Citizen Dialogue Centre | Deepening and Defending Democracy
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Deepening and Defending Democracy

This programme is part of the Election Integrity 2019 – South Africa project and is being run in parallel to our Countering Organised Interference and Electoral Disruptions programme.

The collaborative efforts of The Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change(CABC), Citizen Research Centre(CRC) and Citizen Dialogue Centre(CDC) will:

  • Research and analyse past and present social media conversation;
  • Engage with citizens in dialogue on social media;
  • Develop and employ Digital Advocacy tactics

in a year-long programme designed to deepen and defend South Africa’s constitutional democracy and electoral process.


In-depth analysis of public-domain social media – both real-time and retrospectively – will be conducted in 5 phases. These findings will form the basis of all Engagement, Dialogue and Advocacy strategies for this programme.By developing practical support structures for the digital activist community, this programme will focus on finding, connecting and empowering citizens who are committed to defending a peaceful democracy.Facilitation and mediation of online conversation – within our community forums as well as in the public-domain – will be used to actively encourage healthy, respectful dialogue.Traditional public-empowerment & civil-resistance tactics, dramatically enhanced by digital communication technology, will be strategically employed to advocate for a peaceful, constitutional and participatory democracy.Rigorous and ongoing MM&E across all aspects of our work ensure agility to change strategy based on real-time learnings. This level of evaluation is critical to ensuring data-driven decisions and avoiding gut-feel reactions.
– Exploration phase- Opportunity Overview- Categorisation phase- Themes & Narratives identification- Vision for Change report– Identify and engage Active Citizens- Expose potential Dialogue Activists to training opportunities & resources.- Curate and nurture Dialogue Activist community– In-house Dialogue Facilitators- Thematic & geographic forum discussions– Direct Digital Advocacy- Influencer Networking- Subject Matter Experts- Advisory & Content Partners- Cluster Activism- Social Experiment Activations- Content Generation- Media Relations– KPI tracking and re-assessment- Theme & Narrative reviews- Community health and activity monitoring- Strategy review and outcome evaluation


Exploration phaseOpportunity OverviewCategorisationThemes & NarrativesVision for Change
This initial phase examines a thematic South African conversation on social media in its entirety. This process is data-driven, rather than relying on preconceived ideas.
This analysis is expressed through a combination of Analytic Units (representations of the data through different filters) relevant to the macro goals of the project.
This phase identifies macro conversation themes with engagement and advocacy potential and provides basic strategy outline recommendations.The insight gained in this phase will inform decisions regarding categorisation as well as focus areas for engagement or advocacy.

The Categorisation phase is a directed data capture and classification process.
It is aimed at dissecting the larger conversation – identified in the Exploration phase – into conversation streams relevant to the objective of this programme.

Here we identify the main conversation themes and their individual narratives:Themes are broader groupings of conversations around a similar idea or central topic. Narratives are specific streams of conversation, prejudices, beliefs or ideologies.
The themes and narratives we will uncover are likely to be both numerous and nuanced.
The Vision for Change phase presents tangible opportunities for advocacy and practical campaign objectives. This is considered the bridging phase between research and engagement. This phase will present the possible advocacy opportunities we have identified for each of the Narratives, and also includes the final preparation for the Dialogue and Engagement components of the programme.


Identify and engage Active CitizensExpose potential Dialogue Activists to training opportunities & resourcesCurate and nurture Dialogue Activist community
From within the conversations that we analyse, we are able to identify individuals who are already value aligned with us and our advocacy goals.
These individuals create the framework for reshaping the larger social media conversation, through distributing advocacy material and by being better equipped to engage their broader networks in a more constructive and directed way.
We work to empower these individuals through personal support, education, on-message sharable content, as well as dialogue and mediation training.

The training program for Dialogue Activists has been designed with the aim of expanding their skills in mediation beyond the social media sphere and into face-to-face interactions. The first formal course covers a standard conflict resolution and mediation curriculum, adapted for social conflict, over 8 modules.
After completing the standard training, Dialogue Activists may participate in 12 additional course modules to build their capacity for social conflict mediation and dialogue.
They are given the tools needed and encouraged to be active participants in our advocacy programmes, creating both an online and a face-to-face community of mediators across the country.


In-house Dialogue FacilitatorsThematic & geographic forum discussions
Our in-house Dialogue Facilitators are the cornerstone of our process. Their overarching purpose is to promote and mediate a dynamic transformation in the understanding of, and engagement with, the theme dependent issues.
These individuals are paid employees of the Citizen Dialogue Centre and are trained in social conflict management and mediation.  
NOTE: we are open to, and supportive of initiatives to bring talent in from partner NGOs in this regard – this would lower costs, encourage training and assist with more direct expertise in specific thematic areas.
Thematic and Geographic Forums (starting with social media, followed by WhatsApp groups and finally face to face gatherings) are safe spaces where dialogue and learning is promoted, and a sense of community is fostered.
In Thematic forums, narratives will be introduced by our Dialogue Facilitators but the conversation will be allowed to grow organically as it becomes more complex, and form divergent forums. By encouraging this type of growth we allow forum members a sense of ownership and empower them to generate dialogue around the issues which concern them, while providing the tools and arena for that dialogue to be informed, respectful and constructive.
Geographic Forums will function as a general discussion space for individuals who reside in the same town, city etc – a place where they can connect with each other across multiple issues of concern, as well as discuss the specific concerns of their local communities.


