content > Add Content > Candidate and then fill in each of the required fields before clicking “Save” at the bottom of the page.
You will be asked to select the language of your content, the first and last name of the candidate, their photo, party affiliation and provide both a short and long summary of their political platform. You will also be given the option to include website and social media links to their page, so that citizens can more easily interact with them.
Adding a Partner#
As an administrator, you may want to recognize the partners who are helping to facilitate a two-way conversation between citizens and elected officials using the Issues platform. By clicking on Content > Add Content > Partner from the navigation bar, you can add the name and logo of a partner, including a description of the work they do and a link to their website.
Adding a Party#
Adding political parties to the Issues platform allows website visitors to learn about a party’s political platform, as well as the candidates that represent it. As an administrator, click on Content > Add Content > Party and then fill in each of the required fields before clicking “Save” at the bottom of the page.
You will be asked to provide the party’s name and logo, in addition to a short and long descriptive summary. You will also be given the option to include website and social media links for the party.
Adding a Question#
As an administrator, you may want to add questions that were submitted by citizens over different systems, such as social media, to the Issues platform. This can be done using the navigation bar. Click on Content > Add Content > Question and then fill in each of the required fields before clicking “Save” at the bottom of the page.
You will be asked to select the language in which the questions is being asked and given the opportunity to provide an accompanying description of the question. You will also be asked to select the issue topic that best characterizes the question being asked. Media clips can be submitted as a YouTube or Vimeo video, as well as a Soundcloud audio clip.
The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide. NDItech assists NDI partners and staff members around the world integrate technology into democracy assistance programming in innovative and sustainable ways.
The Democracy Toolkit, DemTools, is designed to provide easy-to-use webapp solutions empowering civic groups and political institutions to be more effective at their organizing and communication for democracy and human rights.
The development of the tools described in this manual was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The Issues DemTool manual was written by Meron Menwyelet with contributions from Christine Schoellhorn, Leslie Dudden, Mahvash Taqi and others. Of the many people who contributed to this project, we would like to specially thank Michael Murphy and his team for their hard work, patience and collaborative spirit. Google’s excellent YouTube Townhall was the inspiration behind this project.
To learn more about DemTools, please follow us on Twitter at @NDI, @NDItech and @DemTools. You can also read more about the DemTools by visiting http://dem.tools.
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