The Richardson Center taught a three-day training with the Sun Institute in Mandalay this week for 50 political party members and civil society activists. The majority were from the NLD and USDP but there were also representatives from the United National Committee and the Democratic Party. The training covered campaign set-up, research, targeting and identifying, persuasion, media and GOTV.
On day one we split the group into their respective townships: Mogok, Chan Myae Thar Zi, Chan Aye Thar Zan, Aung Myae Thar Zan, Myin Chan, Pyi Gyi Dagon and Mahar Aung Myae. The teams were comprised of different parties and worked well together despite having different perspectives. We discussed putting together a campaign plan and the roles required for a successful campaign. The participants worked with each other to discuss the research required for their districts. They created personal biographies and messages and successfully completed the message box.
Day two started with civil society members joining the party members for a 100-person class to discuss PR and media. We talked about how to make their stories more newsworthy and get press attention for their good work. They then worked on putting together media advisories for an event of their choosing. Creative ideas included establishing an area in town where people could protest or speak freely without permission, an interfaith dialogue on peace, a library for street children, a youth conference for peace, building an overpass for a congested area, and a technical college. After that session, we focused on persuasion tools, including advertisements, door-to-door campaigning role play and GOTV.
On the third day we practiced door-to-door campaigning in a township in Mandalay called Chan Myae Tar Zi. The team was split into their respective parties and went in pairs to different wards to talk with constituents about their knowledge of politics, their overall concerns and basically understand the general sentiment of the community. Many of the constituents highlighted economic concerns as their priorities—anything from job opportunities, to trade and transportation issues, and environmental problems. Health care, education and land tenure were also consistently mentioned. The trainees really benefitted from discussing these issues with “real people” so that they understand what the public is thinking instead of just focusing on their party priorities. It was an eye opening experience for most of them. Door-to-door in Myanmar is much different than in the US, where we talk to voters through a screen door and quickly get to the point. In Myanmar, the voters welcome you inside for a sit-down conversation, sometimes offering tea and snacks. The conversations can last for up to 20 minutes because constituents are excited to be able to voice their concerns for the first time in many years. Because of this training they were able to understand how to put together a campaign plan in real time.