Direct Digital AdvocacyInfluencer NetworkingSubject Matter ExpertsAdvisory & Content Partners
Digital Activism currently takes place in three different “arenas”: Public Domain Digital DenialCyber Exploitation

This programme will focus ONLY only Public Domain Digital Activism tactics such as:
Non-violent Protest and PersuasionSocial Non-CooperationPolitical Non-CooperationEconomic Non-CooperationNon-Violent Intervention

These tactics will be categorised as:
Awareness and AdvocacyOrganisation and Mobilisation Action and Reaction
In order to amplify the messaging and ensure sustainable engagements, topic influencers are identified and engaged with an invitation to participate in our programme. Depending on the desired level of involvement from each Influencer, they may act as Advisors, Active Citizens, Dialogue Activists or vocal supporters who use their influence and knowledge to further our advocacy efforts and increase informed dialogue.
Individual social media contributors are identified as Influencers based on a combination of two criteria – firstly, their involvement in the current conversation surrounding the topic at hand, either on- or offline; secondly, their ability to influence the thoughts and actions of others, due to follower numbers, community ties, fanbase, dedicated listeners, social status etc.
These individuals are approached, given insight into our campaign as well as relevant information pertaining to the role we envision they could play. This is a consultative, relationship building process which allows each Influencer to contribute where they can and allows them the freedom to become as involved as they are motivated to be.
In past projects of this nature we have always found a select few individuals in each conversation who participate actively from a position of expertise. These include medical and mental health professionals, historians, legal professionals, human rights experts and others who can contribute to the dialogue in a direct and expertly informed manner.
Our relationships with these Subject Matter Experts are individualised and dynamic, with trade of information and learning being paramount. These individuals are already actively contributing to the dialogue on the relevant topic meaning that reciprocal sharing and tagging between CDC and Subject Matter Experts will enrich the entire conversation.

Beyond this simple information sharing and learning approach, Subject Matter Experts can contribute more directly to our campaign by joining our support network. Involvement in this support network is voluntary and may include assistance and guidance on campaign messaging, as a real time standby for conversations picked up by our monitoring team where an informed voice would be beneficial, or direct support for community members requiring assistance with personal or interpersonal issues.
We will identify organisations and individuals who have working knowledge or valuable insight into the programme dependent subject at hand, and approach them with a partnership opportunity. Once a partnership has been established, forum discussions will be held with individual or multiple Advisory Partners
The purpose of the Advisory Partner relationships is to increase our depth and breadth of understanding of the subject.Also, the Advisory Partner network will be engaged in the content creation process to both provide references to reliable content and to put their own content forward.

Cluster ActivismSocial Experiment ActivationsContent GenerationMedia Relations
A significant long term objective of this project is to create the infrastructure needed to inspire a form of Cluster Activism which connects and transcends the online and offline worlds.
Through identifying and building a network of informed, dialogue-oriented activists and interested citizens, and by then leveraging their reach and influence we intend to build a growing community of broadly aligned individuals interacting with each other.Thematic and Geographic Forums (starting with social media, followed by WhatsApp groups and finally face to face gatherings) are safe spaces where dialogue and learning is promoted, and a sense of community is fostered.
In the long term this process could build clusters of connected, informed individuals who are able to collaborate on solutions to both thematic and geographic problems – creating a network of real people spread throughout real world communities in South Africa who have the drive, skills and access to information and support to facilitate dialogue, mediate heated situations and work towards various programmatic goals.
Attention grabbing activations in public spaces are designed to be filmed on cellphone by passers-by. This content, along with a production style video is used as social media content intended to drive awareness, gain media attention and increase the reach of our campaign.
Activations create an important link between the online, social media space and the shared current reality of our local communities – places and sounds we experience every day. Social experiments of this kind seek to expose the disparity between what we profess to know is right and how we actually act. The aim of this exposure is to allow a space for self-reflection, to start a dialogue from a place of honest reflection on how we all act in our everyday lives.
The potential attention and reach, and the subsequent engagement opportunities of this type of activity should be balanced by the effort required to orchestrate and the possibility of failure of a particular activation. That said, there are countless examples of the fascination and buzz that these public activations can cause if they are well crafted and smartly executed.
Accessible, engaging, relevant content is essential to most of our dialogue and engagement mechanisms. Our collaborative model of information sharing means that we will rely not only on creating our own content, but will also curate content from external sources.
Content Curation will be strictly governed by our code of conduct and will be aligned with our messaging strategy, whilst allowing for synergetic exchange of ideas and learnings between our campaign and the external sources we work with.

Content Creation will include conceptualising and designing content for distribution through a variety of social and traditional media streams.
The key Media Relations components used in this programme will be:
Data Journalism: Often the insights gained through our research and dialogue process – especially the surprising, tantalizing and concrete statistics and insights – are seen as valuable by many media houses. As a result of our messaging being guided by our research, the opportunity exists to not only provide useful information to journalists, but to also generate media coverage focusing attention on our campaign.
Campaign related interviews: Interviews broadcast on radio or television are a mechanism through which we can not only introduce dialogue aimed at the topic at hand, but also set the tone of that dialogue. Opportunities for campaign anchors, spokespeople, researchers and board members to discuss the campaign, our findings and our processes are usually generated through our Data Journalism relationships. We aim to use these relationships to create opportunities for community members to tell their personal stories and share their learnings.


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